Photobooks of 2020: Tim Carpenter

Gerry Johansson

One thing 2020 did was to convince me of something I’ve always sort of intuited: that the notion of the “death of the author” is just horseshit. I’m now sure of this because (like you, I imagine) this year made me miss folks, and more than ever I’ve relied on books for connection with other lives. I’m grateful that the photobooks I’ve consumed in isolation have brought so many separate and sensuous selves – real, palpable, hurting, triumphant – into my socially distanced life. In everything I found meaningful this year, authorship is alive and kicking. Weird, idiosyncratic, furious, glorious authorship.

A regret: although in the grand scheme of things the loss of in-person book fairs is not the greatest hardship to endure, there’s a noticeable hole in my life because I’ve become so used to chancing upon treasures I would never have known otherwise. Not to mention the new friends and compatriots who had the gumption to make such things. My list this year thus skews more toward authors and publishers with whom I was already somewhat familiar. I do hope and intend to remedy this in 2021. (Also: thank you to everyone in this little world of ours for every online studio visit and zoom talk and library tour and Instagram live. It meant a lot.)

These are some of the books that got me through this strangest and saddest of years, and which I shall return to again and again:


Ciprian Honey Cathedral by Raymond Meeks, Mack


Entangled by Maude Arsenault, Deadbeat Club


Rabbit / Hare by David Billet and Ian Kline, Deadbeat Club


Grain Bins by Nathan Pearce, self-published

12Hz by Ron Jude, Mack


Jan Groover, Photographer by Jan Groover, Scheidegger & Spiess


Blue Bar by Matteo di Giovanni, Artphilein Editions


Flattened in Time and Space by Angelo Vignali, Witty Books


Meloni Meloni by Gerry Johansson, self-published


The Locusts by Jesse Lenz, Charcoal Press


Bill Dane Pictures . . . it’s not pretty by Bill Dane


Michael Schmidt Photographs 1965-2014 by Michael Schmidt, Walther König


Tim Carpenter is a photographer and writer who works in Brooklyn and central Illinois. He is a co-founder of TIS books, an independent photobook publisher.

Images: top - Meloni, Meloni by Gerry Johansson, below - Blue Bar by Matteo di Giovanni

Blue Bar by Matteo Di Giovanni, Artphilein Editions