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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 - I-L:

Kotaro Iizawa

Critic and editor, Japan

Kiyoshi Koishi, Early Summer Nerves, 1933.
Unique binding with a metal cover. A monumental publication of Modernism Photography before the World War 2.

Ken Domon, Hiroshima, 1958.
The pictures of a skin grafting operation at the beginning are really powerful. A masterpiece of social documentary.

Kikuji Kawada, The Map, 1965.
Amazing idea by Kohei Sugiura for binding with double gatefold for all pages of the book.

Eikoh Hosoe, Kamaitachi, 1969.
An extraordinary Butoh dancer in a farmers' village in Akita.

Takuma Nakahira, For a Language to Come, 1970.
It is full of the 1960s spirit of protest.

Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey, 1971.
Made with pictures taken on his honeymoon, this book was the start of a new style of Japanese personal photography.

Daidō Moriyama, Farewell Photography, 1972.
The photobook which explored the limitations of photography with rough, blurred and out-of-focus pictures.

Masahisa Fukase, Ravens, 1986.
His loneliness was represented by images of ravens. The ultimate self-portrait.

Masafumi Sanai, Ikiteiru,1997.
He exposed the empty atmosphere of Tokyo in 90s. The design of the book by Satoshi Machiguchi is also fantastic.

Lieko Shiga, Rasen Kaigan Album, 2013.
After the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake she took pictures in the disaster area to create an unprecedented photobook.

Gerry Johansson

Photographer, Sweden

Paul Strand, Toward a deeper understanding: Paul Strand at work, 2007.

Robert Adams, Eden, 1999.

John Gossage, Nothing, 2014.

New Topographics: Photographs of a man altered landscape, 1975.

Raymond Moore, Murmurs At Every Turn, 1981.

Robert Adams, Listening to the river, 1994.

Chris Killip, In Flagrante, 1988.

Mark Ruwedel, Pictures of Hell, 2014.

Guido Guidi, A New Map of Italy, 2011.

Lee Friedlander, American Monument, 1974.

I'm a great fan of small photo books. That's why my list is sorted by size and starts with the small Paul Strand at Work. I have several of Strand's books but this is the one that really brings forward the intimacy and sincerity of his photography, although the images are hardly bigger than what you would find in any family album. New Topographics might not be considered a book by some but it must surely be the catalogue that has had the deepest impact on photography. Listening to the River is the book I would bring to a deserted island where I could only have one book. It's a book that invites to infinite number of readings and experiences of the landscape. A New Map of Italy is a heartbreaking rendition of the Italian landscape by Guido Guide that makes color photography deeply interesting. And at last, American Monument, a book that couldn’t have been made in a smaller format. Putting together this list I realized how lucky I am to have my library of photography books.

Matt Johnston

Founder, Photobook Club, UK

Julián Barón, Dossier Humint, 2013.

Martin Bollati, La forma Bruta, 2016.

Will Steacy, Deadline, 2016.

Musuk Nolte, La Primera Piedra, 2013.

Xavier Miserachs and Horacio Fernández, Miserachs Barcelona, 2016.

Txema Salvans, The Waiting Game, 2014.

Nozomi Iijima, Scoffing Pig, 2013.

Rodrigo Ramos, Ex Corde, 2015.

Paul Gaffney, We Make the Path by Walking, 2013.

Vasantha Yogananthan, Early Times, 2016.

While there is definite merit in list forming as a means of introduction and suggestions, it is something I am a little uncomfortable with. The Photobook Club was set up in part as a pragmatic response to canonisation without qualification and seeks to enable open and non-hierarchical discussion. So with this in mind I have asked a number of Photobook Club organisers from around the world to suggest the photobook(s) that their community has had the liveliest discussion around. These choices come from Photobook Clubs in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Coventry, Madrid, Monterrey, Montevideo and Tokyo.

Ron Jude

Photographer and publisher, A-Jump Books, USA

Robert Adams, Los Angeles Spring, 1986.

William Eggleston, William Eggleston’s Guide, 1976.

Richard Prince, Spiritual America, 1989.

Michael Schmidt, Waffenruhe, 1987.

Craigie Horsfield, Craigie Horsfield, 1991.

Roni Horn, You Are The Weather, 1997.

Lee Friedlander, Letters From the People, 1993.

Michael Schmidt, U-NI-TY, 1996.

John Gossage, The Pond, 1986.

Lewis Baltz, Candlestick Point, 1989.

Ryuichi Kaneko

Critic, historian and collector, Japan

Kiyoshi Koishi, Early Summer Nerves, 1933.

Nihonkobo, Nation in Panorama, 1938.

Kikuji Kawada, The Map, 1965.

Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey, 1971.

Daidō Moriyama, Farewell Photography, 1972.

Brassai, Paris by Night, 1933.

Walker Evans, American Photographs, 1938.

William Klein, New York, 1956.

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959. 

Ed van der Elsken, Sweet Life, 1966.

Mikhail Karasik

Artist, publisher and curator, Russia

Vladimir Mayakovsky, About This: To Her and to Me, 1923.
Photomontages and design by Alexander Rodchenko.

Max Ernst and René Crevel, Mr. Knife Miss Fork, 1931.

Moï Ver, Paris, 1931.

Vladimir Griuntal, Grigory Yablonovsky, What’s That?, 1932.

The USSR Is Building Socialism, 1933. Design and photomontages by El Lissitzky.

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, 1934. Design and photomontages by El Lissitzky.

Man Ray, Facile. Poémes de Paul Éluard. Photographies de Man Ray, 1935.

Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol’s Index (Book). With the assistance of Stephen Shore, Paul Morrissey, Ondine, Nico, Christopher Cerf, Rinzler, Gerald Harrison, Akihito Shirakawa and particularly David Paul, 1967.

Bernhard und Hilla Becher, Anonym Skulpturen, Eine Typologie technischer Bauten, 1970.

Ed Ruscha, On the Road. An Artist Book of the Classic Novel by Jack Kerouac, 2009.

Lisa Kereszi

Photographer, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Art, Yale University School of Art, USA

Walker Evans, American Photographs, 1938.

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment, 1952.

William Eggleston’s, Guide, 1976.

Stephen Shore, Uncommon Places,1982.

Brassai, Paris by Night, 1933.

Weegee, Naked City, 1945.

Philip Lorca Di Corcia, A Storybook Life, 2003.

Diane Arbus, An Aperture monograph, 1972.

Garry Winogrand, Figments from the Real World, 1988.

Susan Kismaric

Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

Robert Frank, The Americans (original, 1959 US edition).

Helen Levitt, A Way of Seeing (original, 1965 Viking Press edition).

William Klein, New York, 1956.

Michael Schmidt, Waffenruhe, 1987.

Chris Killip, In Flagrante, 1988.

Philip-Lorca di Corcia, A Storybook Life, 2003.

Bertien Van Manen, A Hundred Summers, A Hundred Winters, 1994.

Judith Joy Ross, Portraits of the Hazleton Public Schools, 2006.

Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, Evidence, 1977.

Lee Friedlander, Self-Portrait (original, Haywire Press, 1970 edition).

Ben Krewinkel

Curator and writer, editor of the website Africa in the Photobook, The Netherlands

Koen Wessing, Chili September 1973, 1973.
A shocking account of the first days after Agusto Pinochet’s coup d’etat that shows the attempt by the military to root out public opposition in Chile that culminates in the imprisonment of political dissidents in the national soccer stadium. Wessing showed to be a highly engaged photographer who decided to travel to Chile and publish this account, consisting of some of his best photographs, directly after his return to the Netherlands.

David Goldblatt, In Boksburg, 1982.
A book full of beautiful photographs dealing with daily life in a small ‘white-only’ town in South-Africa during Apartheid. Although less explicit than most photographs about the struggle, Goldblatt shows himself a critical observer of the racist dynamics of his native country.

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.
Well it is a highly influential book in post-war American photography. The edit by Frank and Robert Delpire is quite effective and the photography great.

Dominique Darbois, Agossou, le petit Africain, 1955.
Although I could have picked Les Algeriens en Guerre (1961) as well, this book marked a new genre in photobooks; the children’s book. It is part of a greater series of twenty books published between 1952 and 1978 by Fernand Nathan. It is stunning both in photography and the design by graphic artist Pierre Pothier. One of the examples photobooks don’t always have to be dealing with adult stuff, even not books by humanitarian and anti-colonial photographers such as Dominique Darbois, but can teach children valuable lessons for life.

Gilles Peress, The Silence, 1995.
A haunting book on the genocide in Rwanda and an indictment of the western press ignoring this major historical event. Both photography and book design and text are highly effective.

Luc Delahaye, Memo, 1995.
A collection of portraits of war victims in Bosnia reproduced from the obituary pages of a local newspaper. A seemingly simple but great concept that forces the reader to think of the fragility of human life. The book starts with three street portraits taken with a zoom lens, followed by photographs of people died in the war, possibly killed by snipers.

Unknown, Resistencia Popular Generalizada, 1976/77.
One of the most beautiful photobooks from the African continent. It deals with the aftermath of Angola’s independence and the civil war that followed directly afterwards. Both photographers and designers are unknown. It is even unknown where the book was printed. Nevertheless, the combination of text and photos and the sequencing is very good.

Chris Killip, In Flagrante, 1988.
A great and influential book showing the communities suffering because of the industrial decline in the North East of England. Killip shows the social tensions and the economic upheaval that defined the era in stunning photographs.

Donald McCullin, The Destruction Business, 1971.
A very early retrospective of Don McCullin, one of the best photographers of conflict. It contains just so many powerful photographs showing humanity’s darkest side.

Tadahiro Ogawa, Frelimo, 1973.
A book or better special edition of the Japanese magazine the Sun by Tadahiro Ogawa. Ogawa, linked to the Japanese anti-Apartheid movement, visited the liberated zones in Mozambique during the war of independence. Again, both photography, sequencing and design are really stunning. Ogawa produced more photobooks about the liberation struggle in Africa, but this one is far out the best.

Anouk Kruithof

Artist, The Netherlands

Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, Evidence, 1977.

Thora Dolven Balke, 2005, 2014.

Roger Ballen, Shadow Chamber, 2005.

Dana Lixenberg, Imperial Courts, 2015.

Justin James Reed, 2013, 2012.

Miranda July, Harrell Fletcher, Learning to Love you More, 2007.

Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, As long as it photographs it must be a camera, 2012.

Lieko Shiga, Canary, 2007.

Christof Nüssli, Christoph Oeschger, Miklós Klaus Rózsa, 2014.

Broomberg and Chanarin, Ghetto, 2003.

Jeffrey Ladd

Photographer, writer and founder of Errata Editions, USA

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.

Robert Adams, The New West, 1974.

Diane Arbus, Aperture Monograph, 1972.

Lewis Baltz, Park City, 1980.

Hilla and Bernd Becher, Anonyme Skulpturen, 1969.

Moi Ver, Paris, 1931.

Sophie Ristelhueber, Fait, 1992.

Michael Schmidt, U-ni-ty, 1996.

William Eggleston, William Eggleston’s Guide, 1976.

John Gossage, The Pond, 1985.

Top ten of the greatest photobooks of all time. Reducing the rich history of photography-in-print into a short list of "ten of the greatest photobooks of all time" is extremely difficult not to mention frustrating. To meet the challenge, I have set a few limitations: 1. My choices are limited to books that are actually on my shelves. 2. They are all books which I actually look at often. 3. All have been subjected to at least a twenty-year test of time.

Hansgert Lambers

Publisher, expose verlag, Germany

Emmy Andriesse, The World of Van Gogh, 1953.

Richard Avedon, Observations, 1959.

Bill Brandt, London in the Thirties, 1983.

Chargesheimer, Unter Krahnenbäumen, 1958.

Václav Chochola, Cabinets of Reminiscences, 1993.

Francois Hers, A Tale, 1983.

Sylvia Plachy, Self portrait with cows going home, 2004.

Jak Tuggener, Fabrik, 1943.

Stephan Vanfleteren, Belgicum, 2007.

Jirí Vsetecka, Universal Reform by Means of the Picture, 1987.

My selection was made based on the criteria 1. Quality of the images, content of the work and coherence within the presentation 2. Formal quality of the presentation, i.e. sequencing, layout etc. 3. a not explainable personal preference I might add, that further down in my shortlist of Great Photobooks are many that are even nearer to my heart but some small flaw prevented them to ascend the Olympian heights.

Peter Lau

Publisher and distributor, Hong Kong

Henri Cartier Bresson, The Decisive Moment, 1952.

Ed Van Der Elsken, Love on the left bank, 1956.

Ho Fan, Hong Kong Yesterday, 2012.
Ho Fan is the most important photographer in Hong Kong. And this book is the most successful photobook in Hong Kong about Hong Kong and by a Hong Kong photographer ever in history.

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.

Daido Moriyama, Reflection and Refraction, 2013.
This is the only Daido's book ever published and printed in Hong Kong

Thomas Sauvin, Until Death do us part, 2015.
This is such a funny book. The design gets full marks.

Jock Sturges, Life - Time, 2008.
This is so human and real.

John Thomson, Illustration of China and its People, 1873.
This is the most important photobook of early China. This is the far the most important street photographer in Asia.

Michael Wolf, Hong Kong Inside/Outside, 2009.
This is Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong China Photographer 1-9 by Asia one, 2008-2014.
This is the one and only photobook series which cover all the big master Hong Kong photographers.

Larissa Leclair

Founder, Indie Photobook Library, USA

Mariela Sancari, Moises, 2015.

Cristina de Middel, The Afronauts, 2012.

David Galjaard, Concresco, 2012.

Carpoolers, Alejandro Cartegena, 2014.

Hidden Islam, Nicolo Degiorgis, 2014.

Yoshikatsu Fujii, Red String, 2014.

Teresa Eng, Speaking of Scars, 2012.

Rob Hornstra, The Secret History of Khava Gaisanova, 2013.

Julia Borissova, J.B. about men floating in the air, 2015.

Florian van Roekel, How Terry Likes His Coffee, 2010.

Browse Photobook Poll Results:

(indexed by voter name)