Photobooks of 2021: Dolly Meieran

Solmaz Daryani, The arid, salt-crusted lakeshore of Sharafkhaneh, a port that was once a draw for tourists. The imposing structure in the background,“Tal,” was once used to repair ships in the water, 2018 from The Eyes of Earth

Over the past 20+ months I’ve been armchair shopping in search of photobooks to program for 10x10 Photobooks INSTAsalons. It has been a privilege to discover amazing books not only from more well-known publishers but also those off the beaten track. While limited by funds (who isn’t!) and thus still trying to acquire many from my ever-growing wish list, this doesn’t necessarily represent a “best of” but rather is a list of those books that have stuck with me since cracking the cover.

The African Lookbook by Catherine McKinley, Bloomsbury

A must-read for everyone. McKinley’s book uses a chunk of her vast collection as a springboard to discuss women, photography and decolonizing images. Her words augment her sharp eye as she guides us through the book, encouraging us to open our own eyes wider and see better. It makes me rethink how I approach and look at not just photographs from Africa or the 19th century but all photographs. 

You Can Call Me Nana by Will Harris, Overlapse

Harris’s elegaic masterpiece packs a wallop in a small package. A visual ode to his grandmother Evelyn, the book had me in tears from the first pages. Its assemblage of archival and contemporary photography mixes with pertinent ephemera and handwritten transcripts of Harris’s conversations with her (supplemented by audio recordings on Soundcloud) as her memory deteriorates. A combination that exudes the love and grief of Harris, and which echoes what many of us have also felt or experienced but had difficulty articulating when dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.


The Eyes of Earth by Solmaz Daryani, FotoEvidence Press

As more and more photobooks address the climate emergency, The Eyes of Earth stands out as a clarion call. Daryani's cogent story-telling about the rapidly shrinking Lake Urmia and her personal connection to the area is magnified by the beautiful book design by Joao Linneau and Fernanda Fajardo. From the blue cover which features a red foil stamp of the current boundaries of the lake inset into a debossed shape representing the older, larger border, through to the intricate sequencing between past and present, the reader is left with a palpable sense of the scope and speed of a crisis we all face globally.


Fairy Tales and Photography, or, Another Look at Cinderella by Jo Spence, RRB Photobooks

Probably one of the most under-appreciated photo theorists, photographer Jo Spence was ahead of her time when she composed her visually stunning thesis. This faithful reproduction of her complex and insightful presentation prompts us to truly challenge our thinking about photography, especially in terms of class and gender (and race). This is a book I’ll come back to again and again to more fully appreciate the density of Spence’s brilliance.


Longitude by Katherine Yungmee Kim, Datz Press

Longitude is part memoir, part detective story, part history lesson, part family album and all engaging. Fragments coalesce into a patchwork in which capital-T truth is elusive, always just around the corner. Kim's writing drives home the simultaneous connection and disconnection to a place left by previous generations, recognizable to any of us with parents/grandparents who came from somewhere else. The landscape, language and politics may vary but the feeling is familiar. 


Dolly Meieran is Director of Salons for 10x10 Photobooks in New York City. She is also currently working on the abortion rights edition of Postcards From Forever. 

The Eyes of Earth by Solmaz Daryani, FotoEvidence Press
The African Lookbook by Catherine McKinley, Bloomsbury

Abdourahmane Sakaly, Two Young Yé-Yé Girls with Sunglasses, Mali, 1965 from The African Lookbook