Photobooks of 2020: Alys Tomlinson


This year I have often sought solace in my collection of photobooks. Some of the following books I have purchased, others I have to admit I am coveting. All make me ask questions and are publications I want to re-visit again and again.

Centralia by Poulomi Basu, Dewi Lewis

Poulomi is riding high at the moment with her recent Arles Discovery Award win and nomination for the Deutche Börse. This is a complex, dense book that requires your full attention from the outset. It’s multi-layered and merges documentary photography with commentary on gender, politics, conflict and truth in modern India.

The Living Mountain by Awoiska van der Molen, FW:Books

This is on my Christmas list, but I haven’t seen it in person yet as there were no fairs to visit this year! I’ve admired Awoiska’s beautiful prints for a while and I love the feeling you get from her landscapes, which are immersive and timeless. It’s as if she’s working in tandem with them. I also like the idea of work coming out of collaboration, as she has done here with composer Thomas Larcher.

The Gatekeeper by Lene Marie Fossen, Kehrer

I saw this when I was printing my latest book at MAS in Istanbul. It’s a difficult and disturbing book, delicately produced and printed on textured, tactile paper. Lene Marie stopped eating from a young age as she didn’t want to grow up. She expressed her illness through self-portraiture and this book handles her work with intimacy and sensitivity.

The Illusion of An Everlasting Summer by Alessandra Sanguinetti, Mack

Another one I have hinted at as a Christmas gift! I fell in love with ‘The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of Their Dreams’ when I first saw the work at the Rencontres d’Arles many years ago. I’m intrigued to see how Alessandra has adapted to her subjects changing from young girls, to women and mothers.

Mutatio by Thomas Manneke, self-published

With black and white photography, I’m always torn between books that use a coated paper to almost emulate velvety handprints and others that go for a matt paper where the ink really sinks in. This is a soft cover book that uses the latter and french folds. The work is poetic and abstract (tangled wires on a boat, a close-up of a shell) with no explanation or text, although I feel it might be a type of eulogy to his daughter who appears occasionally, including a stunning cover image of her appearing to float out of a window. The book demands that you look at each image individually. I’m still not sure whether the printing is very beautiful or a bit low-fi, but it’s a book I come back to.

Someone Else’s Mother by Caroline Irby, Schilt

Caroline cares deeply about this very personal story of Juning, the Filipina woman who raised her and her brothers, 7,000 miles away from her own children. The book mixes archival images with square format, dreamy colour photographs and Caroline’s own writing about her past. It’s a moving story, told with great respect for Juning and her family.

Santa Barbara by Diana Markosian, Aperture

Another one I’ve yet to see in person, but I was intrigued by the work when I was lucky enough to catch it last year at Cortona on the Move festival in Italy. Diana spent a year casting actors to play her family in this blend of documentary and fiction. This is the first monograph by one of the most exciting photographers of her generation.

Séte #20 by Clementine Schneiderman, Becair

The result of a one month, winter residency in Séte in the south of France, Clementine brings her indomitable style and ability to seek out the odd, unusual and idiosyncratic, to the streets of Séte. Focussing on the poet and singer-songwriter George Brassens who was born there and left behind a proud legacy, she captures people, places, great moustaches and lots of cats in muted, pastel tones.

Alys Tomlinson is a photographer based in London. She is most interested in the relationship between people and place, working on long-term projects that explore themes of environment, identity and belonging. Alys’s monograph ‘Ex-Voto’ was published by GOST Books last year. She is a nominee of the current edition of the Prix Elysée and was recently named as Winner of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2020.

Images: top - Centralia by Poulomi Basu, below - Séte #20 by Clementine Schneidermann

Séte #20 by Clementine Schneidermann