My 14 best books of 2022 (in alphabetical order):
Xylella is a plant epidemic, and in Puglia, southern Italy, where this book is set, thousand-year-old olive trees have been felled to prevent the spread of infection to northern Europe. It’s a tragic tale that threatens the history, culture and livelihood of the region, yet the photographs could so easily have amounted to little more than an editorial piece for a magazine. However, Caimi and Piccinni have elevated the story into an intense piece of research, and much more than the sum of its parts. The skill with which Tiffany Jones (from the excellent Overlapse) and the two artists have merged the many disparate threads together into one cohesive whole is extremely impressive, and together they’ve made a book which is challenging while rewarding multiple viewings. What more could you ask?
Mother of Dogs by Matthew Genitempo, Trespasser
‘Mother of Dogs’ is a poignant reminder that we don’t need to travel to the ends of the earth, or to chase the exotic (*note to self) in order to produce meaningful work. Made on early evening walks with his partner alongside the railroad tracks near their home, I’m struck by how familiar this unassuming Texan landscape must be for Genitempo, yet this is such a fresh and gentle book, full of love and of the joys of seeing. As a celebration of the beauty of the everyday this is as good as it gets.
It was a revelation to discover Baldwin Lee at this year’s Paris Photo, and I was lucky enough to get hold of one of the very last copies of the book. While some of the portraits look a touch laboured, there are so many remarkable pictures that I’m prepared to overlook the inconsistencies because, when Baldwin Lee is good, he is astounding. The book contains a wonderful interview with Lee in which we learn that he was taught by two polar opposites, Minor White and Walker Evans. Neither, apparently, had much that was positive to say about the other. Minor White would deliver his lectures in bare feet, while ”Walker Evans, as a teacher, was indifferent at best”. A fascinating and beautiful book.
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most important books about war ever published, the result of ten years of work by Meloni in Iraq, Syria and Libya. It depicts the rise, reign, fall and immediate aftermath of the Islamic State as a territorial entity, and is inevitably complex and multi-faceted, with phenomenal photographs interspersed with physical ephemera collected by Lorenzo on the ground. All of this is helpfully explained in extended captions at the back of the book. The work pulls no punches; there are grotesquely graphic (but necessary) images throughout, bookended by two beautiful photographs of a lone figure walking through an immense desert landscape. A masterpiece.
This is reminicent of Ingvar Kenne’s ‘The Ball’, which made my ‘Best Books’ list in 2018 (and is still available from that other notable Swedish publisher, Journal) and might well be the reason why Brad Feuerhelm sent me a personal recommendation to buy it. Like ‘The Ball’ this is about excess, but in the case of ‘Battered’ the subject is alcohol-fuelled violence on the streets of Finland. Pälviranta’s photographs are made with a sickening banality and matter-of-factness, and while some victims are clearly in a state of shock many others wear their blood and bruises like a badge of honour. Remind me never to spend a weekend in Helsinki.
Chew Stoke, a small village in the sleepy English county of Somerset, was treated to several visits by the great man throughout 1992 while on a year-long assignment for the Telegraph magazine, a luxury impossible to imagine these days. Martin was at the height of his photographic powers back then, and it's fascinating to look at this world in hindsight - more innocent times when the dreaded word ‘Brexit’ simply didn’t exist. Unusually for Parr, these pictures were made with a square-format Mamiya 6, instead of his more usual Plaubel Makina 6x7, so his pictures look a little different although still unmistakably his. It includes one of my all-time favourites, ‘Cricket Players looking for the cricket ball’, and that alone should make this a must-have book for any Parr aficionado.
Technically, this emerged in 2021, but it was too late for last year’s list. ‘The Golden City’ is a sumptuous production, with magnificent photographs of the fringes of LA beautifully reproduced and encased in a screen-printed cover. Any student of photography (and I include myself here) can learn from Plumb’s seemingly effortless but fundamentally complex images. All her books go out-of-print fast, so I urge you to get your hands on the next one as soon as it becomes available. (By the way, I instantly fell in love with the feel of the cover as I took it out its packaging and knew instantly it was the material I wanted to use for my new version of ‘The Shipping Forecast’. So thank you Mimi, Rachel and Gregory for inadvertently introducing me to the beauty of Corvon® !)
I grew up in Leicester and was 13 years old when, in 1972, thousands of Ugandan Asians expelled by dictator Idi Amin arrived in the city. I’m certain that this fresh and wondrous multicultural environment encouraged my own wanderlust, a desire to discover other countries then unknown to me. Pujara was born in Leicester around that time, and often experienced overt racism. As a result he moved 100 miles south to settle in London at the age of 18. Three decades later he returned to make this work, placing himself in that strange hinterland between an outside observer and someone intimately involved. Accomplished portraits are interspersed with coolly observed interiors in a book that’s been crying out to be made for many years.
Another book from late 2021 which deserves to be included in this year’s list. Organised into seven chapters of differing lengths, and sometimes with different paper stocks, ’Lakeside’ tackles the historical contradictions of white supremacy as they are manifested in present day suburban Virginia. The work is dark and oppressive, and the cast of characters we find in Lakeside, a small town of 11,000 people “doing the best they can” seem to fit perfectly into that environment. All those we meet in the book are male, with the exception of one pregnant black woman who’s face we cannot see.
This seems to be on most people’s top-ten lists, so there’s not a lot more I can say, except perhaps this: While on a ‘Postcards from America’ trip to Milwaukee in 2014, Alessandra would turn up at our shared accommodation with the first of the pictures that would eventually grow into ‘Some Say Ice’. I can remember listening to her talking about the influence of ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ and telling us the stories behind those tentative (but brilliant) early pictures. She was typically insecure about them, as she so often is, but the rest of us were hooked, and this is the book I’ve been most looking forward to ever since. I for one can’t wait to see what she does next.
A sort of ‘book about books’, a photobook nerd’s wet dream, with Alec’s annotations increasing our understanding of his process. We see the pictures he would, in hindsight, have preferred to use, and even some evidence of the places he stayed. The thin, unfussy newsprint used throughout the 700 pages is perfect, taking nothing away from the beauty and substance of the original books, but instead adding to the experience of looking at them again with fresh eyes. Mack should be applauded for getting this exactly right.
War can be photographed in many ways, whether it be at the height of a conflict, during the aftermath or, in this case, predicting the violence to come. As the Russians were mobilising on the Ukrainian border, museum employees, restorers and volunteers were in a race against time to protect Lviv’s medieval artworks. The title is drawn from the last section of the book, where Subach has digitally removed the backgrounds to conceal the destination of storage in a final act of protection against the aggressors. I’m grateful to Aaron Schumann for guiding me to this little gem of a book during the recent (and excellent) BOP festival in Bristol. It’s an edition of just 400 (so be quick) with £5 from each copy sold donated to ‘Children of Heroes’, a charity supporting children who have lost parents to the war in Ukraine.
I struggle to understand what this book ‘means’ (even the title doesn't make sense, or not to me anyway) yet within its pages you'll find some of this year's most memorable images: the egg teasingly placed between two massive boulders; the weird crescent-shaped light on the sand; the bird which appears to be buried up to its neck. Although there are recurring themes (birds, landscapes) the sequence of pictures bounces about all over the place, both in content and in style and although there doesn't appear to be narrative, each image seems to contain its own enigmatic story. Another beautiful production from the excellent, Athens-based Void.
Six years, two children, and a work-in-progress that will always be a work in progress, this is a book vaguely reminiscent of Ying Ang’s ‘The Quickening’ (which made my list last year) while being very different as well. Now I'm not a mother, clearly, but I am a father of two who has conveniently condemned our children’s early years to a kind of history, and where my memory has become frustratingly hazy. That's why I love this book, and did as soon as I saw it, because it brings it right back. Andi’s pictures are endlessly creative, and often made with wry humour (the mating tortoises; the lactating cows udders; the vomit on the face; the poo poking out of the nappy) but parenthood is damned hard work and the book readily communicates the exhaustion, the sleepless nights and all those bodily fluids. Andi ends her introduction with these words: “I love being a mother. I also loved being an artist” yet this book amply proves that it’s possible to be both at the same time.
And a special mention for the following zines:
It’s always a pleasure to see new work by Ricky Adam, and this year we were treated to two new zines. ‘Proof of Delivery’ is a collection of those pictures delivery drivers are often required to make as they leave parcels on our doorsteps. ‘Extinguish After Use’ documents the remnants - those dreadful burnt patches - of disposable barbecues. Both, as usual for Ricky, are simple but poignant signs of our times.
This is one of the best of the many excellent books published by Another Place Press, and Iain Sergeant, its founder. Richard Chivers was, a very long time ago, a student at the University of Brighton, where I used to teach, and it’s such a pleasure to see him continuing to make wonderful work. These pictures, made in Brighton during lockdown, are exquisitely made with (presumably) a large-format camera.
Collectively, Chris Nunn, Kateryna Radchenko and Donald Weber have created a platform for a number of Ukrainian photographers to have their pictures exposed to a larger audience, particularly here in the west. This is first-rate, immensely moving and often chilling work of the war seen from the inside. ‘The Information Front’ is a no-nonsense newspaper, and the first of what I understand will be a series. It deserves to be supported.
Mark Power is a photographer based in Brighton, on the south coast of England. He has produced 14 books, his latest being a much-expanded reissue of his first, ‘The Shipping Forecast’, originally published in 1996. Power is also in the midst of making five volumes under the title ‘Good Morning, America’. The fourth book in the series will be available in autumn 2023. He has been a member of Magnum since 2007.
Fastidiosa by Jean-Marc Caimi and Valentina Piccinni, Overlapse
We Don’t Say Goodbye by Lorenzo Meloni, GOST