November 28, 2014 4:00 AM EST In 2014, photobook collecting continued to thrive with even more photographers than ever breaking traditional formats and leveling the hierarchy of traditional publishing platforms by taking on all aspects of controlling and presenting their own work via self publishing.
This was made even more evident when many of TIME’s editors selected the same books for this list, leading to the decision of highlighting, in addition to the 26 books presented here, one book that we felt stood out amongst the rest: Peter van Agtmael’s
Disco Night September 11, which, not only, is an incisive and searing look at the state of America, still caught in maelstroms of war and its aftershocks, but also a distinctly original presentation of documentary work.
Van Agtmael self-published
Disco Night September 11, like many of his contemporaries featured here, some of whom turned to crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter to set new records for support, encouraging artists to re-consider the photobook as a primary medium to share their message.
With peers and colleagues around the globe, we sought out to discover new titles and emerging artists presented at events such as the
New York Art Book Fair and Offprint Paris, among countless other emerging fairs.
In this gallery, we spotlight the best photobooks of the past year as chosen by photographers and photography experts from around the world and, of course, by our photo editors at TIME. This is not a comprehensive list. Instead, these are personal choices made with the agonizing rule of selecting just one photo book for 2014 in its entirety.
Once again the selection confirms that many of us still enjoy being transfixed, or transported, by an encounter with a singular vision. After all, the pleasure and quiet thrill that one gets sitting down with a good book — especially one that pushes the boundaries of the format — simply can’t be reproduced in mere ones and zeroes.
by Peter van Agtmael, published by Redhook Editions, selected by Paul Moakley, deputy director of photography, Disco Night September 11 TIME. Red Hook Editions "Peter van Agtmael’s Disco Night September 11 offers an incisive look at the state of post 9/11 America, still caught in maelstroms of fighting multiple wars and their aftershocks at home. His photographs accompanied by his deeply moving text make this book into an unforgettable personal reflection on the young men and women who risk everything for our country and the real cost of war
." -Paul Moakley, Deputy Director of Photography, TIME
Peter van Agtmael—Magnum The United States 2003-2013 Mossless Magazine, selected by Matthew Leifheit, Photo Editor at VICE
Mossless "Although technically a periodical, Issue Three of Mossless magazine is 216 pages, includes the work of over 100 photographers, and took the better part of two years to research and produce. As a collection of American documentary photographs published to the Internet during the last ten years, it positions well established photographers alongside lesser known artists working in all parts of the country. Visual evidence of the economic crash reveals itself across spreads featuring both poetically curated collections of cell phone-sized photos by different artists and small portfolios of single photographers (Kathya Landeros, Ilona Szwarc, Paul D'Amato, and Daniel Shea, among many others). 'You can see the same groans in each photo," Romke Hoogwaerts, co publisher of Mossless told me. "Everybody is kind of tired." Take from it what you will—the book is lush and uplifting, and it confirms that social documentary photography is alive and well. "
-Matthew Leifheit, Photo Editor at VICE Mossless by Ken Schles, published by Steidl, selected by Jason Eskenazi, photographer and author of
Night Walk By the Glow of the Jukebox: The Americans List. Steidl "Ken Schles’ Invisible City captured the zeitgeist of New York just as Weegee and Klein did before him. His newest book Night Walk culled from work in his archive, transports us along the same streets during the same bygone era as Invisible City, but bring us to a new visceral destination. Night Walk, and a newly issued reprint of Invisible City―both capture the sensuous photo-gravure of the original Invisible City―and are published by Steidl."
-Jason Eskenazi, photographer, author of By the Glow of the Jukebox: The Americans List Ken Schles—Steidl by
Johannes Schwartz, Published by Roma, Amsterdam, selected by David Strettell, founder and owner of Dashwood Books. Johannes Schwartz—Roma, Amsterdam " Tiergarten was my favorite book of the year (so far). Published from Roma the Dutch, run by designer Roger Willems and artist, Mark Manders. Johannes Schwartz took photographs of meals fed to “wild” animals at the Moscow Zoo and printed them oversized on a Risograph press. Risograph is usually reserved for zines and small scale books as the reproduction is very difficult to remain consistent. The colors tend to run unevenly and registration can shift from page to page leading to strange and unpredictable textures. This effect is used to enhance the animals “slop” (slabs of fish, hunks of raw meat, heaps of vegetables and chunks of bread) into shifting abstractions of food, sometimes beautiful, sometimes repellent."
-David Strettell, founder and owner of Dashwood Books Johannes Schwartz—Roma, Amsterdam by
Stephen Shames, published by
University of Texas Press, selected by
Vince Aletti, photography critic, The
New Yorker. University of Texas Press "Shames went to the South Bronx on assignment for Look magazine in1977 and got hooked on what he calls its terrible beauty. He went back again and again over the next 20 years, mostly to photograph a group of boys who became a kind of extended family. Two of them provide autobiographical texts; many never survived their rough and reckless youth--the brawls, drugs, guns, and random violence that turn this book into a frighteningly wild ride. Nearly all of Shames's terrific black-and-white photographs are spread over two pages, where they have the edgy spontaneity of a cinema verite still, at once highly compressed and explosive. Like Bruce Davidsons similarly immersive and impactful East 100th Street, the book already feels like a classic."
- -Vince Aletti, photography critic, The New Yorker Stephen Shames—University of Texas Press by
Alejandro Cartagena, self-published, selected by Martin Parr, photographer at Magnum Photos.
Alejandro Cartagena "Although we have seen this work before, what a pleasure to see how this self published project, so cleverly combines the photos of the passing open plan trucks with their passengers laid out flat, but also the skies and scenes that can be viewed from the truck itself."
-Martin Parr, Photographer at Magnum Photos Alejandro Cartagena by
Yoshikatsu Fujii, self-published, selected by Larissa Leclair, Founder of the Indie Photobook Library Yoshikatsu Fujii "The split binding allows the reader to page through one side and then the other, but the powerfulness comes from pairing both halves together. In this delicate and personal family album, Yoshikatsu Fujii ties the memory of his family back together with the cultural metaphor of red string."
- Larissa Leclair, Founder of the Indie Photobook Library Yoshikatsu Fujii by
Paolo Pellegrin and Alex Majoli, published by Aperture, selected by Alice Gabriner, International Photo Editor,
TIME. Paolo Pellegrin and Alex Majoli—Aperture "Just as a book can “transport” us, so photography has the power to cast a timeless enchantment,” states Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou in his introductory essay to Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin’s Congo, which debuted at Paris Photo earlier this month. This book flows like a seamless jazz duet, as these two influential Italian photographers articulate their masterful vision in an emotional and nuanced way. In Mabanckou’s words, "the photographers avoided the pitfalls one usually finds when the western eye is turned on Africa." With Congo, Majoli and Pellegrin have created an exquisite and inspiring body of work."
--Alice Gabriner, International Photo Editor, TIME Paolo Pellegrin and Alex Majoli—Aperture by
selected by Phil Bicker, Senior Photo Editor
Taxonomy of a Landscape
TIME. Victoria Sambunaris—Radius "Even when it comes to photo books I prefer small books— like note books and paperback novels, pocket sized—portable and unostentatious. This year there were several books that I responded to (Thomas Roma and Giancarlo T. Roma's Waters of Our Time, Christoph Bangert's War Porn and Paul Graham Does Yellow Run Forever?) not only for their photographic content, but through their carefully considered design, and intimate size. But after much consideration, I chose a book on a larger scale (one I wouldn’t mind if it were even bigger) that presents its content in an appropriately clean and modern manner.
Victoria Sambunaris' Taxonomy of a Landscape is a dedicated exploration of, and response to, the American Landscape. A fifteen year journey traversing the country, often for months at a time, that channels the intellectual and journalistic spirit of John McPhee’s writings, the discovery of Robert Frank’s Americans and the great American photographic traditions of the U.S. Geological Survey in the late 1800s, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) of the 1940s. and the New Topographics movement. The photographic study includes national parks, industrial parks and a 2,000 mile stretch along the U.S./ Mexican border—each documented from Sambunaris’ unique and impeccable perspective. In the age of drones and digital photography, one woman traveling the country alone by car with a 5x7 wooden film camera, has delivered a book for the ages."
-Phil Bicker, Senior Photo Editor TIME. Victoria Sambunaris—Radius by
Robin Maddock, published by Trolley Books, selected by Jason Fulford, photographer and Publisher of J&L Books. Trolley Books "In his new book, III, Robin Maddock employs a simple device to turn otherwise pretty but unremarkable photographs into open metaphors that I want to look at and think about for a long time. I won’t tell you what the device is, but will say that it was used at the time of shooting, and appears to have been honed to perfection. It’s a gimmick that ends up not feeling gimmicky. The book is whimsical, funny, mysterious and thought-provoking."
-Jason Fulford, photographer and Publisher of J&L Books Robin Maddock—Trolley Book by
Takashi Homma, published by SuperLabo, selected by Michael Mack, founder of MACK books and MAPP digital editions.
Takashi Homma—SuperLabo "Ostensibly a catalogue bridging two exhibitions, this book is one of the most original books of recent times and employs a number of elegant structural and design devices. Collaging installation views with actual images and delicate image seams which riff on personal histories to build tangential narrative arcs, the only problem with this book is that it has been published in a run of just 500 copies"
-Michael Mack, founder of MACK books and MAPP digital editions. Takashi Homma—SuperLabo by
Silas Finch Foundation, 2014,
selected by Jeffery Ladd, photographer, writer and publisher of Errata Editions.
Silas Finch Foundation, 2014 "How can a book comprised of twelve images of something so ordinary as people exiting a door in Los Angeles (that looks oddly at first like a bank vault) captivate interest and validate itself as a book? Anthony Hernandez’s LA, 1971 is a prime example. Is this an early work by the artist inspired and based in conceptualism or simply a string of images that share common elements and form? L.A. 1971 is a surprising and beautiful find from The Silas Finch Foundation."
-Jeffery Ladd, photographer, writer and publisher of Errata Editions. Anthony Hernandez—Silas Finch Foundation, 2014 Monacelli Press, selected by By Philip Gefter, author of ABC Duane Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe Monacelli Press "This is a retrospective not of Duane Michals work but, rather, his sensibility. He takes you through the alphabet of his influences and aesthetic idols, a virtual pantheon of arts and letters throughout the 20th century. The book includes a photograph for every letter—C is for Capote; D is for Duchamp— whether a portrait of the subject or a tableau about an idea, and a bite-sized essay about each one. Here in one small volume is all the wit, charm, serious intent, and artfulness of Michals himself, plus his signature antic wisdom to make it a joyful ride."
-Philip Gefter, author of Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe. Duane Michaels—Monacelli Press by
Many Voices Press,
selected by Olivier Laurent, Editor,
Red Ball of the Sun Slipping Down
TIME LightBox. Many Voices Press "Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down is more than just another photo book by one of the best living documentary photographers, it's a story about race and poverty over more than four decades that echoes Eugene Richards' 1973 book Few Comforts or Surprises: The Arkansas Delta. The book takes on new meaning at a time when America is forced, in light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, to reexamine how it deals with its deep-rooted wealth and racial inequalities.But most of all, Red Ball of a Sun Slipping Down is an indictment of an entire industry of book publishers more concerned, these days, with producing limited-edition art objects that will top collectors' shopping lists and fetch awards at Paris Photo or the Rencontres d'Arles. The fact that the award-winning Richards couldn't find a publisher for his last two books, including this one, which was funded thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, should be a wake-up call for many."
-Olivier Laurent, Editor, TIME LightBox. Eugene Richards—Many Voices Press by Jonathan Saruk, published by Daylight Books, selected by Marisa Schwartz, Associate Photo Editor, The Forbidden Reel TIME.com. Daylight "Jonathan Saruk's The Forbidden Reel shows a delicate sliver of life in a country that is notorious for war images. The book is intimate. It allures you into a private place that is usually shrouded in darkness. Saruk's passion for the project is evident in the work. He documents the theaters of Kabul, the projectionists, the screens, and the film itself. But most importantly, Saruk documents the moviegoers. This work provides very important insight into the life of young people in Kabul, through a lens that doesn't involve war or poverty.
It's an escape from reality for the reader and for the subjects of the pictures - as movies were intended to be."
-Marisa Schwartz, Associate Photo Editor, TIME.com. Jonathan Saruk—Daylight Books The University of Chicago Press, selected by By Josh Raab, Freelance Photo Editor, Bedrooms of the Fallen TIME.com The University of Chicago Press "Gilbertson masterfully uses absence to focus the reader's attention on what is present in his images. The book's wide pages pull the viewer into the rooms of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Abandoned by their former inhabitants, the rooms' stillness brings the imagination to life. Everyday trinkets become mementos of young lives lost. These intimate views of private memorials force the reader to reflect on who we are sending to war. Ashley reminds us that war is not only about the lives lost, but the web of loved ones each soldier leaves behind."
-Josh Raab, Freelance Photo Editor, TIME.com. Ashley Gilbertson—VII Photo self-published by Max Pinckers, selected by Alec Soth, photographer, founder of Little Brown Mushroom.
Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty
Max Pinckers "I’m envious of songwriters for their ability to sink their teeth into subjects like love and heartache without being labeled trite. As the title of his new book suggests, Max Pinckers isn’t afraid to turn his lens in that direction. Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty gives me hope that there’s plenty of room left for boy-meets-girl stories in photography."
-Alec Soth, photographer, founder of Little Brown Mushroom Max Pinckers published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, selected by Richard Conway, reporter and producer for
Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography
TIME LightBox. Philadelphia Museum of Art "Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Museum of Art put on the first major retrospective of Strand’s work in almost 50 years. The accompanying book, edited by curator Peter Barberie with a foreword by Timothy Rub, repositions Strand as not only a master of modern photography, but a master of what might called his own form of modernism: one that included not just his intimate portraiture and abstract cityscapes, but also his more traditional nature studies in New England and Quebec."
-Richard Conway, reporter and producer for TIME LightBox. Paul Strand—Philadelphia Museum of Art J&L Books, selected by Gideon Jacobs, Creative Director, Magnum Photos The More I Learn About Women Lisa Kereszi—J&L Books "I always find that you can learn a lot about someone by asking them when they realized that their parents were people. The moment your creators stumble into some unforgiving light that renders them vulnerable, flawed, just as human as the rest of us, is the kind of moment that changes everything, one of those things you can't "un-see." So when I encountered Lisa Kereszi's exploration of her father's secret stash of snapshots from the life he led outside his family during the 70s and 80s, I was a kind of mesmerized. It's a small book, just a handful of raw imagery of women, motorcycles and women on motorcycles, but it's ambitious in all the ways that matter to me. Kereszi cropped out the faces of the "bimbos" her father photographed, and that process yields a strange collection of floating tattoos and breasts that read like an abstract collage of one man's forgivable but utterly tragic humanness."
-Gideon Jacobs, Creative Director, Magnum Photos
Lisa Kereszi—J&L Books by
Thomas Mailaender, published by
RVB books, selected by
Erik Kessles, curator and editor, co-founder of the advertising agency KesselsKramer.
Thomas Mailaender—RVB books "Thomas Mailaender's new book was made in
collaboration with the Archive Of Modern Conflict in London, a gigantic image
collection and occasional playground for photographers. Mailaender's hunt through
the archive took him to the strangest places Ð photos that caught his eye for
Illustrated People collects these striking
pictures and intersperses them with imagery of Mailaender's own creation. These
original photos comprise body parts on display, the skin burned with a sun lamp
in such a way that it makes an image. Mailaender achieved this effect by taking
negatives from the archive and applying them with Vaseline to his subjects
bodies then turning up the heat. The resulting burns reveal naked men on hairy
legs, a pensive portrait on a chest, and an odd landscape etched into a shoulder blade. Often, the images and bodies work together: the expansive back
of an obese man is covered with pictures, and a defiant fist carries an equally
Mailaender creates a rhythm by interspersing
his original images with the found pieces. The edit is fantastic and the final
book leaves you truly disturbed and puzzled my criteria for a great photo
book. Illustrated People has burned its way into my brain."
-Erik Kessles, curator and editor, co-founder of the advertising agency KesselsKramer Thomas Mailaender—RVB books self published, selected by Yumi Goto Of
Reminders Project & Reminders Photography Stronghold- Tokyo Silent Histories Kazuma Obara "The work of Osaka-based photographer Kazuma Obara, this 100% handmade book focuses on the less well known, and often less discussed, bombing of Osaka by U.S. forces during World War II. In this limited edition tome, Obara compiled the work of six survivors of the bombing. It’s pretty powerful stuff: you can almost feel the pain of those in the images. This book is particularly poignant for me, though, not because of its limited edition status, or even because of its considered design, but because Obara has compiled a book that personalizes the horrors of war in a moving and intimate way. "
-Yumi Goto Of Reminders Project & Reminders Photography Stronghold- Tokyo Kazuma Obara self published by Irina Werning, selected by Susan Bright, Writer and Curator of Photography Back to the Future Irina Werning "Back to the Future holds many pleasures for me. First it's funny. We all need to laugh more. But more than that I find it surprisingly moving. Irina has travelled the world recreating photographs from snapshots. Many years later the people are of course older and this can cause ludicrous moments but also very tender ones. The premise for the idea may not be original, but it is so well executed, and done with such care that it becomes more than something that is simply charming. The scope is very international and what reverberates is the feeling that these reproductions mean a great deal to the people in the photograph. A viral phenomenon this work caused thousands of people to write to Irina asking her to come and photograph them. Facsimiles of some of those emails are interleaved in the book. Reading them makes you consider the histories of the original objects, their journeys, the memories they evoke and the preciousness of them to their owners.
It is beautifully designed echoing early photograph albums and the pages are thick. This is important. Irina has great skill as a photographer, but also as a set and costume designer. Her amazing resourcefulness shines through. This is a book about the importance of vernacular photography, the love of an object and the sheer pleasure photography can bring to peoples lives"
-Susan Bright, Writer and Curator of Photography
Irina Werning self published, selected by Martin Parr, Photographer at Magnum Photos. Centro Felipe Russo "This has been a good year for books from Latin America, and this small and charming book on Sao Paulo works very well. A combination of wider views depicting the urban anarchy of the city, with some deceptively simple and
surreal street details pull together to make a fascinating book."
-Martin Parr, photographer at Magnum Photos.
Felipe Russo by
selected by Michelle Molloy, International Photo Editor,
TIME. Steidl "The reissue of Invisible City is rich in texture and is every bit as intoxicating as that first visit to Schles’ East Village in New York City in the eighties. "-Michelle Molloy, International Photo Editor, TIME. Ken Schles—Steidl by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin, published by
Aperture, selected by Aaron Schuman, photographer, writer, curator, and the editor of
This Equals That
SeeSaw Magazine Aperture “In This Equals That, Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin join a long yet underappreciated lineage of photographers and designers who have created publications aimed specifically at children, including Alexander Rodchenko, Claude Cahun, Edward Steichen, William Wegman, Cindy Sherman and many more. Beautifully printed and produced – with the sturdy cardboard-covered tactility familiar to children’s picture books, and thankfully lacking the preciousness and pretention too often applied to many contemporary photobooks – This Equals That focuses attention not only on Fulford’s remarkably playful and captivating photographs, but more specifically on the relationships between them, and the newfound readings, meanings, interpretations, and conversations that reveal themselves when they are carefully sequenced, paired, and re-paired throughout the course of its pages. The book serves as an exquisite masterclass in visual literacy – and in the intriguing potency of photographic observation, ambiguity, and association – for children and adults alike, and provides a unique reminder of both the fun and fundamental power of photography, which can be genuinely enjoyed and shared by all generations.”-Aaron Schuman, photographer, writer, curator, and the editor of SeeSaw Magazine Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin—Aperture by Rafal Milach, published by GOST, selected by Alexander Ho, Digital Art Director, The Winners TIME Gost "It's rare to see photography as realized and complex as Rafal Milach's The Winners, a project documenting notable people, things, and institutions of Belarus. Milach's oft-deadpan portraits are reticent, yet hyperbolically uncanny, and captures the truth beyond the pageantry of a country on economic decline. Taking a leap ahead of our current taste for simplistic irreverence, the project exudes wit, humor, and—perhaps most importantly—socio-political discourse. The project is as fine a display of its author's documentary restraint as it is an exhibition of his eye for aesthetic formalism. The book, in which the images are published, is designed with a elegant concision on par with the photography for which it contains."
-Alexander Ho, Digital Art Director, TIME
Rafal Milach—Gost ,published by Contrasto, selected by Yolanda Cuomo, Book Designer.
Pier Paolo Pasolini - La lunga strada di sabbia
Contrasto "The Memory of a book I left in Paris. I spent days pouring through books at Paris Photo looking for my favorite book.
Many photo books caught my eye; clever design, interesting origami folding books, tactile covers in multi colored fabrics, cool modern images.
It was this book that I found that struck a cord; Pier Paolo Pasolini, La lunga strada di sabbia, published by Contrasto.
Photographer Philippe Séclier follows a road trip taken by Pasolini 50 years ago along the Italian coastline.
Séclier rediscovers the places along Pasolini's journey.
I think of cinema and memory and how photographs are all traces of the past engrained in your mind.
Séclier's photos are interwoven with ephemera by Pasolini; a letter he wrote in Ishchia, a page from his original manuscript.
I recall a trip I took with my 16 year old son, Luca, along the California coast Route 1. He had found photos of specific sites, large boulders along the sea.
It was our job to find the places in the photos and photograph them. It was an exciting journey based on photos and the adventure of rediscovering them.
I love the idea of this book, La lunga strada di sabbia, writing, memories and journeys taken in a timeless world."-Yolanda Cuomo, Book Designer. Contrasto—Contrasto More Must-Reads From TIME Meet the 2024 Women of the Year Greta Gerwig's Next Big Swing East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment In the Belly of MrBeast The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap How Long Should You Isolate With COVID-19? The Best Romantic Comedies to Watch on Netflix Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time