At the end of last year everyone from Martin Parr to the Guardian were compiling their best photobooks of 2012. These books seems to be a growing phenomenon. Visiting London bookshop Claire De Rouen, the volume of both self published photobooks and those from the traditional art publishers (Particularly Dewi Lewis and Steidl/Mack) seems to be increasing. I love how the tradition of ‘self-publish’ that for me started in the 1960′s and 1970′s has more recently embraced desk-top publishing and digital printing to make publishing photobooks a possibility for the individual and collective. Awareness is also driven by institutions such as Self-Publish Be Happy who promote photobooks, extensively showing their content.
It’s the first year I have been involved in photography at a level to buy enough photobooks to compile a list of my own. Okay so a couple of them have publish dates of 2011 – but this is the year I bought them, so my top 5 will follow shortly.
There are a fair few I have missed because of a lack of funds or just the breadth of choice – which sudddenly seems so alarming! Would love a copy of “Afronauts“ – but that will never happen now, I missed the boat there! And “I want to Live Innocent” is on the list – it’s a beautifully executed book where loads of the pictures could stand alone. Also looking at the final book on my list it strikes me as interesting that as someone obsessed with colour photography that three of the books on my list are in black and white.
All images in this post are collected from links – If its your link and you want it removed from here or want a credit let me know.
Billy Monk Night Club Photographs/ Dewi Lewis
A bouncer in Cape Towns ‘Catacombs’ night club Billy Monk took pictures of the patrons socialising and drinking together in 1960′s South Africa. This book was also on Martin Parrs recommendations of 2012. It’s beautifully explicit, edited as though a single night progresses from sobriety through to exceptionally drunken.
Monk took the images between 1967 – 69 with the intention to sell on to patrons earning him a little on the side. I’m not sure of its success as a second income, but Monk continued with his photography. The pictures seem to show a side of South Africa previously unseen. It speaks of a Cape Town with a potential for asian/white mixed race relationships, homosexuality and raucous drunken behaviour . Eyeopening as a document, caught with a sense of timing and often a sense of humour it’s a real slice of life – lovely book.
Adam Hinton Shubiya / TIRA (This is Real Art)
I had to buy this after seeing it as it relates so closely to the commuter project I started early last year and am now continuing. Shubiya is the simplest of all the books to explain on my list; Hinton spent 4 days around Shubiya, the station in Tokyo’s business district, photographing commuters. It began as a photographic project which his (commissioning?) agency offered to publish. He says of the project: “I really just wanted to take interesting images without focusing on some of the issues I usually focus on but according to people who viewed the work it was very much a statement on peoples working lives.” I agree with ‘those who viewed the work’, whether intentionally or not Hinton captures commuters beautifully but his pictures also suggest working life as a difficult experience.
Paul Graham The Present / Mack