Photobooks of 2020: Russet Lederman

Ming Smith

This year, with covid restrictions impeding most aspects of my normal life—such as travel to art and book fairs, the ability to visit far-off museum, gallery shows, bookshop and studios—I’ve been forced to get my exhibition viewing through the books that get dropped on my doormat by the various postal and courier services. My list is reflective of the shows I wish I could see in person or revisit, and the anthologies I’m using in my current research on historical photobooks by women (1843-1999) for an upcoming 10x10 publication and project that will launch in 2021. Also on my list are long overdue photobooks by Ming Smith (unbelievable that it took 45 years for someone to release her first monograph!) and Justine Kurland, whose Girl Pictures have haunted me since I saw them in a show at Mitchell Innes Gallery in 2018. Unintentionally, all the books on my list are by women. I’m also quite aware that this is a “classic” list with no independently published photobooks included. My only excuse is that my mind has been wandering for the past twelve months in the late 19th century and early 20th century. An area where few independent publishers venture? 


Making Strange: The Modernist Photobook in France by Kim Sichel, Yale University Press, 2020.


Une Histoire mondiale des femmes photographes by Luce Lebart and Marie Robert, Textuel, 2020.


The New Woman Behind the Camera by Andrea Nelson and Mia Fineman ed., National Gallery of Art, 2020.


Life Magazine and the Power of Photography by Kristen Gresh and Katherine Bussard, Princeton University Art Museum, 2020.


Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures by Sarah Meister ed., The Museum of Modern Art, 2020.


Jo Ractliffe: Photographs 1980s to Now by Jo Ractliffe,  Steidl & New York: The Walther Collection, 2020.


Ming Smith: An Aperture Monograph by Ming Smith, Aperture, 2020.


Girl Pictures by Justine Kurland, Aperture, 2020.

Russet Lederman is a writer, editor, and photobook collector who lives in New York City. She has taught art writing at the School of Visual Arts, co-edits The Gould Collection, and is a co-founder of 10x10 Photobooks.

Images: top - Ming Smith, An Aperture Monograph, below - Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures

Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures