Photobooks of 2020: Alec Soth

Day Sleeper

Day Sleeper by Dorothea Lange & Sam Contis, Mack

In the most bombastic of years, the books that mattered most were delicate flowers. The fact that Lange could spot these flowers in prior periods of turmoil gives comfort, as does Contis’s ability to pluck them now.

Ciprian Honey Cathedral by Raymond Meeks, Mack

Meeks is his own moon in the photobook universe, and the light bouncing off of him in 2020 was the brightest thing in the sky.

The White Sky by Mimi Plumb, Stanley/Barker

Plumb took the earliest pictures in The White Sky in 1972. This was hardly a time of American tranquility, but Plumb was only 18 and her attention was focused but unforced. Looking at her book now is like taking an eraser to a giant whiteboard that had been scribbled on for decades.

Lunario by Guido Guidi, Mack

I thought a lot about the moon during 2020. Guidi’s lyrical investigation is as magical as a moon shadow.

Summer Sublet by Ward Long, Deadbeat Club

In recent years you might have spotted Long’s name in the acknowledgement pages of some of your favorite books. With Summer Sublet his sincere and thoughtful voice gets its own understated stage.

Pleasant Street by Judith Black, Stanley/Barker

As simple and straightforward as a family album, Black’s warm but unsentimental recording of domestic life accrues meaning over time. There’s no narrative arc other than the slow passage of time itself; more than enough to capture my attention.

Midnight La Frontera by Ken Light, TBW

The opposite of the mostly gentle books on my list, Light’s flash in the face of nocturnal border crossers felt like a punch in the gut. Not comforting, but essential.


The Atmosphere of Crime by Gordon Parks, Steidl

The book I’ve looked at the most this year is also the one I feel least capable of writing about. All I know is that it’s important and worth returning to again and again.


The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and The Illusion of an Everlasting Summer by Alessandra Sanguinetti, Mack

Guille and Belinda will forever have my heart. Any book Sanguinetti makes with them will be one of my favorites.

Mom by Charlie Engman, Edition Patrick Frey

Variety is the spice of life, says Mom.

Alec Soth is a photographer living in Minnesota

Images: top - Day Sleeper by Dorothea Lange/Sam Contis, below - Summer Sublet by Ward Long, Ciprian Honey Cathedral by Raymond Meeks

Ward Long - Summer Sublet


Ciprian Honey Cathedral