SOURCE PHOTO: 24 / DEC / 2011
Posted by Richard West

I was planning to do a roundup of the photobooks published in 2011. We have started to review self published books this year and the job of finding out what has been published, and deciding what to review, has become even more challenging. Larissa Leclair's list of her favourite self published books of the year (most of which I hadn't seen before) is a particularly fine selection - drawing together a wide variety of high-quality books.

Can we draw any conclusions from this and other lists? One Year of Books - another consistently interesting list, made up of books added to a private collection - suggests compiling a list of lists, which is exactly what Eyecurious has done. In first place, curiously, are two books about crimes, Redheaded Peckerwood and A Criminal Investigation. Lots of people seemed to like Ricardo Cases' Paloma al Aire (which we have just reviewed) but it's not all small or self published books: Prestel, Aperture, Steidl, Dewi Lewis all feature as well.

Going back over the books we have reviewed over the last 12 months and comparing it with these ‘books of the year’ lists it is noticeable they are all picture books; there are no books about photography. Yet, there are ever more photography books with words in published, and not only for an academic readership. Reaktion continue to put out new titles in their excellent Exposures series. We have just reviewed Photography and Ireland and previously reviewed Photography and Death and Photography and Japan but Chris Pinney's Photography and Anthropology is the one I am most looking forward to reading. These often provide the first general introduction to a photography related subject and are well illustrated, yet not mentioned in anyone's best photography book lists.

Other ongoing trends in books about photography include the steady trickle of philosophically inclined books - including James Elkin's What Photography Is and Jacques Derrida, Copy, Archive, Signature - that have continued to appear from large and small publishers. Another interesting trend has been reprints. Steidl (who republished Lewis Baltz's Candlestick Point this year and a Baltz boxed set last year) and Errata Editions continue to republish classic and less well known photobooks. However, the most striking example this year was the lavish reprint of The Pencil of Nature, which seemed to pass without notice (Geoffrey Batchen gave it it a mixed review in Source Issue 67 ). This is surely a book anyone seriously interested in photography would want to look at, but which has not been available in a good recent edition (even if this new edition is not exactly cheap).

So I will pick five books, perhaps not the best photobooks of the year, but books that are likely to change the way I think about the medium. In no particular order:

  • William Henry Fox Talbot, 'The Pencil of Nature', with an introduction by Colin Harding, KWS.
  • Chris Pinney, 'Photography and Anthropology', Reaktion.
  • Errol Morris, 'Believing is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography)', Penguin Press.
  • Janina Struk, 'Private Pictures: Soldiers' Inside View of War', I. B. Tauris.
  • Robert Crawford, 'The Beginning and the End of the World: St Andrews, Scandal, and the Birth of Photography', Birlinn.

Other articles mentioning Henry Fox Talbot:

Other articles mentioning Lewis Baltz:

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