As always I have listed the books not in order of preference, but in the order I obtained them.
The last few lists seem to have been started with a title that has eluded me from the previous year. So, continuing in the tradition.
Traces Within by Eva Voutsaki, Self-published
Eva Voutsaki’s dreamlike book is a handmade edition of 800 copies. Intricately designed with three connected sections attached to a single cover, When opened and extended, it allows the viewer to compose over 1000 image combinations. Serene and meditative are two words that describe the experience of moving through its pages.
One of the most simple but effecting books to come out of the Covid lockdown experience. Evans’ self published project is a tender and affectionate collection of portraits taken through the front room windows of her neighbours houses during the deepest part of the first 2020 lockdown. The solid glass barrier reinforcing a sense of separation, whilst also encouraging the bonding of what would have been pre covid, a largely disconnected community. As the days of fear and paranoia slowly (very slowly it seems) ebb away, it is projects like this that will undoubtedly provide some of the most poignant and intimate reminders of a time unlike any other.
Local historian Bernard Taylor meticulously collated an extensive archive documenting his small New York State town and its surrounding countryside. Before moving away from the area, this vast bounty of photography, maps, notes and ephemera was acquired by filmmaker Peter Ward. The result of Taylor’s endeavours were published in this beautiful photobook. Or were they ? The delicious conceit and indeed the Machiavellian icing on the cake, is that this entire project was all born of the fabulous and formidable imagination of photographer and publisher Tom Lecky. Every last photograph, annotation and hand drawn map. Without a doubt, the incredibly assured first steps of a brilliant new photobook talent.
A twenty seven year collection of goodbyes. A heartwarming yet heartbreakingly effective message. The inevitability of the passing of time and a reminder to love and cherish those around us. Dikeman’s premise seems as much a letter to her audience as it is a personal memoir.
4 A.M. by Paul Cupido, Self-published
Inspired by a Haiku written by Japanese poet Basho, 4 A.M. is Cupido's interpretation of waking at the deepest and darkest and most disorientating hour of the night. A masterclass in printing and construction, this is as satisfying to handle as it is to look at.
The Absence by Attilio Solzi, 89 books
On the road that connects Milan and Cremona prostitutes patiently wait, seated on a chair that they leave chained by the roadside. Once a day for a year, Solzi photographed the same chair, just as it was left by its owner after the day's work was done. Sometimes you want to shout about the discovery of a new book, other times you just want to keep it for yourself…but that is selfish. I found this to be an incredibly moving book, it deserves an audience.
Õ by Shono Inoue
Possibly one of the most beautiful, optimistic and completely human studies to emerge from the lockdown experience. And although the content was born in France, it is no surprise to find that this delicate and far from obvious gem comes from Japan. A chance encounter between two strangers has led to a delightfully life affirming body of work. Undeniably abstract in its approach, Õ is a delicate package of hope, and a reminder that we were not meant to exist in boxes alone.
Shiotani by Anders Edstrom, AKPE
Absolutely breathtaking new release from Edstrom, compiled from photographs taken over a twenty two year period. The photographer initially visited the tiny rural Japanese village of Shiotani with his then girlfriend (now wife) in 1993, when he was first taken to meet her family. Comprising over seven hundred crystalline pages, it beautifully describes the generational arc of a family, a location and its community.
Distress by Zara Carpenter, Self-published
A breathtakingly beautiful journey into the artist’s visualisation and physical manifestation of her long term medical condition, one which leaves her in a constant state of pain. It may seem unfair to include a handmade artist book produced in an edition of only ten copies. However, this list is about the books which left the biggest impact on me during the course of the year. Whilst it may be too late to acquire Distress, if its inclusion on this list draws attention to this wonderful emerging talent, then believe me, you will thank me later.
Material by Jet Swan, Loose Joints
The sense of tension between public image and private reality is explored in this striking debut from British photographer Jet Swan. A rich collection of portraits and physical details captured and presented in a palette which - if bottled - should be called “sensual melancholy”
Black Not Sorry by James Kemmenoe, Self-published
With his background in fashion and commercial photography, Kemmenoe’s aesthetic would sit well amongst the likes of Alasdair McLellan and Ryan McGinley. His self published debut however is a passionate, and regrettably relevant piece of social documentary. From the introduction. "The photographs that make up this book were taken on the 3rd, 6th and 7th June 2020 in Central London. People from across the capital and beyond had come together to protest, to march.The passion of those present is apparent in these images. The number of people involved and their attitude made these days exhilarating, but of course never far from our thoughts was the sad question; why are we still having to do this in 2020" . Sometimes you just don't need to add anything more.
Anywhere but here by Alison McCauley, Photo Editions
I included Alison as a special mention on my 2020 list, and I am so happy to see that this year her first commercially available book has JUST been released, and it is every bit as wonderful as I knew it would be. Dealing with her restless sense of memory and place, this a truly beautiful publication. For those who may have been frustrated at not being able to acquire one of her handmade books, this is a wonderful way to begin your own wanderlust journey with this talented free spirited artist.
Special mention - Bumdog Torres
In the depths of 2020’s first lockdown, I first encountered Bumdog Torres’ work on social media. Living homeless (by choice) on the streets of LA, Bumdog has proved to be not only a wonderfully instinctive photographer, but also an incredibly empathetic and astute social commentator. Combining beautifully observed portraits and erudite text, he has self published five books (four this year alone), with subjects ranging from lockdown experience on the streets of LA, to the gay and transgender community of “Tangerine Land”. Fresh, honest and naturally talented, find Bumdog and his books on Instagram.
Robin Titchener is a photobook collector of some thirty years.
Shiotani by Anders Edstrom, AKPE
The Archive of Bernard Taylor by Peter Ward, Understory