Favourite Photobooks of 2012

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It is that time of year again. We all discuss our favourite photobooks of 2012 and like super nerds we list them.

ten selected by Matthew:

Dun Briste, Downpatrick Head – Jan Kempenaers
Out To Lunch – Ari Marcopoulus
Elementary Calculus – J. Carrier
The Afronauts – Cristina De Middel
House of Coates – Brad Zellar and Lester B. Morrison
Cette Montagne C’est Moi – Witho Worms
Back yard – Daisuke Yokota
Glass – Leon Qu
Soho London – Anders Petersen
Friseurchen – Erik Steinbrecher

These are my top ten photographic books published in the year of 2012. They are in no particular order. To me they are all great photobooks and represent the best of 2012 and most likely beyond. Of course there are many other amazing photobooks of 2012 that I regretfully just didn’t have the space to include here in this list of merely ten.

Dun Briste, Downpatrick Head – Jan Kempenaers.
Edition, published by Roma Publications In collabortion with the Academy of Fine Arts Ghent, 2012.
30 pp + Lambda -print
23 x 33 cm
Roma Publication no.183
Signed and numbered edition of 500.
Roma publications have been making exceptionally innovative and creative books for sometime now. Jan Kempenaers who produced the amazing book Spomenik in 2010 is a true master of the peculiar contemporary picturesque. In 2012 he brings us this cliffhanger of a book. Jan Kempenaers puts a lot of the sublime in these picturesque and romantic images. This is a book that induces deep breaths.

Out To Lunch – Ari Marcopoulus.
New York: PPP Editions, in association with Andrew Roth Inc.
[368 p.]: ill.(some col.); 28 cm.
Signed and numbered edition of 350.
R TR179.5.M369.O98 2012
Out to lunch is a trip. This is a book over stuffed with surprises including: 256 matt-black & white images, dozens of high-gloss contact sheets, 100s of vinyl stickers, 8 over-sized, glossy pull-out posters and a 32-page screenplay written by Ari with his son Cairo. Black cover which is bound with black binder’s gauze and housed within an scribbly illustrated plastic bag.  The high-gloss contacts and the stickers are just a delightful and playful touch that really emphasize and bring out the raw power of the work.

Elementary Calculus – J. Carrier
London: MACK;2012.
28 p.: 74 colour plates,; 23.5 cm x 19.5 cm.
Embossed hardcover.
Elementary Calculus is an intimate documentary work about migrants and refugees in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  We gain great insight into the outsider experience in an area of the world already complicated in terms of ethnicity and identity. We not only get to share in the hopes and desires of the migrants but we also get to feel their paralyzing disconnect with reality. It can also be seen as almost a self-portrait by J Carrier as we feel his affinity with their alienation as an expression of his own. This is a great book from MACK who have been publishing some very strong books lately.

The Afronauts – Cristina De Middel
Cadiz, Spain: Self-published, ; 2012.
84 p.: col.ill. ; 24 cm.
Published on the occasion of an exhibition in Cadiz Spain [2012] organized by Sala Kursala and curated by Jesus Mico this project is the most remarkable of narratives. A short film of this project can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/43859875
The story begins in Zambia in 1964 where school teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso single-handedly started a space program to put the first Africans in space. Including the story of Matha Mwamba who was to be the first coloured woman to be sent to Mars accompanied by her ten cats, fired by a catapult system designed and developed by Edward Nkoloso.  The beautiful images within this book show the various apparatus used in the absurd training program. Unfortunately the Zambian program never got off the ground due to the lack of government funding and the pregnancy of one of the afronauts. The narrative is a great magic-realist romp which sensually delights and dazzles us. But this book is also profoundly highlighting our lack of belief in Africa and our continuing prejudices towards African nations. The Afronauts, printed in Italy, is incredibly beautiful and well made with informational inserts, fold-out letters and varied playful textures of paper. The cover is held together with a comforting elastic band.

House of Coates – Brad Zellar and Lester B. Morrison
St. Paul, Minn.: Little Brown Mushroom, 2012.
[118 p.] : col.ill.; 22 cm.
R TR179.5.Z53. H68 2012
This book is awesome. Is it really any wonder that the first edition of 1000 sold out in under 2 weeks? This is the extraordinary story of legendary recluse Lester B. Morrison* who in the winter of 2011 finally gave Brad Zellar access to the results of an MMPI – Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – test that Morrison submitted to in August of 2009. Along with access to the results he also supplied the administrating psychiatrists detailed notes and a mysterious duct taped shoebox marked PERISHABLE containing almost two hundred photographs termed disposable documents of the approximate period in question by Lester B. Morrison. This is a brilliant edge of your seat photo thriller brought to you by the Little Brown Mushroom blokes who are makers of exceedingly good books. This is a spiral bound book (and I think that matters).

*Incidentally my colleague Liz Sales says she knows Lester and that she will be interviewing him for the ICP blog one day soon – we shall keep you posted on that. Can anyone really know Lester?

Back yard – Daisuke Yokota
Tokyo: Self-published,; 2012.
[52 p.]: chiefly ill.; 29 cm.
TR179.5.Y589.B33 2012
For me and many others this was one of the visual highlights of the 10×10 Japanese Photobooks show held at the ICP/Bard MFA studios in Queens this year.This is a great photocopied artists’zine from a remarkable young Japanese photographer. Daisuke bleached out and printed, then re-photographed and re-printed each image up to 10 times over in the darkroom to create the nosiest back yard around. Good interview with Daisuke Yokota in American Photo Mag: http://www.americanphotomag.com/photo-gallery/2012/07/shoot-print-repeat-interview-daisuke-yokota

Cette Montagne C’est Moi – photographs by Witho Worms.
Text by Xavier Canonne.
[city]: FW:, 2012.
176 p.: chiefly ill.;22 x 25 cm.
A gorgeous book made on black paper. Roughly translated as: This mountain that’s me. I do love a book made on black paper. This is a book of semi-abstracted imagery of slag heaps from Belgium, France, Germany, Wales and Poland [the slag heaps of each country are indicated on the page using the country codes BE, DE, FR, PL, GB]. Witho Worms [photographer] reformulated carbon printing techniques and processes from the 19th century and uniquely mixed in some coal as pigment from the mountains he was taking images of. Adorable slag heaps of Europe in shades of brown and black on thick black paper [French folds] that are like Rothko paintings. This is a book of deep environmental iconography. http://www.witho.nl/

Glass – Leon Qu
China; Vancouver, Canada: 88books,; 2012.
TR179.5.Q582 .G53 2012
This book Glass by Leon Qu is one of series of ten books produced by 88books that were brought to my attention by ICP curator Christopher Phillips. Hands holding a piece of glass and the resulting atmospheric effects and results then photographed. For me it was reminiscent of the work of Kenneth Josephson which I admire greatly. This is a small book with a meaningful punch.

Soho London – Anders Petersen
London: The Photographer’s galley & MACK,;2012.
124 p.: chiefly ill.; 27 cm.
Anders Petersen applies his very special and individual aesthetic to London. The results are extremely successful and the production by MACK carries this project home on a high. This is a very fine, beautifully printed and well-designed clothbound book. As part of his ‘City Diaries’ series there is perhaps nothing new for the die-hard Petersen fan and observer used to his surreal and gritty imagery of street life and subcultures. Personally I think there is something unbearably lighter and extra-clinical in this particular city diary which I feel is its ‘Englishness’. As a person born and raised in London I recognize this depiction of Soho. This book is an authentic representation of an area in the city known for its inelegant attitude.

Friseurchen – Erik Steinbrecher
Berlin : Kodoji Press, 2012
[12] folded plates : ill. 30 cm.
Edition of 300.
R TR656.5 .S841 2012
“Published on the occasion of the exhibition ANIMISMUS at Haus der Kulturen Berlin, March 2012” – colophon. Friseurchen by Erik Steinbrecher is essentially twelve photographic compositions with hair. Erik is a Swiss artist and architect who often creates charming books of the absurd.  He presents a complex system of associations and ideas in this book around the theme of hair. Hair and wigs taken out of the usual context and given a strange and compelling emphasis. I knew this book was a gem when I saw the remarkable belly band consisting of a single strand of hair on a white background.

11 thoughts on “Favourite Photobooks of 2012”

  1. Dear Matthew, Thank you for including Leon Qu’s “Glass” in your list of favorites. Qu is an up and coming artist based in Beijing. We (88books.ca) are very honored and glad to be able present his artwork to an international audience.

  2. Greetings! I’ve been following your weblog for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the great job!

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