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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 - V-Z:

Ivan Vartanian

Publisher and co-author of 'Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 70s', Japan

Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey, 1972.

Moriyama Daido, Farewell Photography, 1972.

Takuma Nakahira, For a Language to Come, 1970.

Shomei Tomatsu, Nippon, 1967.

Kikuji Kawada, The Map, 1965.

Eikoh Hosoe, Ordeal by Roses, 1963.
Original edition designed by Sugiura Kohei

Issei Suda, Fushikaden, 1978.

Masahisa Fukase, Ravens, 1986.

Shinoyama Kishin, Meaning of the House, 1975.

Takashi Homma, Tokyo Suburbia, 1999.

This is essentially a partial list of often referenced masterpieces of Japanese photobooks.

Laurence Vecten

Publisher and blogger, One Year Of Books, France

Larry Sultan, Pictures from Home, 1992.
I bought this book in 2000, one of the very first books in what became a collection. The book mixes portraits of Sultan's parents, in their home, as well as extracts of the family album, and their words. Daily details that could seem insignificant. Family is my rock, a rock made of daily details.

Juergen Teller, Go Sees, 1999.
My most recent acquisition. I have wanted this book for ages... It is so simple, it has a few possible readings and makes me think about some of the difficulties of the fashion business: being a model, being a photographer... how to be different? What makes you different or stronger than the others?

Viviane Sassen, Sketches, 2010.
This is the b-side book for the Flamboya work, I love the new interpretation the publisher gave to this work, and the object itself is totally lo-fi.

Shigeo Gocho, Familiar Street Scenes, 1981.
The Yagisha 2013 reprint of the 1981 self-published book. Gocho had a very particular point of view on his subjects, catching moments like no one else, seeing things from kids height.

Mark Steinmetz, The Players, 2015.
Steinmetz doesn't make noise, and keeps on shooting and publishing books, building a corpus of black and white works. It's always been there, and it's getting stronger. The Players shows clumsy teenagers becoming adults.

Tom Wood, Bus Odyssey, 2001.
Liverpool seen during 20 years through the bus windows. I love his way to look at people, there is no distance between him and his subject, because he's just like them: someone travelling by bus because it's cheap.

Osamu Wataya, Juvenile, 2010.
What an extraordinary look at children and teenagers.

Andrey Tarkovsky, Bright, bright day, 2010.
Tarkovsky's polaroids are so beautiful, and touching. This work was edited by Stephen Gill, which makes total sense, they have a similar approach.

Takashi Homma, Nursery, 2010.
This fanzine by Takashi Homma is one of my favorites: its proof that acclaimed photographers can make zines. It's very humble and honest. And it shows one of my favorite flowers, and my photographic magnet: snow.

Motoyuki Daifu, Lovesody, 2012.
It's all about love. The diary of a 6 month relationship between the photographer and this mother of a 2 year old and an upcoming baby. There is no lie there, it's life, not romance.


Artists Thijs groot Wassink and Ruben Lundgren, The Netherlands

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.

Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1986.

Johan van der Keuken, Wij zijn 17, 1955.
Johan van der Keuken shot his friends for this beautiful and simple book. All were seventeen years of age at the time of shooting. It's beautifully simple as well as poetic and moving.

Martin Parr, Bad Weather, 1982.
It's already funny to imagine a young Martin Parr quickly grasping his camera and running out of the house as soon as the first drops of rain appear. This book is very funny too. And deeply complex as well. The images say as much about the subject, the medium and its maker. And that balance is a hard one to strike. Absolutely beautiful.

Edward Ruscha, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966. Stephen Shore, Uncommon Places, 1982. Alec Soth, Sleeping by the Mississippi, 2004. Edward Steichen, The Family of Man, 1955. John Thomson, Illustrations of China and its People, 1874.
This book published in 4 volumes contains Thomson's view upon China in the early 1870s. Unique and pioneering in its kind. It has set a standard photobook making by creating a visual encyclopedia combining landscape photographs with urban street life and portraits of the elite.

Various photographers, China, (deluxe edition) 1959.
The book "China" published on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the People's Republic is probably one of the best propaganda books ever made. Superb in its photographs, picture edit, rhythm and print.

6 books simply have to be on this list. All classics. These won't need much of an introduction from us as you'll probably find them on most of the lists from others as well. All have been very influential in the way we look at the medium of photography.

Hannah Watson

Publisher, Trolley Books, UK

Philip Jones Griffiths, Vietnam Inc, 1971.

Nick Waplington, Living Room, 1991.

Ed Jones et Timothy Prus, Nein Onkel, 2007.

Asger Carlsen, Hester, 2011.

Lorenzo Vitturi, Dalston Anatomy, 2014.

Nicolo Degiorgis, Hidden Islam, 2014.

Weegee, Naked City, 1945.

Joel Sternfeld, American Prospects, 1987.

Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1986.

Koudelka, Gypsies, 1992.

Richard West

Editor, Source, UK

Bill Brandt, Night in London, 1938.

Krass Clement, Easter Sunday between 11 and 16, 2000.

Lynne Cohen, No Man's Land, 2001.

Cristina de Middel, The Afronauts, 2012.

William Klein, New York, 1956.

Martin Parr, Bad Weather, 1982.

Shirana Shahbazi, Then Again, 2011.

Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan, Evidence, 1977.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Concorde, 2008.

Manfred Willman, Das Land, 2000.

Thomas Wiegand

Collector and author of 'Deutschland im Fotobuch', Germany

Heinrich Hauser, Schwarzes Revier, 1929.
A textbook with striking, modern photos and a photomontage on the dustjacket, my starting point with photobooks.

Arvid Gutschow, See Sand Sonne, 1930.
An engimatic, innovative layout in new-objectivity-style.

William Klein, New York, 1956.
The best photobook ever published.

Erich Einhorn / Pavel Kohout / Pravoslav Sovak, Marianske Lazne, 1961.
The nicest book in the style of socialistic realism, playful design by Sovak.

Dirk Alvermann, Keine Experimente, 1961.
Political work with matching design by the photographer.

Destiny, Task, Chance, Internationale Arbeitsausstellung Turin, 1961.
About working, self-explanatory, almost without text, the one and only photobook by the famous novum designer's group.

Abisag Tüllmann, Großstadt, 1963.
One of the great cities photobooks, layouted by Hans Michel.

Karol Kallay, A Day Full of Miracles, 1963.
Layout by Alojz Riskovic, one of the best narrations with photos and one of the most difficult to find photobooks.

Tercjan Multaniak, Gdansk Shipyard, 1964.
Polish company book, layout by H. Tomaszewski, powerful photographed and designed with high contrasts.

Vilem Reichmann, K. O. Hruby, Wallachian suite, 1966.
One of the great narrations with photos, unaffected and relaxed layout by Ludmila Klimešová, wonderful!

Vanessa Winship

Photographer, UK

Robert Frank, The Americans, 1959.

Robert Adams, Summer Nights, Walking, 2009.

Paul Graham, A Shimmer of Possibility, 2007.

Anthony Hernandez, Waiting, Sitting, Fishing and Some Automobiles, 2007.

Paul Fusco, RFK Funeral Train, 2000.

Philip Lorca di Corcia, Hustlers, 2013.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Stills, 1990.

Alec Soth, Sleeping by the Mississippi, 2004.

Masahisa Fukase, Ravens, 1986.

Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus, 1972.

What a difficult call, there are so many to mention. Would love to do one for younger photographers too...

Blues Wong

Artist and critic, Hong Kong

Christian Boltanski, Christian Boltanski, 1994.

MIke and Doug Starn, MIke and Doug Starn, 1990.

Francesca Woodman, Francesca Woodman, 1998.

Josef Koudelka, Exiles, 1988.

Josef Sudek, Josef Sudek, 1985.

Sally Mann, Immediate Family, 1992.

Shomei Tomatsu, Ruinous Gardens, 1987.

Various Authors, Fabrications: Staged, Altered, and Appropriated Photographs, 1987.

Rosalind E Krauss, Amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism, 1985.

Various Authors, Vanishing Presence, 1989.

Willem van Zoetendaal

Designer, publisher and gallerist, The Netherlands

Johan van der Keuken, Quatorze Juillet, 2010.
This book is dance on it's own. The images form a sequence ending with the famous image Île Saint-Louis 1958 by Johan van der Keuken. An example of re-opening an archive from an important Dutch photographer/filmer. Everything fits, printing in 4 colors black on GMUND paper, Japanese bound. A gem in editing and design.

Koos Breukel, Hyde, 1996.
About poet and performer Michael Matthews who died of aids. The book opens as a flower, triple front and end leaves and text in blue. Photographs in tri-tones and gold and silver ink, hardbound. Picking up the book is almost feeling the skin of the poet!

Céline van Balen, Céline Van Balen, 2002.
The only book ever made about the remarkable oeuvre of this photographer who stopped working since 2004. Extremely intense portraits in 4 x 5 inch, hardbound.

Lee To Sang, To Sang Photo Studio, 1995.
Studio photography in a multi-cultural suburb of Amsterdam. Large sized full colour. Images tell their own story!

Harold Strak, Arthropoda, 2011.
A photo book on the edge of art and science. Tri-tones in rithm of 4 on a spread on Japanese paper. Japanese bound!

Willem van Zoetendaal, Murder in Rotterdam, 1993.
Edited and designed by Willem van Zoetendaal about the police archives in Rotterdam. Scary but not brutal with distance about evidence photography.

Frans Zwartjes, The Holy Family, 2013.
Unknown photographs by the experimental filmer of the sixties. The world seen as a mental hospital.

Diana Scherer, Mädchen, 2014.
Children and dresses as a collection of strange objects. Large sized book with Japanese paper, great design.

Paul Kooiker, Showground, 2004.
In my opinion the best publication with the work of Paul Kooiker. (I produced and designed 9 different books) Dark, dirty and uncomfortable studio images of nudes. Small and clear sized book in a perfect editing, a hard rock song.

Friet Nr 1, 2014.
Childrens archaeology magazine about plastic objects in Amsterdam during the construction of the North-South Metro Line.

Mara Züst

Curator, artist, project manager Library Andreas Züst, Switzerland

Izis Bidermanas, The Paris of Dreams, 1950.
Izis' photography, printed for this publication in the "dreamy" structure of the Heliogravure, lends even dignity to a sleeping homeless person. The book not only combines images of street scenes in twilight or unusual perspectives on trees and rivers, but also sentences and texts about the city, from persons like Jean Cocteau, Henry Miller and Édith Thomas (45 in total). The texts correspond to the photographs and appear in the original handwriting of the participants. The overall affect is a Paris of dreams on every level: in the image language of the photographs, the thoughts of the participants and the appearance of the book.

Réne Burri, American Dream. Photographs from the World of NASA and the Pentagon, 1986.
A cheaply produced, apparently in its editing "accidental" (and also repetitive) publication which one may find in the bargain corner of a museum shop. Even the introductory quotations at the beginning of the book on dreams and a paradisiacal place as well as the "afterword" by Johann Heinrich Gottlieb von Justi of 1762 are nonchalant. In it, the book forms an (early) antipode in the photobook landscape of Switzerland, which is characterized by perfectionism in production.

William S. Burroughs, Cobble Stone Gardens, 1976.
In a time in which Roland Barthes' book Camera Lucida (the French original published in 1980) has become a basic text for students of photography and art theory, and the work of W.G. Sebalds (who appeared from the late 1980s on) gets researched in the context of "intermedial" by the literary and the art studies, Burroughs' autobiographical book "Cobble Stone Gardens" presents the integration of photographs into a text, without interlinking from one to another. Thus, the book still forms a reference for the use of photographs within a textbook, which goes beyond illustrating the text.

Roni Horn, Another Water, 2000.
The photographs, which give the framework of this book, show the waters of the Thames so photographed that neither bank crests, nor humans or boats are visible. This collection of color and structure of a single water body is supplemented by "footnotes", commentaries on the river, running below double-sided and borderless photographs (beside this the book contains inserted reports of suicides committed in the Thames). "Another Water" is a perfect example of how high quality photographs form the forefront of a book with a text as an explicit part of it.

Daniel Schmid, Peter Christian Bener, The Invention of Paradise, 1983.
The Swiss director Daniel Schmid has also published several books which, much like his films, explore the Swiss mentality vis-à-vis its willingness to devote itself to the transfiguration of their own history. In The Invention of Paradise, a magician in a frock before a yellow curtain leads us through a collection of pictures - prints, drawings and photographs - all of which form the (historical) basis for the "invention of paradise". This montage is further supplemented by a text in which the magician provides an explanation, in great detail, about the circumstances underlying the pictures. In terms of concept and design, this book may be considered a unique example of Swiss photobook of a post-modern approach.

Gaudenz Signorell, photo–graphiques, 2015.
This is certainly an artist's book, the theme of which is not the most authentic reproduction of the (known) reality, but rather the question of the representability of this reality. For this purpose, the original analog and worked on photographs were printed using lithography as well as standard offset. In fact the superior quality of the photographs appear almost as paintings and the absence of any associated text underlines them supplementary as exclusive works of art.

Paul Thek, A document made by Paul Thek and Edwin Klein, 1969.
A photo book, consisting of a sequence presented in the original format of the reproduced same page of an edition of the International Herald Tribute, applied with various objects such as photographs, photographs, photographs, staples, ashtrays, and chords. Indeed this book is a surprising "document"- authentic as well as smart, which documents the playful process in an artist's studio as well as its medial transformation.

Weegee, Naked City, 1945.
On the brink of insanity, a raging press photographer presents the everyday life of his city. The pictures appear in a dense layout supplemented with a direct, tabloid style language: Weege's Naked City, though published in 1945, can still be considered rather radical in its photos and design in its direct approach.

World Meteorological Orgnaization (ed.), International Cloud Atlas, 1956.
This book combines photographs of various cloud formations, as well as factual and scientific information on these phenomena. The pictures in average print quality, some of the photographs even black and white, present the beguiling beauty of the magic that can happen in the sky. At the borders of the pictures are presented numbered arrow references, image proof, the technical description of the formations and a scientific formula of the same. With this information provided, this early work of a comprehensive photographic presentation of scientific information is still very much creatively inspiring and revealing.

Andreas Züst, Bekannte Bekannte, 1987.
It is the first book ever published by the Edition Patrick Frey and also the first book by my father. The book is a superb example of a picture text book in which the text refers directly to the people in the pictures in a chatty way. Or as the publisher Patrick Frey says: 'This book is Facebook before Facebook.'

Ten greatest photobooks: a task as big as any comprehensive research project (see Martin Parr and Gerry Badger's "The Photobook. A History", three volumes) or then a much appreciated occasion to, once again, review my own bookshelves and the books in the Bibliothek Andreas Züst. And while such an approach may be regarded as highly subjective, the search did generate a list of, what could be in my opinion, some of the most magnificent photobooks (or rather, photo-textbooks).

Browse Photobook Poll Results:

(indexed by voter name)