Best Photobooks of 2022 — Part 2 of 2
A personal list of my favorite photobooks this year
This is the second installment of my list of the best photobooks of 2022.
Books that made an everlasting impression. My list is a photobook tour de force, and living proof that the photobook scene is alive and kicking. With so many incredible photobooks being published this year, honestly, it has been no easy task.
I am not able list them all but these are the titles that stayed with me, touched me, burned a hole in my mind and kept me lingering and wanting more. They made a powerful impact, both artistically and personally.
I have divided the list into two parts due to the amount of books.
Robert Darch: The Island — LIDO Books
“How can photography negotiate a world where reality has become odder than fiction? Darch’s latest series, The Island, provides an answer. Landscapes and portraits together capture a country racked with tension. They are shot in black-and-white, and suffused with an almost palpable melancholy. There are mist-shrouded coves, murky hills and forlorn trees. The sea, emblematic of Britain’s decision to detach itself from its neighbours, is a persistent and forbidding presence.” — The British Journal of Photography, Joe Lloyd
Thomas Boivin: Belleville — Stanley/Barker
Since 2010 Thomas Boivin has been making beautiful, contemplative black and white photographs of his Parisian neighbourhood and the people who live there.
Belleville is a place that is both emblematic of the popular notions of Paris and constantly changing. Set in the eastern part of Paris, it is a multicultural area of the city that attracts artists and those new to France.
“I started to photograph its streets and people as soon as I moved there, and kept photographing for years. Photographing people, above all, was what I found meaningful. Although the photographs hardly depict the city, I find they convey the sensation that I had, walking the streets of Belleville: A mixture of beauty and decay, of joyful moments and sadness, the warm feeling of light and the bitter sweet sensation that one can experience walking around all day, searching for a stranger's eyes.” — Thomas Boivin
Olivier Kervern: Fin d’Automne — Soft Copy
“Three journeys have given birth to Fin D'Automne; the first being a solitary one, in stages from Tokyo to Kagoshima, southernmost city in Japan. A voyage criss-crossing throughout the country, abandoned to fate and misfortunes, intuitions and stereotypes, seeking to comfort or distort the influence of books, tales, novels and films about the Japanese culture which made me yearn to travel here. I took me time to come to terms and embrace the photographs produced during this first trip.
I returned to Japan in 2018 to reunite with Nanako whom I met in Paris and who would become my wife: This second journey was dedicated to her. Instead of wandering around we stayed in Tokyo, wilful castaways, living one day at a time. I followed her around, indifferent to Japan’s singularity, penetrating the heart of her familiar spaces which kept eluding me. I found myself strolling in Naborito, which is either the name of a metro station, a borough or the river that runs through it…I never found out which is true, despite the importance of that specific place in that very moment.
The third time around, a year later in 2019, we met again in Tokyo, in a rented flat. Nanako felt like a stranger in her own city, in a neighbourhood she was discovering alongside me. I loved Sakurajosui, resembling a village, a railway running through it, with level crossings for the passing train: no sidewalks, just a thin white line separating pedestrians from traffic.
All these images were taken during these three periods, blending the intimacy and diverse distances, scales or degrees in successive layers. Photographs taken during three consecutive journeys to Japan, between 2015 and 2019. They are a testament of my elusive encounter with this singular territory.” — Olivier Kervern
Colby Deal: Beautiful Still. — MACK
Beautiful, Still. is the first monograph from photographer Colby Deal, documenting the people, objects, and environments of everyday life in the Third Ward neighbourhood in Houston, Texas, where the artist grew up. In this ongoing project, currently consisting of over a thousand negatives, Deal sets out to provide a visual record of overlooked communities and the cultural characteristics gradually being erased by gentrification, as well as a depiction of communities of colour whose members are often portrayed with negative connotations. Through these instinctive black-and-white photographs, Deal’s down-to-earth approach to his subjects is made apparent; at times candid and blurred, other times poised and sharply focussed, the series builds to convey the dynamism and vibrancy of family, community, and individual life in the Third Ward. The scratches and dust left on the negatives reflect the marks of lived life and simultaneously suggest the fragility of these documents and the corresponding precarity of the fabrics of social life they often depict. Deal’s almost conversational tone — the antithesis of media portrayals of the neighbourhood — invites his viewers in with a sense of joy and intuitive playfulness. From these alternately staged and documentary images, a new narrative emerges about a reductively and oppressively narrativized place, celebrating the agency and freedom that the photographic medium can offer.
If I Call Stones Blue It Is Because Blue Is The Precise Word by Joselito Verschaeveinterweaves black and white photographs of both day-to-day encounters and staged fictions from archives of the artist’s own work, to create visual short stories which defy conventional interpretation.
The recurring motif of the bird in many forms— as an illustration, origami creation, in- flight or emerging from sand—is interspersed with images of textured rocks, the moon and paths which lead and disappear off the page. The human presence in the images is slight— figures veiled, melding into the landscape or moving out of the frame, a grooved hand echoing the natural formation of rocks—all bit parts in the narrative.
The images have been drawn from the artist’s ever-accumulating archive, and have been selected and arranged in a rhythmic pattern, mimicking the act of writing a poem or a short novel.
Drawing upon an aesthetic born from surrealism, the project hints at personal fascinations, alongside visions of dystopia feeding upon the portent of current threats and events. Verschaeve is interested in the idea of ‘magical realism’ and the addition of something ‘extra’ into the common-place and the mundane. Taking the leap and transplanting the genre from literary fiction into black and white photography—the visual language with past associations with documentary and truth telling— Verschaeve layers a veil of poetry over the every day.
“My work leans on day-to-day encounters that are or turn narrative driven. With the idea of building an archive which can fit different themes while maintaining a certain interchangeability. With this archive gradually growing it’s possible to move around images and create new narratives.” — Joselito Verschaeve
Baldwin Lee: Baldwin Lee — Hunters Point Press
In 1983, Baldwin Lee (b. 1951) left his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his 4 × 5 view camera and set out on the first of a series of road trips to photograph the American South. The subject of his pictures were Black Americans: at home, at work, and at play, in the street, and among nature. This project would consume Lee—a first-generation Chinese American—for the remainder of that decade, and it would forever transform his perception of his country, its people, and himself. The resulting archive from this seven-year period contains nearly ten thousand black-and-white negatives. This monograph, Baldwin Lee, presents a selection of eighty-eight images edited by the photographer Barney Kulok, accompanied by an interview with Lee by the curator Jessica Bell Brown and an essay by the writer Casey Gerald. Arriving almost four decades after Lee began his journey, this publication reveals the artist’s unique commitment to picturing life in America and, in turn, one of the most piercing and poignant bodies of work of its time.
Alys Tomlinson: Gli Isolani (The Islanders) — GOST
The photographs in Gli Isolani (The Islanders) by Alys Tomlinson, inhabit a hinterland between fiction and reality. Over a period of two years, Tomlinson documented the traditional costumes and masks worn during festivals and celebrations on the islands of the Venetian lagoon, Sicily and Sardinia.
Rory King: Plumwood — Tall Poppy Press
Rory King’s debut monograph Plumwood collapses the separation between humans and nature, seeking connection and a deeper union. Equal parts gentle and stark, the comfort and severity of Australia is a place where it is possible for the human and non-human to come together: somewhere we can stop the futile belief that we are distinct from nature or that we have outgrown our origins.
Mimi Plumb: The Golden City — Stanley/Barker
Mimi Plumb used to live on the edges of the city where the rents were cheap. Nearby, on the summit of the hill, were folded layers of radiolarian chert, the fossilized remains of microscopic creatures called radiolaria. A large crevice in the hillside was a reminder of the ever-present threat of an earthquake.
Warm Water Cove, along the bay, was a spectacle of tires and abandoned cars. One day Plumb photographed the chimney of the power station above the fiery destruction of the 25th Street Pier. She watched planes flying over the city dump of cardboard hillsides.
“Downtown buildings on the far-off horizon reminded me of Oz. My cat, Pearl, kept watch on the rooftop of my flat.” — Mimi Plumb
Gerry Johansson: Spanish Summer — MACK
“My first encounter with the Spanish landscape was in the late eighties. I had been photographing for a couple of days at a winery north of Madrid and had a week for myself to drive around in the countryside. I was completely unprepared for the beauty of the landscape, the traditional architecture and the presence of religious expression ... in the Spanish landscape you are likely to find cultural traces going a thousand years back.” — Gerry Johansson
Over more than three decades, Gerry Johansson has brought his shrewd and sensitive eye to bear on peripheral landscapes the world over, from Ulan Bator to Antarctica. Spanish Summer sees him return to one of the first places that captured his imagination: the plains of central Spain. The chapel remained etched into Johansson’s memory and, decades later, led him to return and rediscover the country’s architectural heritage, religious significance, and beauty. With these images, a survey is conducted of a landscape into which thousands of years of cultural traces have bedded down. Johansson’s exacting composition and delicate black-and-white tonalities reveal a transient territory in which telephone wires transcend hoary crucifixes, modern plaster meets timeworn stone, and the shadows of industrial megaliths reach blindly across the dust.
That’s it for this newsletter!
If you have any suggestions for interviews, features, topics, interesting work or books that I should check out, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Stay safe and keep shooting.