Photobooks of 2023: Gabriela Cendoya Bergareche

Paraíso by Emiliano Zuñiga Hernandez

One more year of photobooks, and it’s always so hard to chose only a few. As usual, these are only books I have bought, and I am sure I have missed a lot this year. So there are not the best of the year, these are books I love. 

Paraíso by Emiliano Zuñiga Hernandez, Trespasser

An amazing book by Emiliano, edited by Harrison Miller, about life in a community in an Eden like landscape of Costa Rica. Emiliano’s beautiful pictures are overwhelming, and the object is absolutely gorgeous.

Ta-ra by Sebastian Bruno, Ediciones Anomalas

A great book about working communities of South Wales by the Argentine/ Spanish author. With the eye of a foreigner having lived for several years in this land, Sebastian wonderful portraits are empathetic and tender, but what is shown here is a post Brexit crisis and lonely feeling. Ta-ra is also the word to say goodbye in Welsh. 

The Lottery by Melissa Catanese, The Ice Plant / Witty Books

Uncanny and disturbing, The Lottery leaves us in a turmoil of uncertainty. Melissa Catanese’s pictures, both archival and her own, show a world that is upside down, fragile and haunting.

Far away from Home: The Voices, The Body and The Periphery
by Hristina Tasheva, self-published

Impressive book by the author of Bulgarian origins living in the Netherlands, the work is an exhaustive historical research on the Dutch Communist’s resistance and persecution during Second World War, and the criminal acts of Communist government in Bulgaria. Text, voices and testimonies, along with pictures of memorial places and concentration camps, the book is a compelling work about the author’s personal memories and collective identities. 

Threshold by Mårten Lange, Self-published

The book by the Swedish author is a recent one, and already a favourite. Pictures of empty spaces, abandoned houses repeated without words or explanations. Lange creates a mesmerising rhythm, a feeling of loss and melancholy. The pandemic time is still present but there is much more about this. The reader is confronted to his own emptiness. A strong book.

Orixe/ Origin, or when the tide goes out by Ana Paes, Ed. Fabulatorio

This is a beautiful book by Galician author Ana Paes, mixing personal memories linked with a journey and Ana’s own relationship with her mother, a complex story narrated in black and white and colour with risography. The book is delicate and beautifully produced, the images deep and tender. In times so cruel as we live, this feels like a wonderful present.

Smoke by Michael Ackerman, L’Axolotl

The first book of a new publisher, Caroline Bénichou, is an old story of friendship and love by Ackerman for the late musician Benjamin Smoke. The pictures were taken more than 20 years ago for the most part, in Cabbageton, in the outskirts of Atlanta. Ackerman’s photography expresses the genius and frenzy of Benjamin’s life, his tenderness and fragility. With texts, handwritten notes and archives, Smoke is an emotional scrapbook, beautifully printed.

The Public life of Women. A feminist memory project, Nepal Picture Library

I was so happy seeing this book win the Aperture prize during Paris Photo. Not that the contenders were not good, but this project seems to be a crazy one, or at least a beautiful surprise. With more than 500 images, the book is a selection from the archive of the Nepal Picture Library, that has been collecting this material since 2018 to give a visual testimony of the role of women in public life in Nepal. The photobook world is expanding, far from the Occidental usual suspects, and so is my collection, fortunately. A beautiful and necessary tour de force. 


The Inhabitants by Raymond Meeks & George Weld, Mack

Not much has been written about this book, or maybe I haven’t seen it. It is for me the book of the year, in such a contained and modest way. Raymond Meeks and George Weld have joined photography and words to create a long poem on displacement, on loss and longing, in a form of a murmur, a muted sound coming from the hidden outskirts of our towns among scraps and rags. The almost invisible traces left by the migrants searching for a better life are emphasized by a haunting and beautiful rhythm, giving presence and voice to the ones who have none.The land bears the marks of the journey, the fears and hopes, the ineffaceable memory of the migrants. A beautiful and delicate book.

Gabriela Cendoya Bergareche is a photobook collector and activist. Her collection is on view at Museo San Telmo in San Sebastián, Spain.

top - Paraíso by Emiliano Zuñiga Hernandez, Trespasser 
below - Smoke by Michael Ackerman, L'Axolotl

Smoke by Michael Ackerman, L'Axolotl