Photobooks of 2022: Blake Andrews

 Baldwin Lee

A dozen photobooks from the past twelve months which caught my eye, listed roughly in order of publication beginning late 2021:

Yaga by Agata Kalinowska, BWA Wrocław

Kalinowska’s diaristic photos of Wroclaw nightlife document a youth scene which—at least from my armchair vantage as a boring middle aged American—looks quite adventurous. In the process of snapping her social scene, Kalinowska captures something greater: a collective portrait of queer fem culture in modern Poland. With excellent pictures, editing, and design.

The People’s Trust by Michael Vahrenwald, Kominek

As photographers know better than most, the fate of things left to future generations is uncertain. Vahrenwald’s neoclassical buildings —constructed a century ago and left thereafter to the people's trust— are gaudy, resilient, and surprisingly photogenic. Featuring bold typography and design, plus a surreal story by my adolescent writing crush Richard Brautigan.

Pickpocket by Daniel Arnold, Elara

Pickpocket is deliberately overwhelming, with scads of photos, hours of captions, and multiple glossy magazine inserts, all packaged in a skyscraper format book. It’s the ideal vehicle to express Manhattan’s pedestrian deluge. I swear Pickpocket even smells like the East River. But that might just be the vinyl sleeve off-gassing.  

Judith Joy Ross: Photographs 1978-2015, Aperture

The latest in a string of retrospectives attempting to encapsulate the miraculous portraitist JJR, each one more expansive than the last. This is the biggest and baddest one yet, with multiple essays, timelines, and samplings of every major project to date. The definitive book on an American photo icon.

Hot Damn! by Chloe Sells, GOST

Hot Damn spills over with old cabin interiors baked in marble swirls, all askance with nary a Cartesian coordinate in sight. This is the most psychedelic photobook I’ve seen in a while, and a fitting homage to the late great author and pharmaceutical adventurer Hunter S. Thompson, whom Sells assisted up until his death.

Wuhan Radiography by Simon Vansteenwinckel, Editions Light Motiv

I love Vansteenwinckel’s street-style photos of Wuhan, which are not what they initially appear to be. But I think the design might be even better, with perfect sequencing and layout, all housed in a translucent cyan dust jacket. The pandemic may already be passé as a photo topic, but Wuhan Radiography’s approach is novel enough to avert cliché.

Keepers Of The Ocean by Inuuteq Storch, Disko Bay

Before seeing this book I had almost no mental image of Greenland. That’s been corrected thanks to Storch. His photos of hometown Sisimiut transport me behind the scenes, revealing an insider’s view of friends, rituals, industry, and parties. To let someone stand literally in another person’s shoes is the promise of photography unleashed. Plus the orange cover is just fantastic.

Some Say Ice by Alessandra Sanguinetti, Mack

This is a no-frills monograph design-wise, with plain cover housing one monochrome photo after another. Sanguinetti’s pictures are so good the design doesn’t matter. They’re ostensibly about small-town Wisconsin. For me they’re mostly about the pleasure of good photography. Sanguinetti has been in a rare zone of late. Portraits, barns, signs, snow, whatever. She has a rare nose for keen vantage and off-key detail. More please.

Why Omaha? by Darius Koelhi, Patrick Frey

This is the only photobook I’ve encountered shot by a 9 year old. Koelhi’s recently unearthed snapshots from 1970 exude a blunt visual purity which experienced pros can only dream of, capped with extensive annotations on the old-school wrestling circuit. Zen Bodyslam, Beginner’s Bodyslam.

Baldwin Lee, Hunters Point Press

Baldwin Lee sure took a while making his first book, but the wait was worth it. His incredibly composed photos of the deep south circa mid-80s are just the starting point. With gorgeous reproductions, materials, essay, and illustrated interview, this monograph is the full package. A beautiful tome in the tradition of old-school photo classics.

Windscreen by Phil Jung, TBW

Before seeing this book I’d never heard of Jung or his photos, so this was a nice year-end treat. Jung’s large format photos of dilapidated autos are spiced with details, doodads, and age marks, each one a treasure hunt for the eye. Every car interior seems like a 2d biography of its anonymous owner. It’s so oddly oversized it might serve as a windshield visor in a pinch. Not that any book lover would dare.

I Just Wanna Surf by Gabriella Angotti-Jones, Mass Books 

A blend of personal journal, photo essay, and cultural history, this colorful twist on the So-Cal surf scene is buoyed by a refreshing can-do spirit. Smiling friends, warm sun, adolescent turmoil, and a cover which converts into dorm-room poster. Fully stoked to spot this book in the lineup and catch a recent copy in to shore.


Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, Oregon.

Baldwin Lee, Hunters Point Press
The People’s Trust by Michael Vahrenwald, Kominek

The People's Trust