Photobooks of 2021: Blake Andrews


Encampment, Wyoming by Lora Webb Nichols, Fw: Books

This one came out late last year and appeared on some 2020 lists. But it was new for me in 2021. Nichols’ amazing portraits of early 20th century Wyoming receive a thoughtful curation by Nicole Jean Hill and gorgeous design by Hans Gremmens, which is perfect down to the black-paged silver-inked coda. Encampment has received rave reviews elsewhere. No need to rehash, but I’m happy to confirm they’re all merited.

Fingerprint by Jim Goldberg, Stanley Barker

Although Fingerprint is not technically a book, this goes on my list because it’s too beautiful to exclude. A small jewel box of Polaroid facsimiles capturing misguided teens, complete with image, blemishes, handwriting, and, yes, fingerprints, all reproduced with loving fidelity. Open to shuffling, mounting, pocketing, or whatever. This is a rare case of production quality meeting the emotional intensity of subject matter.

Sidewalk by Frank Horvat, Hatje Cantz

A handsome little throwback which collects photos shot by Horvat during a series of NYC trips in the 1980s. Sidewalk captures the feeling of the era through Kodachrome, awnings, and neon. More importantly, it conveys the underappreciated mastery of Horvat as a candid street technician, just one of his wide-ranging talents..

Second City by
Jesse Marlow, Sling Shot Press

Another throwback book, Second City collects Marlow’s pictures of his home base Melbourne from the early 2000s, when he shot b/w film and was active exploring the downtown CBD. Marlow created a solid body of street work over a few years, many photos just now seeing the light of day. Consistent quality throughout, occasionally cresting in flat out classics.

Weathering Time by Nancy Floyd, GOST

A personal typology with surprising range, this book collects Floyd’s self portraits made regularly over several decades, including friends, family, pets, lovers, and bygone fashions. There are hundreds in total, filed into captioned grids. Although made in a variety of locations and circumstances, all are unified by Floyd’s wry gaze, staring calmly back at herself weathering time.

Street Portraits by Dawoud Bey, Mack

A handsome clothbound monograph of Bey’s portraits shot in and around New York several decades ago. Made with a view camera and Polaroid Type 55 film, the images leave room for chemical traces to mingle with old haunts. The star attractions are Bey’s subjects. Captured expertly by Bey during chance encounters, they portray a collective slice of African-American public life in NY circa 1990.

I’m Looking Through You by Tim Davis, Aperture

This dense yellow tome captures a rainbow of pictures from many corners of the city, shot by self-professed LA outsider Tim Davis during the course of several trips west. The wandering stream of pictures is great, and his meandering prose passages might be even better. A deft mix of text and visuals with nice design elements, all components working together at a high level.

5 Dollars For 3 Minutes by Cammie Toloui, Void

Toloui turns the tables on the trope of male gaze by photographing her clients at the Lusty Lady, a San Francisco strip club where she performed in the 1990s. Photographed in monochrome, with dim lighting, surrounded by sex toys, these poor men exude vulnerability and desperation. It’s a complete power reversal which should spark many interesting conversations. Well designed by Void with text-based bonus zine.

Eclipse Body & Soul Syntax by Nick Relph, Pre-Echo

Relph used a library scanning wand to capture NYC construction signs as abstracted visual sandwiches. The resulting images poke fun at urban planning, aspirational culture, and the cancerous ideal of continual construction. Packed with entertaining images and well sized, this glossy softbound was one of the year’s unexpected highlights for me.

Claudio Pogo’s Guide, Outer Space

A spot on parody of one of the most hallowed monographs in photo history, William Eggleston’s Guide. Pogo casually nails the original materials, design, aesthetic, typeface, and aw-shucks tone. At times he comes unnervingly close to nailing Eggleston’s actual photographs, with crowd-sourced pictures from online image searches.

Derby by Eva Lipman & Ken Graves, TBW

One of a pair published simultaneously, Derby reprises archival material from Lipman and Graves shooting demolition derbies. The actual competitions are never depicted. Instead they photograph the fringes, where men wrestle with engines, chains, mud, and broken windshields. For most of the book’s target audience, this is an exotic subculture. Lipman and Graves were pros, and their photos operate in the upper levels of photographic acuity, chance, and monochrome beauty, well showcase by TBW’s excellent production.

Boundary Hunt by Toshio Shibata, Poursuite

Shibata continues his never-ending fascination with visual forms and the compositional prospects of four simple edges. He captures natural and human-made scenes from a variety of locations including Japan, Oregon, and California. The subject matter is comparable to previous Shibata efforts—no shortage of dams and concrete berms—but shot on Type 55 film they’re spiced with development artifacts and Polaroid tonality which distinguish these pictures from his other work.

What They Saw: Photobooks By Women 1843-1999 , editors Russet Lederman & Olga Yatskevich, 10 x 10

On the heels of last year’s How We See, its successor takes a historical look at photobooks by women. Covering 150 years is a mammoth undertaking, but Russet and Yatskevich are up to the task, helped by a crack-team of expert contributors. This is a fine piece of scholarship with great breadth and depth, and beautiful design. I thought I had a good grasp of the field yet most of these title were previously unknown to me. I learned more from this one than any other book in 2021. Thank you Russet and Olga!

Blake Andrews is a photographer and amateur cardiologist based in Eugene, Oregon.

Derby by Eva Lipman & Ken Graves, TBW

Second City by Jesse Marlow, Sling Shot Press 

Second City