Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Best Photobooks of 2012: Value Edition

As a kid, the end of the year meant my attention turned to Santa. As a photobook nerd, I now wait for another annual ritual, the appearance of the year's 'Best of' lists and an associated event, the emptying of my wallet.

Well, in the spirit of getting two kicks at the can, here is an early 'value edition' list. All books on the list sell for 25 $/Euros or less. Get one or two as stocking stuffers and you'll still have something left over for the end of year splurge. But, as photobook prices skyrocket, don't confuse price with quality. Many of these would fit comfortably on any year's best list.

Best Value Photobook of the Year

Thinspiration (Must not Eat) by Laia Abril
                                                                                    Put together by the same core group responsible for this year's cult photobook hit, Christina de Middel's The Afronauts, (albeit in different roles) I'm surprised this book hasn't gotten more press.  Fascinating topic, exquisite execution, and every bit as smart and evocative as The Afronauts. Where The Afronauts optimistically reaches for the moon, Thinspiration is a hard hitting punch to the gut.

Here is Laia's description of the project:
"The Pro-ana community has turned anorexia (Ana) into its dogma. They venerate the illness giving meaning to their totalitarian “lifestyle”. It’s a virtual reality where they state commandments, share motivating tricks and exchange hundreds of images of thin models via their blogs. They have created Thinspiration, a visual new language - obsessively consumed to keep on wrestling with the scales day after day. Now, they evolved interacting with their cameras portraying their bony clavicles or flat bellies; or consuming extreme anorexic images, the Pro-ana  have made Thinspiration evolve.

"I re-take their self-portraits, photographing and reinterpreting their images from the screen, resulting the visual response to the bond between obsession and self-destruction; the disappearance of one’s own identity. The project is a personal and introspective journey across the nature of obsessive desire and the limits of auto-destruction, denouncing disease’s new risk factors: social networks and photography."

To order.

Honourable Mention

A small run (80 numbered copies) Argentinian artist book virtually unknown outside that country. What it lacks in size (5.5 x 8 inches), the volume makes up for in emotional punch. Highly personal, this is a family photo album made by a brother documenting the memory of his sister, who was disappeared by the Argentinian government. The text is Spanish, but the emotional power of the story and images transcends language.

View the book here. Order here.

Before Tomorrow by Yannik Welling

Better known than the other two.

Winner of the Berlin Photobook Slam, this large, beautifully designed newspaper format book explores the rapid rise in Sri Lanka’s tourism over the past three years.

Self published, 300 copies, signed and numbered. 

Order here.

The Best of the Rest (alphabetically arranged)
  • Mathieu Asselin, The 99%, Newsprint Edition    A series of portraits of Occupy Wall Street protestors and supporters of the movement at Zuccotti Park, NYC. Self-published newsprint, limited edition of 100, numbered and signed by the photographer.
  • Alex Bocchetto & Valentina Abenavoli, You Win! Olympics reportage gone wild, an action-packed race of unscrupulous competitors and dirty tricks. And masked gunmen too. If you live with your tongue planted firmly in your cheek, this is the book for you. Comic humour at its worst. Biff! Pow!! All pictures taken during London 2012 summer Olympics. Numbered edition of 100.
  • Jason Eskenazi, The Americans List: By the Glow of the Juke Box.  Technically, not a photobook. But incredibly enlightening. While working as a guard at the MET museum in New York, Eskenazi asked  photographers he saw visiting the Looking In exhibition about Robert Frank's The Americans, their favorite image and why. The book summarizes the answers from 276 photographers, including many of the world's most famous.
  • Carl Gunhouse, American Desire. Carl Gunhouse traveled across the United States for the past five years creating a portrait of American desire and the dire consequences these yearnings have wrought: a struggling economy, half-finished commercial construction projects, abandoned suburban cineplexes, and foreclosed homes in never-completed subdivisions. Signed and numbered edition of 100.
  • Thaddius Holownia, Ova Aves. For the contemplative, 13 poems matched up with 13 color photos of specimen bird eggs.
  • Haruna Sato, Ichi No Hi (Volumes 1-3) The potentialities of the future unfold in small thematic books made from photos taken on the first day of the month. At about $6 each, get all three! Volume 1 here, 2 here, 3 here. Editions of 250 or 200.
  • Alec Soth and Brad Zellar, Ohio  Not a particularly obscure choice, but quality none the less. 15 x 17 inch heavy newsprint, 2000 copies.
  • Kim Thue, Dead Traffic Stunning (and frequently haunting) black and white images from the fringes of Freetown, Sierra Leone. To buy.
  • Patrick Tsai, Modern Times What happens when a Japanese photographer with the sensibility of Martin Parr goes to China in advance of the 2008 Olympics? Bold color photos, tightly edited with lots of humor. Signed.
  • Tobias Zielony, Manitoba   A smart edit, strong text and a powerful theme; aboriginal teens living on the fringe of society.  To buy.  


  1. Wonderful suggestions and finds! So happy you included "The Ninety-Nine Percent" newsprint :))

  2. Hi!
    My name is Susana Barker, i am a housewife. I has a fat body so i want to find a best tip to weight loss. I found at: http://healthfitnessreviewshq.com/thinspiration-revolutionary-weight-loss-method-review/ It contain the best plans and tips to weight loss. It is helpful for me at this time, i will share this article to all friend and recommended to buy it! Thank for shared!

  3. Nice blog. Thanks for sharing that look awesome.
    Digital printing

  4. You completed a number of nice points there. I did a search on the issue and found nearly all people will have the same opinion with your blog. imprimeur haut rhin