“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”, thus begins one of the greatest novels in the history of literature. “All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike.”, contests a somewhat less famous one. Tolstoy was a genius, but I have always found Nabokov’s models more widely applicable. Each photobook that makes me happy does so in its own unique way: A handful of pictures that propel the book to an entirely new level of meaning. An obsessive exploration of one-word subject matter. A recognition of a kindred soul in the maker of the pictures. A simple jest that remains amusing, more tenderly so with each iteration. An execution so tight it causes goosebumps. A shimmer of intellect that makes the images glow in a particular way. A towering testimonial. A master’s magic, distilled.
Here is a list of photobooks that made me happy in 2021:
Jenia Fridlyand (Moscow, 1975) is a photographer and educator based in New York City and the Hudson Valley. She is a co-founder of Image Threads, a non-profit educational collective, and is the chair of the Long Term Photobook Program at Penumbra Foundation in New York. Her work has been published by TIS Books, Brooklyn, and she is represented by Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen, Amsterdam.
One Star and a Dark Voyage by Barbara Bosworth, TIS Books
Sub Sole by Massao Mascaro, Chose Commune