Gobe writer Eleanor Scott compiles a varied collection of our favourite photobooks from 2018, while also predicting a couple that we’ll love in 2019.
Eleanor Scott | AUSTRALIA
From computer screens to social media feeds, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of images and stories these days. Yet, the photobook endures. It’s hold-in-your-hand materiality an antidote to the constant onslaught of stimulation technology provides. Whether it’s a stark book of self-portraits or a deep-dive into the geological impact of mining and industry, the form continues to be one of the most intimate ways to experience and engage with photography.
In fact, in the last few years there has been an increasing number of photobook fairs and festivals – proving that even in the face of easy accessibility, the draw of something you can keep and come back to remains prevalent. These events are often the first place you should look to find new works to pore over and last year there were so many phenomenal publications to discover that we decided to create a selection of our favourites.
This isn’t a comprehensive best-of list, but rather a small collection of photobooks that were undeniably some of 2018’s most memorable publications, as well as a couple of the soon to be published works we’re looking forward to in 2019.
Deana Lawson: An Aperture Monograph by Deana Lawson.
Photographer Deana Lawson has been exploring expressions of self, intimacy and body for over a decade and Deana Lawson: An Aperture Monograph is the glorious culmination of her efforts. Using deliberately theatrical scenes and working with models she met during her travels in the United States, the Caribbean and Africa, Lawson’s contrast of often nude bodies with highly staged settings converge in an arresting portrayal of black representation, power and performance.
The Castle by Richard Mosse
Using a thermal video camera intended for long-range border enforcement and stitching together stills that are digitally overlapped into heat maps, photographer Richard Mosse has spent countless hours documenting refugee camps in the Middle East, Central Asia, Turkey and Europe to create The Castle. Named for Kafka’s 1926, a novel about alienation and unresponsive bureaucracy, this meticulous work captures the lived experience of refugees by revealing their militarised and isolated surroundings. From fences, security gates, tents and loudspeakers to food queues, portaloos and temporary shelters, The Castle begs the question: why are these people being forced to live like this?
Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness by Zanele Muholi
South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi’s long-awaited monograph is a confronting and passionate collection of over 90 self-portraits that question the way black, queer and female bodies are shown and perceived. Each image has been produced as a direct response to current or historical racisms – a powerful cry for resistance and reclamation that is punctuated by Muholi’s unflinching gaze, which, in almost every portrait, finds a new way to wrest back power from the viewer to make it her own.
Anthropocene by Edward Burtynsky
For over 35 years, Edward Burtynsky has been capturing human-altered landscapes. Anthropocene is his five-year-long project that, though several mediums and with the help of collaborators Nicholas de Pencier and Jennifer Baichwal, investigates the impact of industry and urbanisation on the earth. From concrete seawalls in China to the biggest terrestrial machines ever built in Germany, Burtynsky makes a point to depict the most mammoth examples human destruction on a geological scale – the result is both beautiful and terrifying.
So Present, So Invisible: Conversations on Photography by David Campany
This photo book is about, as photographer David Campany himself writes in the introduction, “mutual exploration and speculation”. Thought-provoking conversations with photographers like Susan Meiselas, Broomberg & Chanarin, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Paul Graham and Steven Shore offer up endless wisdom that anyone who wants to explore how great images are made should read. It’s a real investigation into the art of photography and each gem of a conversation is, of course, accompanied by exceptional images.
The Land in Between by Ursula Schulz-Dornburg
To Survive On This Shore by Jess T. Dugan (images) and Vanessa Fabbre (text).
Complex representations of transgender and gender non-conforming adults are already few and far between, but complex representations of the older generations of those communities are almost non-existent – until now. Photographer Jess T. Dugan, as well as social worker and writer Vanessa Fabbre, spent five years seeking out intersectional narratives to create this sensational photobook that provides a nuanced view into both the triumphs and tribulations of growing older as a transgender and gender non-conforming person.
Tabriz to Shiraz by Sarah Pannell (coming in May 2019)
Melbourne-based photographer Sarah Pannell’s debut book Tabriz to Shiraz looks to be a stunning challenge to the preconceived ideas of what life in Iran is actually like. The images, taken during her travels through the country in 2016 and 2017 and encompassing “contemporary Iran’s visual, cultural and architectural languages”, offer a sometimes playful but always insightful perspective of a place so often shown in a negative light.
I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating by Alec Soth (coming March 2019)
Alec Soth is undeniably one of the best photographers alive. His latest work, taking its name from a line in the Wallace Stevens’ poem The Gray Room, is an exploration into if photography can provide more than limited representations of people – investigating if a surface image can reveal depths yet to be explored by both the subject and the photographer. As Alec Soth states of the work: “I wanted to simply spend time looking at other people and, hopefully, briefly glimpse their interior life”.
Did we miss any of your favourite photobooks from 2018?
Feature image—Perimeter Books, Thornbury
Eleanor Scott writes for Gobe from Melbourne Australia, you can find more of her wondrous words over here.