Photobooks of 2022: Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Between Worlds by Harry Gruyaert, Thames & Hudson

Some Say Ice by Alessandra Sanguinetti, Mack

Haunted by the inevitability of death after seeing Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip as a child in Argentina—when “dread and wonder became one”—Alessandra Sanguinetti photographed some four decades later in the same Wisconsin location, Black River Falls. I love how the two books rhyme—including the photographs of horses beginning both works, the austere yet often mysterious portraits of local Wisconsinites, and the melancholy tone tinged with foreboding of a shared Midwest Gothic sensibility. “More poetry is said to come from Wisconsin than from any other state in the Union,” to quote from an 1885 newspaper clipping in Wisconsin Death Trip. I couldn’t agree more.—Rebecca Norris Webb (RNW)

Baldwin Lee, Hunters Point Press

When I first came across Baldwin Lee’s photographs from the American South, I was startled. How was it possible that I’d never seen these quiet, gentle, and soulful images of the lives of African Americans in the South in the mid-1980’s? Part of that mystery is explained in a thoughtful interview with him at the back of the book. Lee no longer photographs, and his reasons are complicated—reasons that pose intriguing questions about the nature of creativity, ambition, and the passage of time.—Alex Webb (AW)

Hafiz by Sabiha Çimen, Red Hook Editions

I’m particularly intrigued by photographs that take me somewhere I’ve never been before. Often, this reflects a photographer’s unique vision or way of seeing. But it can also be a journey into an unknown world, as it is with Sabiha Çimen’s Hafiz. In five Turkish cities, she photographed Islamic schools for women, where the students memorize the Quran. In this beautifully designed book, her sympathetic and intimate photographs—she herself attended such schools when she was a teen—provide a deeply human perspective on a world largely hidden from Western eyes.—AW

House of Bondage by Ernest Cole, Aperture

I have a vague memory of having seen Ernest Cole’s House of Bondage many years ago. Whether it was an excerpt of the work in Life Magazine or the actual book, I can’t say, but it has always remained fixed in my mind. So, it is gratifying to see Aperture’s newly released edition of House of Bondage. The book, printed with Cole’s original layout and text, is a wide-ranging and devastating depiction of apartheid, as Cole carefully documented the all-pervasive brutality of that system. One can’t help but be astonished at Cole’s access, as well as the courage it must have taken to create such work.—AW

To Photograph Is to Learn How to Die by Tim Carpenter, The Ice Plant

Tim Carpenter’s book-length essay on photography and mortality often feels lit from within—thanks to his own insights sagely illuminated by gems from his fellow photographers, poets, musicians, painters, curators, and others. I keep the book on my bedside table near the poems of Emily Dickinson and Tomas Tranströmer, for those sleepless nights when a little light—or enlightenment—is needed.—RNW

Midwest Materials by Julie Blackmon, Radius Books

I’ve always found Julie Blackmon’s photographs of her extended family utterly delightful. They embrace the unfettered anarchy and chaos of childhood, with adults rarely in attendance. Midwest Materials deepens the themes explored in Blackmon’s earlier work and expands upon them, occasionally hinting at—as in the photograph “Trapped”—the societal and political tensions poking and prodding the vulnerable bubble of childhood today. The book abounds with cultural and artistic references, including masked children on a stoop reminiscent of Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s book, The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater. —AW

First Trip to Bologna 1978/Last Trip to Venice 1985 by Seiichi Furuya, Chose Commune

A mysterious love poem told in two trips to Italy—the first with Super 8 film stills; the last with photographs—that bookended the seven-year relationship of two artists, Seiichi Furuya and his wife, Christine Gössler. The thoughtfully designed book is also a meditation on memory, on moving and still images, and on the fragility of life, as the impetus of the last-minute Venice trip was Christine’s recent recovery from psychotic symptoms due to schizophrenia, which, a few months later, tragically led her to take her own life. “One trip, to Bologna, that I do not remember at all; and another one, to Venice, that I remember vividly,” writes Furuya, “It may well be that the difference between moving and static image…has affected the workings of my memory.”—RNW

Between Worlds by Harry Gruyaert, Thames & Hudson

It’s always intriguing to see how photographers deal with looking back at their own work. Many of Harry Gruyaert’s books have been geographically oriented: books on Morocco, Belgium, India. This book, however, takes a thematic slice out of his work over many years, exploring those thresholds between inside and outside that recur so often in his photographs. Gruyaert sees in unique and remarkable ways, and this book is a wonderful addition to his collection.—AW

Together and apart, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb have authored some 21 books, including Alex’s The Suffering of Light and La Calle, Rebecca’s My Dakota and Night Calls, and jointly Brooklyn and, most recently, Waves.

Between Worlds by Harry Gruyaert, Thames & Hudson
First Trip to Bologna 1978/Last Trip to Venice 1985 by Seiichi Furuya, Chose Commune