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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 - N-O:

Dieter Neubert

Founder Fotobookfestival Kassel, Germany

Karl Blossfeld, Archetypal Forms of Art, 1928.
Blossfeldt saw his photographs more as educational material than as an autonomous work of art. For him photography was the best way to work out the finest plant-details so as to inform his students about design elements in nature. Along the way, he created one of the most remarkable bodies of work in photographic history and this photobook masterpiece.

William Eggleston, William Eggleston's Guide, 1976.
This book just blew us away as students. How was, and indeed is it possible that those incidental everyday photographs engender such a powerful intensity? So far, one of my all-time favourites.

Daido Moriyama, Japan: A Photo Theater II, 1978.
In Japan: a Photo Theater I, Moriyama recorded the lives and expressions of traveling actors. For Japan: A Photo Theater II, nearly all the photographs were taken on the streets of Tokyo. A breathless body of work on full-bleed square pages in the essential style of Japan’s grand-master of photography.

John Gossage, The Pond, 1985.
At first, I hated this book. What the hell is so important about bushes, dirt, ponds, grass, and waste? But over the years and still today The Pond keeps a hold on me. I fully agree with John Gossage's recommendation: "If you hate a book, buy it."

Ulrich Tillmann and Wolfgang Vollmer, Masterpieces of Photographic Art, 1985.
A deconstruction of photographic masterpieces by Robert Mapplethorpe, Duane Michals, László Moholy-Nagy and many more. A very nicely made book with full red cloth, mounted photograph on the cover and "original fragments of Klaus Peter Schnuettger-Webs' plate camera, which he threw out of the studio window at the Bauhaus in Dessau following an argument with Herbert Bayer in 1925" (quotation from the book).

Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1986.
Looking at the many photobook dummies today that reflect selfie, family, and partnership photography, it looks like the massive influence of Nan Goldin’s key work is still omnipresent. A timeless classic.

Michael Schmidt, Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), 1987.
Michael Schmidt is one of the most influential and singular figures in German photography, and Waffenruhe is his brilliant “Berlin before the fall of the wall” opus.

Martin Parr, Common Sense, 1999.
Common Sense is a striking culmination in the unique style of Martin Parr. The full-bleed “vivid and often lurid photographs are both funny and sad” (MPs website). My favourite Parr book and definitely one of the best photobooks ever.

Cuny Janssen, Macedonia, 2004.
All Cuny Janssen books are different in style. Designed by master book-designer Sybren Kuiper (like all her books), Macedonia is a finely nuanced book of Macedonian children’s portraits and the landscapes they live in. Readable from either viewpoint (portrait or landscape), the beautiful small and extra soft-covered book matches its content perfectly.

Lieko Shiga, Canary, 2007.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Japanese photography boasts many exceptional and mostly female photographers. One of the most remarkable is Lieko Shiga. Her book Canary is a good example of the fact that someone should not believe he or she has already seen everything in photography. A fantastic, fresh and astonishing book.

Moritz Neumüller

Curator and writer, Spain

Brassaï & Paul Morand, Paris By Night, 1932.

Departamento de Publicaciones RTVE, Los últimos días de Franco vistos en TVE, 1975.

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1958.

Takashi Homma, Tokyo Suburbia, 1998.

William Klein, New York, 1956.

Oscar Monzón, Karma, 2013.

Daido Moriyama, Farewell Photography, 1972.

Common Sense, Martin Parr, 1999.

Kohei Yoshiyuki, The Park, 2007.

One honorary mention, which is not a photobook as such, but a children's book. However, I find it interesting enough to make it into my selection:
Chengdu Cartographic Publishing House, 兵器 (Weapons), Baby's first set of circle books, 2013

Jose Luis Neves

Writer, Portugal

Moï Ver, Paris, 1931.

Walker Evans, American Photographs, 1938.

Berenice Abbott, Changing New York, 1939.

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.

Victor Palla and Costa Martins, Lisboa, Cidade Triste E Alegre, 1959.

Kikuji Kawada, Chizu (The Map), 1965.

Michael Snow, Cover to Cover, 1975.

Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1986.

J.H Engström, Trying to Dance, 2003.

Christian Patterson, Redheaded Peckerwood, 2011.

Mark Neville

Photographer, UK

Bruce Davidson, Subway, 1986.

William Eggleston, The Democratic Forest, 1989.

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.

Lee Friedlander, Factory Valleys: Ohio & Pennsylvania, 1982.

Chris Killip, In Flagrante, 1988.

Josef Koudelka, Gypsies, 1975.

Boris Mikhailov, By the Ground, 1996.

Larry Sultan, Pictures from Home, 1992.

Garry Winogrand, The Animals, 1969.

Tom Wood, Looking For Love, 1989.

My current list of top ten photo books is unoriginal.

David Nollet

Photographer and writer at the blog C.A.P.E., Belgium

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.
It's a cliché but every time I open the book again, I discover something new; even after 25,000 times.

Yutaka Takanashi, Towards the City, 1974.
The concept & artistry of the designer are just sublime; really an added value to the pictures.

David Seymour 'Chim', Chim: Children of War, 2013.
Heart breaking that "Chim" accepted the assignment in order to come to terms with his own status as war orphan.

Paysages photographies: la Mission photographique de la DATAR, 1985.
Different photographers among which Gabriele Basilico and his superb pictures of the northern coasts in France.

Chris Killip, In Flagrante, 1988.
Because "there is such thing as a society"!

Harry Gruyaert, Made in Belgium, 2000.
The first major work on the Americanization of Belgium.

Anders Petersen, Café Lehmitz, 1978.
I like his involvement, his personal energy in the interaction with the subject; many have tried to re-do that but...

Kursat Bayhan, Away from Home, 2013.
A major photographer in the making! His first work is about internal migrants in Turkey: very compassionate, poetic and factual at the same time.

Henri-Cartier Bresson, The decisive moment, 1952.
Because he is maybe the father of all European photographers.

Misha Pedan, La Belle Epoque, 2013.
A poignant and seductive account of the USSR just before its collapse. Very successful design of the book!

Corinne Noordenbos

Photographer, Educator, The Netherlands

Merry Alpern, Shopping, 1999.

Claudia Andujar, Amazônia, 1978.

David Goldblatt , Particulars, 2003.

Paul Graham, Troubled Land, 1987.

Walter Niedermayer, Raumfolgen, 2002.

Martin Parr, The Last Resort, 1986.

Florian van Roekel, How Terry likes his coffee, 2010.

Larry Sultan, Pictures from home, 1992.

Wassink Lundgren, Empty bottles, 2007.

For my top 10 books, I chose to make a list of books that I have been using so often in education over the past years. They have been good examples of my fixations in teaching. Good examples of photographic metaphors for complicated matters, conceptualizing political issues, the female eye, getting the right distance to a topic either from a very personal point of view towards a recognisable story or the other way round: making a general topic very subjective and specific. Good examples also for their visual language at the time they were made, adventurous in their book making. One exception is my last book for Claudia Andujar as I came across this book only very recently (Thanks to Horatio Fernandez, who curated her in the Valongo Festival, Brazil). An excellent series and even more an exceptional book at the time it was made.

Ikuo Ogasawara

Bookseller, SO BOOKS, Japan

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1958.
It’s a bible for photo lovers and a paradigm shift in photography history. I like the first edition illustrated by Saul Steinberg on its cover.

Joel Meyerowitz, Wild Flowers, 1983.
I still wonder if I should have chosen Eggleston’s Guide instead. If you are not sure what to give to someone as a gift, this is a choice as well as Flowers by Irving Penn.

Lewis Baltz, Candlestick Point, 1989.
Among his photobook, I like this best, absolutely beautiful.

Josef Koudelka, Exiles, 1988.
When I started collecting photobooks (before starting this business), this one was the first to get at used book store, still love this.

Luigi Ghirri, It's beautiful here, isn't it, 2008.
I always feel somewhat relieved when I see these sort of kodachrome photos, colour photos these days are sometimes too vivid for me.

Boris Mikhailov, Salt Lake, 2002.
It looks very nostalgic and there are no dark images inside. But if you notice that these photos were taken in 1986, the same year of the Chernobyl incident, and the fact that this location was a severe battlefield in the Ukraine crisis of 2014, this changes the impression it makes.

Roy DeCarava, A Retrospective, 1996.
I do not intend to bring up the political context, I simply like the way he viewed the domestic life of people in Harlem. I also like Louis Draper.

Jill Freedman, Circus Days, 1975.
There are many good photographers who have pictured circus people such as Mary Ellen Mark, Kiyoshi Suzuki, Seiichi Motohashi…and so on, but I like this best, not famous though.

Towards a City, Yutaka Takanashi, 1974.
The terminus that he reached after PROVOKE in 60s. I also wanted to select Farewell Photography by Daido Moriyama, but I favoured the unique book design by Kohei Sugiura.

Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey Okinawa, 1971.
I rather wanted to choose all the photobooks he ever published, maybe from 400 to 500 including his self-made publishing during 60s. Anyway, I hope someday I can ask him why he chose this unique layout.

Browse Photobook Poll Results:

(indexed by voter name)