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Source Magazine: Thinking Through Photography - Issue 88

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The winter 2016 issue of Source is all about Photobooks. What is the greatest ever photobook? We have conducted an international poll to discover the answer to this question, asking photographers, publishers, critics, booksellers, collectors and others to nominate their favourite books of all time. You can see additional analysis in the magazine but here are the results including the comments and selections of every nominator.

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Browse Photobook Poll Results:

(indexed by voter name)

Photobook Poll Results - G-H:

Hans Rudolf Gabathuler

Owner of a private library on the history of photography, Switzerland

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959

Werner Gräff, Here comes the new photographer!, 1929

Man Ray, Photographs 1920-1934, 1934

André Kertész, Day of Paris, 1945

Various authors, Japan: the nation in panorama, 1937

Albert Renger-Patzsch, The world is beautiful: One hundred photographic images, 1928

Ihei Kimura, Paris 1954, 1955, 1960, 1974

Jack Tuggener, Fabrik, 1943

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment, 1952

August Sander, Face of our time: Sixty portraits of twentieth-century Germans, 1929

Matthias Gabi

Librarian, Centre for Photography, Switzerland

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959

Ed Ruscha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1963

Hans Peter Feldmann, Bilder, 1968-1971

Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus, 1972

Lewis Baltz, The new Industrial Parks near Irvine, 1974

William Eggleston, William Eggleston's Guide, 1976

Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1986

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills, 1990

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Sichtbare Welt, 2000

Batia Suter, Parallel Encyclopedia, 2007

I had some struggle, mainly with the books before 1945 as this is a time about which I am not so well informed, so my list begins after 1945, it did not feel right to choose books without having a small kind of "overview" over the period from 1844 to 1945. I will work on this for the future!

Mohara Gill

Art Buyer at Foyles bookshop, UK

Taryn Simon, An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007

Christian Patterson, Redheaded Peckerwood, 2011

Rinko Kawauchi, Illuminance, 2011

Watanabe Yukichi, A Criminal Investigation, 2011

Mike Brodie, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity, 2013

Guy Bourdin, Polaroids, 2010

Edward Burtynsky, Manufactured Landscapes: The Photographs of Edward Burtynsky, 2003

Tommaso Tanini, H. Said he loved us, 2014

Christoph Bangert, War Porn, 2014

Sophie Calle, A Suivre - Préambule, Suite Vénitienne, la filature, 1998

For this my primary consideration has been the subject, going for defining images that bring an ever increasing awareness about the changing world around us. Because photography is in a sense a truer reflection of reality than other artistic mediums, examples of a documentary or investigatory nature are of particular interest especially if they reveal the unfamiliar. My selection are titles that are relatively recent in the history of the photobook, certainly in the last ten years I feel there has been real shift towards to increasing experimentation with formats, abstraction and exploration of the conceptual; more and more we are seeing mainstream publishers adopting features that are more associated with the independent side of the industry.

Nicolas Giraud

Photographer, France

Ed Ruscha, Royal Road Test, 1967

Paul Graham, a shimmer of possibility, 2007

Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, Evidence, 1977

Hans-Peter Feldmann, Voyeur, 2006

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1958

Lee Friedlander, American Monuments, 1976

Walker Evans, American Photographs, 1938

Eugene Atget, Photographe de Paris, 1930

Christopher Williams, Printed in Germany, 2015

Lists are tricky. They aim at a statistic knowledge, eluding the particular relation that we all have with certain books. These books won't be in the list. We are often not sure why we think they're great. These books are the ones on which any top-ten is built. This said, these might be the ten greatest photobooks. Alright, it's only nine titles, yet I think that the list needs to remain open.

Ángel Luis González

Director, PhotoIreland, Ireland

Brassaï and Paul Morand, Paris de Nuit, 1932

Eamonn Doyle, Niall Sweeney, and David Donohoe, END., 2016

William Eggleston, William Eggleston's Guide, 1976

Cristina de Middel, The Afronauts, 2012

Óscar Monzón, KARMA, 2013

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, The Great Unreal, 2009

Victor Palla & Costa Martins, Lisboa: cidade triste e alegre, 1959

Bryan Schutmaat, Grays the Mountain Sends, 2013

Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan, Evidence, 1977

Donovan Wylie and Timothy Prus, Scrapbook, 2009

I hope someone else can help to bridge the gender and hemisphere gap.

Paul Graham

Photographer, UK

Garry Winogrand, Public Relations, 1977 The whole spirit of a decade, of a generational convulsion, captured in a series of 'street' photographs. The brilliant Tod Papageorge edited this, and it shows: First image is a Vietnamese woman standing and asking a question... and in we tumble.

Mandel/Sultan, Evidence, 1977 Wonderful, groundbreaking re-use of vernacular photography.

Robert Adams, Our Lives and Our Children, 1984 Often overlooked masterpiece by Adams, made in Rocky Flats where America's nuclear weapons are produced.

Tom Wood, Photie Man, 2005 Terrific and underappreciated British photographer. Never got the book he really deserves but this is the best of what there is.

William Eggleston, Election Eve, 1977 16 page promotional brochure for the portfolio, produced by Caldecott Chubb. Only 4 images, but it was enough to show what a genius he was.

Michael Schmidt, Waffenruhe, 1987 I could have happily chosen Frauen or Unity also. The best postwar European photographer. Period.

Lewis Baltz, Park City, 1980 The first of a great trilogy of works. Dry genius, great thinker, and very good artist.

Volker Heinze, Ahnung, 1989 A good friend of mine in the 1980s/90s, and a great photographer - showed what you can do with just 14 images.

Lee Friedlander, The American Monument, 1976 My favorite book by him, well, this or Factory Valleys, or Flowers and Trees, or Cray, or...

Family Photo Album My wife's family album from 1970s West Africa. I look at this as much as any photo book I own. If only we could attain that purity and innocence.

Hans Gremmen

Designer, The Netherlands

Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates, Signs of Life: Symbols in the American City, 1976 Not as famous as the iconic ‘Learning from Las Vegas’, which is equally good. This catalogue uses photography (mainly made by Stephen Shore) to investigate architectural styles. In the exhibition at the Renwick Gallery in 1976 this ‘collaboration’ between photography and installation is explored in a groundbreaking way.

Jeff Wall, Landscape, 1969 A pamphlet in which Wall is trying to get a grip on the way a landscape works in relation to photography. The tone of voice (and attempt to grasp these parallel worlds) is similar and as inspiring as Baudrillard’s ‘Amérique’.

Ed Ruscha, Every Building on Sunset Strip, 1966 Basically any book by Ed Ruscha could (and should) be mentioned here.

Rand McNally, Photo-auto maps and Guidebook, 1907 Not really a photography book but the way photography is used to guide people on their way is very charming. And in the same way very naive, because the book is useless after cutting that one landmark-tree on page 45 for instance. Nevertheless this book is Google Streetview avant le lettre (very ‘avant' by the way). The way the landscape is documented is very good because of the objectivity: the concept determined what should be in the frame, which results in a very honest slice of the American landscape of the early 1900’s.

Jacob Holdt, American Pictures, 1977 While travelling through the poorest, mainly black, parts of the United States in the seventies, Jacob Holdt reports to his parents what he witnesses during his travels. They find his stories hard to believe, and send him a camera to documentate his travels. In his following travels, through 48 states of America, Holdt uses this camera to make photographs from intense scenes as burning KKK-crosses, drug addicts, dying children and police riots. But he also documents the urban landscape, with billboards which read "Let's get away from it all"and "Beautiful tan...Coppertone". In total he takes over 15,000 photographs, and writes numerous letters. Both these layers, and additional texts and historic images, are included in the book in a perfect way, which results in a genuine and truly engaging document about people that do not function in the systems a country (fails to) provide. It is the kind of photobook that you read, instead of look at. The images tell the story, and the texts create images which will never leave your head.

Alec Soth, From here to There: Alec Soth's America, 2010 One of these books I keep going back to. The cover is great (to start with), and all the way through the works, essays, quotes from blogs, mails to the very end, it stays great, with a surprise booklet in the back. It is a very generous book.

Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, The Great Unreal, 2011 The idea of the hyper-reality which the American Landscape is, is often written about, and i always thought it would be impossible to depict this theoretical notion, until i saw this book with the perfect title. It shows the complexity of the landscape without being conclusive. It is reflecting on a genre and creating a new genre by doing so. In that way you could say Onorato & Krebs are the Quentin & Tarantino of photography.

Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip, 1973 Brilliant book about the shadow part of the explorations of and at the frontier in the mid/late 1800’s. The mixing of texts, clippings, and images (many of them engravings) with photography in the style of collage comes together in a perfect way. Maybe one of the best books ever made in this genre.

Teresa Gruber

Research Fellow, Fotostiftung Schweiz, Switzerland

Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus, 1972

Anna Atkins, Photographs of Britsh Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, 1843-1853

Bernd und Hilla Becher, Anonyme Skulpturen, 1970

Karl Blossfeldt, Urformen der Kunst, 1928

Robert Frank, Les Américains, 1958

Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1986

William Klein, New York, 1956

László Moholy-Nagy, Malerei Fotografie Film, 1927

Ed Ruscha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1963

August Sander, Antlitz der Zeit, 1929

Sebastiaan Hanekroot

Book producer, Colour & Books, The Netherlands

Ed van der Elsken, Love on the Left Bank, 1956

Carel van Hees, Play, 2001

Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong, Poppy, 2012

Carolyn Drake, Wild Pigeon, 2014

Laura El-Tantawy, Under the shadow of the Pyramids, 2015

Dana Lixenberg, Imperial Courts, 2015

Bruno van den Elshout, New Horizons, 2014

Emeric Lhuisset, Maydan Hundred Portraits, 2014

Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen, The Sochi Project, 2013

Geert van Kesteren, Why Mister Why, 2005

My list of 10 photo books. If they are indeed the greatest of all time… I don’t know. I don't claim to have any special knowledge on that. But these are books I find great and I find they contribute to this form of art.

Katharina Hausel

Academic and curator, Germany

Joel Sternfeld, On this Site, 1996

Mario Giacomelli, 1998

Michael Schmidt, Waffenruhe, 1987

Hans Martin Sewcz, Berlin-Mitte, Mai 1979, 2011

Cesare Zavattini and Gianni Berengo Gardin, Un Paese vent'anni dopo, 1976

Christer Strömholm, Les Amies de Place Blanche, 1983

Rinko Kawauchi, Illuminance, 2011

Pierpaolo Pagano, Circo, 2016

Miyoko Ihara, Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat, 2011

Anna Maria Aicher Meine Lieder, meine Träume, Berlin 2016 (first edition 11 copies)

It has taken me a while to write this list because I am not really sure about photo books: there are many that are important in the history of photography – like Robert Frank's The Americans or Callahan's Color – others, which I consider important for social reasons, like Griffith's Vietnam Inc., and some which I prefer because of their originality. Nevertheless I have tried to name ten that I do like really very much.

Winfried Heininger

Publisher, Kodoji Press, Switzerland

Araki, Tokyo, 1973

Anna Atkins, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, 1843

Larry Clark, Tulsa, 1979

William Eggleston, William Eggleston's Guide, 1976

Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1986

Germaine Krull, Métal, 1927

Gordon Matta-Clark, Walls paper, 1973

Mike Mandel & Larry Sultan, Evidence, 1977

Daido Moriyama, Farewell Photography, 1972

Ed Ruscha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1963

This was a hard one...uff! At the very first glance it looks kind of eclectic…but I think it is a good one. I managed also to have 3 female artists included which is also a kind of challenging.

Manfred Heiting

Collector, designer and editor, US

Ken Domon et al. Nippon - A Nation in Panorama, 1938

Kawada Kikuji, The Map, 1965

Alexey Brodovitch, Ballet, 1945

Francis Bruguière and Lance Sieveking, Beyond this Point, 1929

Richard Avedon, Observations, 1959

Nikolai Troshin, Rail Transport in the USSR, 1935

El Lissitzky, The Industry of Socialism, 1935

Dr. Paul Wolff et al, Deutschland, 1936

Moï Ver, Paris, 1931

Man Ray, Facile, 1935

Nathalie Herschdorfer

Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Le Locle, Switzerland

Vladimir Mayakovsky and Aleksandr Rodchenko, Pro Eto, Ei i Mne, 1923

Erich Mendelsohn, Amerika: Bilderbuch eines Architekten, 1928

August Sander, Antlitz der Zeit, 1929

Walker Evans, American Photographs, 1938

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Images à la sauvette, 1952

William Klein, New York, 1956

Ed Rusha, Twentysix Gasoline Stations, 1963

Eikoh Hosoe and Yukio Mishima, Ordeal by Roses, 1963

Ralph Gibson, Trilogy: The Somnambulist; Déjà-vu; Days at Sea, 1970; 1973; 1974

Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, Evidence, 1977

As a curator and historian specialized in photography, I have hundreds of photobooks. Unlike the exhibitions, books have a longevity which make them precious. I’ve always thought that history of photography has primarily to do with the printed page. The first book I bought about photobooks history was Fotografia Publica: Photography in Print 1919-1939, companion to an exhibition held at the Reina Sofia in Madrid in 1999. I open it on a regular basis! In 2009, I co-curated an exhibition dedicated to publisher (and printer) Gerhard Steidl. What sets Steidl apart is his ‘hands-on’ approach, not to mention the intensity of the collaboration between publisher and artist. Working on this project made me appreciate the stages of the photobook life, from the initial concept to the bookshelf. In 2014, I dedicated an exhibition to artbooks (and photobooks). And I am very pleased to host next year the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Award Exhibition. In other words, I want the museum visitors to understand that a photobook is an autonomous artform, and a physical object not only to look at but also to touch and to smell (this is an intimate act in holding a book in your hands). Today there are so many photobooks coming out every week, it is hard for me to follow up. So I decided to limit my list to 20th Century historical photobooks.

Browse Photobook Poll Results:

(indexed by voter name)