In this gallery, we spotlight TIME LightBox’s curation of the best photobooks of 2016 as chosen by photographers and photography experts from around the world and, of course, by our own editors. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Instead, these are the personal choices made with the agonizing rule of selecting just one.
Creativity in photobooks continues to thrive, with many photographers in this selection experimenting with the boundaries of the printed page in a variety of ways. Some pushed forward with complex and nuanced sequencing. This is evident in books like Gregory Halpern’s ZZYZX, selected by photographer, writer and curator Aaron Schuman, who says that “harsh underlying motifs—of poverty, inequality, insanity, instability, destructive sprawl, natural disaster and more—quietly haunt what are on their surface overwhelmingly beautiful and seductive photographs, set and sequenced in the cleverest of ways. Such saturated color and golden light has rarely felt so sultry, psychedelic and sinister at the same time.”
Other photographers like Moises Saman, who collaborated with artist Daria Birang to create elaborate photographic collages, pushed their documentary work in new directions. TIME’s international photo editor Alice Gabriner feels that “the gravitas of Moises Saman’s Discordia is compounded by the touch, smell and imagination that flows through the pages of this labor of love. Saman covered the Arab Spring for mainstream media over four years creating a significant historical record, yet at the same time, he has crafted a body of work that is a deeply personal exploration. Set against an ancient landscape, echoes of the past reverberate today. Saman’s sequencing of images and use of repetition remind us of the tragic continuum of that tumultuous history.”
One of the most technologically innovative projects in this year’s selection is by artist Lucas Blalock, who in his book Making Memeries experimented with a digital app that extends the physical object beyond the printed pages. It was selected by Aperture’s editor and publisher Lesley Martin, who says: “an augmented reality component extends the border of the book, activating additional layers, movement, and surprise elements that float forth from the images.”
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.
We hope you enjoy the list!
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