Photobooks of 2020: Martin Amis

 Dieter Keller

I have made a longer list than most years, since despite all expectations and less books being published, the standard of photobooks has been very high.  In no particular order:

Ciprian Honey Cathedral by Raymond Meeks, Mack

Nobody makes photographs or photobooks quite like Raymond Meeks.  Previously available as a self-published handmade book, the move to working with publisher Mack for this expanded version has not distilled the magic.

Das Auge des Krieges by Dieter Keller, Buchkunst Berlin

I am not a great one for conflict/war photography, but this book really is quite special.  The photography belies it’s age with it’s framing and visual aesthetic.  A simple smart design propels it even further.

As it is by Rinko Kawauchi, Chose Commune

A portrayal of childhood would seem to be the perfect vehicle for Kawauchi’s beguiling imagery, and 'As it is' does not disappoint.  An exemplary design (check the folded cover) as usual from publisher Chose Commune harks back to Kawauchi’s early landmark Hanabi trilogy.

Shikawatari by Chieko Shiraishi, Sokyusha

This is not flashy photography, there are no tricks or gimmicks, but there is a rare authenticity to Shiraishi’s grainy portrait of a simple moment in nature.   My favourite book from Japan this year.

Centralia by Poulomi Basu, Dewi Lewis

Poulomi Basu’s powerful long term 'docu-fiction' Centralia justifiably continues to win award nominations and acclaim. The multi-layered photobook of the project is equally as impressive.

Pleasant Street by Judith Black, Stanley/Barker

There is no drama here, no decisive moment, just the simple premise to slowly document the chronicle of a family. Perfectly designed, this is without doubt one of the best photobooks focusing on family of recent years. 

Early Sunday Morning by Peter Mitchell, RRB

The best production of any Mitchell book, coupled with the measured sequencing and edit of John Myers elevate this trove of previously unseen work to an essential addition to a British photography collection.

Encampment, Wyoming by Lora Webb Nichols, FW:Books

Another series of photos which belie their age - in this case extraordinarily some are more than a century old.  A haunting beauty pervades through this sequence of images from the American Western frontier.  The book itself is a masterclass in photobook design, and one could not imagine this material being presented any better.

The Locusts by Jesse Lenz, Charcoal Press

An evocative portrayal of rural Ohio; in this impressively printed book, we see Lenz’ family exploring life and the world of nature around them, with all it’s beauty and dark realities. 

The White Sky by Mimi Plumb, Stanley/Barker

An incredible body of work, another portrayal of childhood, given the reliable Stanley/Barker treatment. 

Meloni Meloni by Gerry Johansson, Self-published

I am a big fan of “walk” books, so Swedish photoboook master Gerry Johansson taking us on a walk was a good bet to be one of my favourites.  One of many Gerry Johansson books of the past couple of years, but without doubt my pick.

The Community by Eli Durst, Morel

This brilliant series of photos of people’s search for community, whether it be Boy Scout meetings to New Age spiritual practices to corporate team building exercises, has taken on a whole new resonance with the events of the past year.  

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

Awoiska van der Molen’s third collaboration with designer Hans Gremmen once again sees the photographer’s work given suitably sparse and elegant presentation bringing this brooding set of images portraying the grandeur of the natural world to the fore.

We Have No Place to Be 1980-1982 by Joji Hashiguchi, Session Press

Hashiguchi’s images of disenchanted youths in the 1980’s from Liverpool to London, Berlin to Tokyo rank with some of the finest of the period.  

A Voice Above The Linn by Robbie Lawrence, Stanley/Barker

Robbie Lawrence’s intimate follow-up book to last year’s bold Blackwater River is given a suitably delicate photobook treatment and once again shows him to be both an eloquent storyteller and a photographer of the highest order.

Martin Amis founded Photobookstore in 2006, and is rarely more than 10 feet from a pile of photobooks. His book The Gamblers was published in 2018 by RRB Publishing, and he is currently working on several other photobook projects.

Images: top - Das Auge des Krieges by Dieter Keller, below - Shikawatari by Chieko Shiraishi, Centralia by Poulomi Basu