This list is incredibly abbreviated. The expanded lists will commence on American Suburb X and Nearest Truth in December. I have taken out previously published material from this list such as Gordon Parks the Atmosphere of Crime, Samuel Fosso’s Autoportrait and Wendy Ewald’s Portraits and Dreams. I have also taken out critical text books such as Imagining Everyday Life Engagements With Vernacular Photography (Walther Collection) and books from Mack’s Discourse Series, which are incredibly important. There is a list of why I didn’t put titles on this list available…
So, in no order and by no means definitive…
Early Sunday Morning by Peter Mitchell, RRB
Astounding use of Mitchell’s archive that exceeds his earlier attempts and gives a generous and rightful tome for his important work. RRB are killing it. I put this title in as I believe it supersedes previously published books about Mitchell’s work, and although older work, this form truly breaks the barrier and should be held as something definitive.
Pleasant Street by Judith Black, Stanley/Barker
I took this book on spec thinking I might find it too sentimental, instead I ended up with something wrenchingly universal. Her conversation with me on Nearest Truth was a highlight.
12hz by Ron Jude, MACK
This is another important Jude title which questions the power and resonance of earth’s natural ability to remind us of our very small place within the universe focused on upheaval and tectonic might. One could argue the images reflect the social moment and yet, there is not a single person in sight. Jude continues to emerge as a strong and varied image-maker.
Constructed Landscapes by Dafna Talmor, FW Books
Dense and full of discovery about the photographic process. This was an early tip for me this year after seeing the pdf and interviewing Dafna whose honesty of process (as seen in the back of the book) is exemplary.
Heaven is a Prison by Mark McKnight, Loose Joints
Another brilliant 2020 offering. Even if you divide the sex from the book, the landscapes and the return to the body ask questions of our environment and how we facilitate closeness on this big spinning rock called earth. If you add the sex, it travels even faster spinning a wider net about identity, orientation and safety.
Ciprian Honey Cathedral by Raymond Meeks, MACK
A poetic and astute observation of domestic worlds, inter-personal relationships and the continuation of Meeks brilliantly poetic lens in book form. Raymond finds a shortcut to emotion and reflection and surgically brings the viewer closer to reckoning with the ever-short moments we inhabit in our lives.
Girl Pictures by Justine Kurland, Aperture
On the note of parallel universes comes Kurland’s ambitious and compelling book in which we are asked to look into a nymphesque world of young women whose universe is recognized by their autonomy and safety. There is something oddly inviting about the work, though it is to be seen and not handled.
Miss Cox by Mariken Wessels, FW Books
A brilliant investigation between archive, sculpture and photography. Wessels continues her investigation into the use of parallel archives and narratives to form a new and fresh dialogue with the history of photography. Employing Muybridge’s Model 20 as a starting point, Wessels investigation is incredibly inspiring.
Fordlandia by JM Ramirez-Suassi, Self-published
Thinking through the history of capitalism through Ford’s Brazilian plant found in decay, Ramirez-Suassi asks the viewer to correlate the relics in front of his camera with the current global moment. That he is a gifted image-maker is apparent.
78 by Issei Suda, Chose Commune
Suda is one of the more important Japanese photographers rightfully claiming his post-humous place in the world of books. Having Chose Commune edit the work and give it a new format as an access point to the West is a great move
Ehime by Gerry Johansson, T&M Projects
A much needed second Japanese book from Johansson whose Tokyo book is prohibitively expensive. With Gerry, at this stage, it is hard to choose between his best books this year (4 of them). In some ways I prefer Meloni Meloni, but Ehime is probably the book that fills the gap of location on my shelves the most. It is also beautiful designed paying tribute to Johansson’s format, but adding some smart Japanese photobook nuance with the cover in particular.
Midnight La Frontera by Ken Light, TBW Books
An incredibly arresting body of work about the historic Mexico and American border brilliantly executed by TBW Books. This was an early win in 2020.
Day Sleeper by Sam Contis & Dorothea Lange, MACK
A convincing and important examination of Lange’s work re-shuffled and re-imagined by Sam Contis. One part archival, one part visionary, the book is an exceptional look at two great artists working together from disparate sides of the great divide of life and death.
On Contested Terrain by An-My Lê, Aperture
A dense book about personal history and the political divide between the two countries of Vietnam and America and the military and ideological complexes that raise questions about their respective landscape and their traditions of visualization.
This title was much better than anticipated. It opened up a way for me to see Cole’s images without having to wade through his text pieces which often ask me to distract myself from his abilities as a gifted photographer. In doing so, it has convinced me more of his work and it feels like a more finely-prodced effort than Blindspot for example.
Brad Feuerhelm is the managing editor of Nearest Truth and American Suburb X
Images: top - Early Sunday Morning by Peter Mitchell, below - Pleasant Street by Judith Black