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Books 2018 Favorite Photobooks — Day Eleven Day 11 of our 14-day series featuring the Favorite Photobooks of 2018! This year we asked a number of luminaries from the photobook world to select their favorite photobook of the year. The list will continue to grow over the next two weeks, so check back each day for a new group of favorite books!"
https://www.photoeye.com/Best-Books-2018/index.cfm



This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our renowned listing of the year's best photobooks. To mark this milestone, we've decided to do something a bit different. We've asked 88 internationally recognized luminaries from the photobook world to choose their favorite photobook of the year. Their favorite book could be unforgettable for any number of reasons but the chosen books affected our selectors on a very personal level. These books led each of our contributors to conclude, "If there's one book not to miss this year, it would be this!"

Each day for the following two weeks we will publish additional titles selected by our distinguished group of photobook lovers. Subscribe to PhotoBookDaily to get our email announcements in advance!

Check back daily to see a new group of favorite books!



Jeffrey Ladd's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Jeffrey&Lastname=Ladd
Pure Country
Photographs by Bill Sullivan

"Using the early color photographs by the Russian photographer Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) as a starting point, the photographer/artist Bill Sullivan weaves a culture blending narrative of the westward expansion of the United States in his new book Pure Country."



Kevin Messina's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Kevin&Lastname=Messina
Studio Volta Photo
Photographs by Sanlé Sory

"2018 has been a difficult year, not just for me personally, but it seems, for the whole world. When I encountered this book at the New York Art Book Fair in September, it immediately made me feel happy, and meeting and talking with its exceptional designer, Sébastien Girard, only intensified the effect."



Nick Waplington's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Nick&Lastname=Waplington
Deana Lawson
Photographs by Deana Lawson

"This book is far and away my favorite of the year — I have two copies, one in New York and one in London, so I can show it to people in either place. On the surface, this seems like a simple book: a series of strong color portraits each of which is a work in its own right. Grouped together, however, they become something more."






Books 2018 Favorite Photobooks — Day Ten Day 10 of our 14-day series featuring the Favorite Photobooks of 2018! This year we asked a number of luminaries from the photobook world to select their favorite photobook of the year. The list will continue to grow over the next two weeks, so check back each day for a new group of favorite books!"
https://www.photoeye.com/Best-Books-2018/index.cfm



This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our renowned listing of the year's best photobooks. To mark this milestone, we've decided to do something a bit different. We've asked 88 internationally recognized luminaries from the photobook world to choose their favorite photobook of the year. Their favorite book could be unforgettable for any number of reasons but the chosen books affected our selectors on a very personal level. These books led each of our contributors to conclude, "If there's one book not to miss this year, it would be this!"

Each day for the following two weeks we will publish additional titles selected by our distinguished group of photobook lovers. Subscribe to PhotoBookDaily to get our email announcements in advance!

Check back daily to see a new group of favorite books!



Alejandro Cartagena's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Alejandro&Lastname=Cartagena
Ghost Guessed
Text by Tom Griggs and Paul Kwiatkowski

"Through text and image, this book takes us on a journey of grief over the loss of a loved one, through the chaotic and rambling feelings mixed into the process. The book asks of us to let go of looking for specific answers about what "it's about" and drags us down a spiral of incertitude that slowly, like a movie, develops into an experience of the issue itself."



Miwa Susuda's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Miwa&Lastname=Susuda
Higher
Photographs by John Edmonds

"John Edmonds' work is born from a unique mythology. In this sense, Higher could be considered the bible of his kingdom. Through the symbolic compositions of color and subject in his portrait series Hoods, Du-rags, and Tribe, Edmonds challenges us to consider an alternative perspective of the subjects presented. "




Collier Brown's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Collier&Lastname=Brown
Series of Dreams
Edited by Russell Joslin

"Dreams are delicate and elusive. The bridges they form between themselves, one night to the next, are made of mist and drizzle. Nevertheless, they carry the weight of so much great art."




Laura André's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Laura&Lastname=Andr%C3%A9
Real Life Dramas
Photographs and text by Mary Frey

"Last year, I chose Mary Frey's 2017 book, Reading Raymond Carver, as one of my Best Books because it captivated me on a variety of levels. Likewise, her latest publication, Real Life Dramas, is full of beguiling images that—for me—are by turns nostalgic, uncanny, humorous, bizarre, joyful, poignant, and embarrassing. Some images are all of these."



Rafal Milach's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Rafal&Lastname=Milach
Human
Photographs by Arion Gabor Kudasz

"Kudasz uses the human body and deformed brick modules to set the new hierarchy, which can be perceived as a metaphor of the shift in fundamental values that Hungary and other countries in Eastern Europe are facing today."




Nathaniel Grann's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Nathaniel&Lastname=Grann
Khichdi (Kitchari)
Photographs by Nick Sethi

"Nick Sethi’s Khichdi (Kitchari) is one of the most heartfelt books I’ve come across in awhile. At first, experiencing this book can feel a bit overwhelming, as it is made up of hundreds (if not thousands) of photographs from Sethi’s travels through India and features a different layout on each page; nested inside, though, is a sincere look at and celebration of the country and people he has come to know through his work."






Books 2018 Favorite Photobooks — Day Nine Day 9 of our 14-day series featuring the Favorite Photobooks of 2018! This year we asked a number of luminaries from the photobook world to select their favorite photobook of the year. The list will continue to grow over the next two weeks, so check back each day for a new group of favorite books!"
https://www.photoeye.com/Best-Books-2018/index.cfm



This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our renowned listing of the year's best photobooks. To mark this milestone, we've decided to do something a bit different. We've asked 88 internationally recognized luminaries from the photobook world to choose their favorite photobook of the year. Their favorite book could be unforgettable for any number of reasons but the chosen books affected our selectors on a very personal level. These books led each of our contributors to conclude, "If there's one book not to miss this year, it would be this!"

Each day for the following two weeks we will publish additional titles selected by our distinguished group of photobook lovers. Subscribe to PhotoBookDaily to get our email announcements in advance!

Check back daily to see a new group of favorite books!



George Slade's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=George&Lastname=Slade
AIRGAP
Photographs by Drew Brown

"I am from Minnesota, a great state for hockey; I watched a lot, but never played (I joked that I could skate and hold a stick, but not at the same time). I went to Yale as an undergraduate, never saw a hockey game there, but got wrapped up in photography, as did Drew Brown. AIRGAP melds the sport and the art in ways that astound me."



Fred Cray's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Fred&Lastname=Cray
Studio Volta Photo
Photographs by Sanlé Sory

"These studio portraits were made during the first decades of independence for Burkina Faso; they provide a substantial contrast to our current difficult times."




Eamonn Doyle's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Eamonn&Lastname=Doyle
Chris Killip Four Volume Set
Photographs by Chris Killip

"This is an incredible, historic and significant selection of work from Chris Killip — one of the world’s greats — thematically brought together as four publications in one slipcase."




Daniel Boetker-Smith's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Daniel&Lastname=Boetker-Smith
Will My Mannequin Be Home When I Return
Photographs by Arko Datto

"Will My Mannequin Be Home When I Return is a stand-out amongst photobook publications this year, part of a larger trilogy of which two more books are expected in the near future."




Barbara Bosworth's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Barbara&Lastname=Bosworth
The Moth
Photographs by Jem Southam

"In Jem’s photographically eloquent version we follow alongside a lone traveler, a quiet observer of the world. We are aware of time passing in what appears to be a timeless landscape."




Emma Phillips's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Emma&Lastname=Phillips
Silence And Image
Text by Mariko Takeuchi

"In a world that feels increasingly shrouded by darkness, Takeuchi offers a dexterous and enlightened perceptive on what at times feels to me like the malevolent act of looking at pictures."






photo-eye Gallery Gallery Favorites
Tom Chambers: Hearts and Bones
This week Gallery Staff has selected their favorite images from Chamber's current exhibition Hearts and Bones, a mid-career retrospective containing 26 images spanning twenty-five years of work and ten separate projects. The exhibition remains on view through February 16, 2019.

Tom Chambers: Hearts and Bones installed at photo-eye Gallery
Tom Chambers is a master storyteller. His intricate photomontages construct convincing single-setting narratives delicately balanced between beauty, danger and wonder. His images captivate us as they leave room for our own personal experience and imagination to answer the questions each scene poses. Our reaction becomes part of the creative process and a reason to revisit the image time after time. This week our Gallery Staff has selected their favorite images from Chambers' current exhibition Hearts and Bones, a mid-career retrospective containing 26 images spanning twenty-five years of work and ten separate projects. The exhibition remains on view through February 16, 2019.



Anne Kelly selects Moat Float

Tom Chambers, Moat Float, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 28x29" Image, Edition of 10, $2300
Anne Kelly, Gallery Director
505.988.5152 x114
I distinctly recall the first time I encountered one of Tom Chambers' prints. Twelve years ago I saw Prom Gown #1. At the time I couldn’t articulate what it was about the image that moved me--I knew immediately I was looking at an artist with vision and promise. Since then Chambers has continued to produce images that speak to me. The first time I saw Moat Float I was transported back to my childhood days, swimming in the lake at my grandparents', floating along with my little butterfly sailboat. Tom depicts a fragile, young girl, still in her dress, lying in the cold waters of a dreary lake, gulls circling a lonely castle, a small sailboat carried on the ripples of time. The scene is both chilling and calming. The muted colors elicit a feeling of sadness, yet the boat sails proudly forth while smoke pours from the chimney, a fire waiting inside. Life carries on despite the grayness we often feel. It reminds me of the resilience we all hold within us, especially when we remember to embrace our child-like wonder. I'm often asked how I choose artists to represent and how I build my own personal collection. The answer is the same: I follow my intuition, gathering the things that speak to me most.


Lucas Maclaine Shaffer selects Now Now


Tom Chambers, Now Now, 2018, Archival Pigment Print, 22x13" Image, Edition of 20, $950
Lucas Maclaine Shaffer
Special Projects & Client Relations
photo-eye Gallery
505.988.5152 x114
Now Now, from Tom Chambers upcoming Portrait Series, exemplifies the artist's ability to construct a resounding fiction in a simple frame. Eschewing his standard square format for an arched vertical, Chambers borrows a classic form akin to that of Medieval iconography, and in doing so, imbues Now Now with both mythological status and symbolism. Something important, something powerful, is evident in the image, but the narrative details are yours to decipher.

The idyllic pastoral setting is delightful, yet clashes with the young woman's rigid posture, unexplained injury, and piercing gaze aimed directly at the viewer--one that seems to say, "I see you." The tension of the narrative is delivered in the delicate gesture of the young woman's left hand. Hovering her hand just above her wolf-protector's head, she appears to be keeping it momentarily at bay, her eyes focused intently on us, the viewer. Chambers deftly creates the feeling of being seen by the subject and gives us the illusion of agency in the confrontation, as if our actions will somehow determine the next scene in this narrative. The moment is rife with anticipation. Now Now is magnetic. It draws me in with its pristine detail and muted pastels and holds me in place with its mysteries. Who is this girl? Why is she hurt? Why does she need protection? Who am I to her? Is she far from home? Where are her shoes?

I find the image captivating and can imagine it being especially powerful if presented in life-size. I adore Chambers' ability to build complex worlds worth visiting on a daily basis. I appreciate the room he leaves for our own imagination, interpretation, and reflection in the process.


Juliane Worthington selects Late for Dinner

Tom Chambers, Late For Dinner, 2013, Archival Pigment Print, 20x20" Image, Edition of 20, $1600
Juliane Worthington
Gallery Associate
505.988.5152 x116
I love the way Late For Dinner feels like a scene from a fairy tale dream. The edges are soft and blurred, the pink hue of the sunset fading behind the small, old village on the hill. At first glance the sweet girl, in her best gown grabs my entire focus. But the more I study this image, which I asked be hung next to my desk in the gallery, I’m aware of the ravens circling the structures that appear to be vacant and abandoned. Why is such a beautiful child, barefoot and alone on a road to a forgotten place? How late is she really? Is it an hour or a hundred years? I can’t see her face to know with what intent she’s running up this damp and slippery path. What Chambers executes so well in in his work is the ability to create a vision of an idea that’s nearly possible, slightly dangerous, and completely mystifying. His montages often ride the line between dreams and nightmares. Perhaps it’s up to us to decide—will the girl break the spell on the ghostly village and restore it with the beauty and life of her own innocent spirit, or is she too late?


———

All prices listed were current at the time this post was published. 
Prices will increase as the print editions sell.

For more information, and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Staff at 
505-988-5152 x202 or gallery@photoeye.com


On view through February 16th, 2019

» View the Work

» Read Our Interview 
   with Tom Chambers

» Purchase the Monograph 


photo-eye Gallery
541 S. Guadalupe Street
Santa Fe, Nm 87501
–View Map–





Books 2018 Favorite Photobooks — Day Eight Day 8 of our 14-day series featuring the Favorite Photobooks of 2018! This year we asked a number of luminaries from the photobook world to select their favorite photobook of the year. The list will continue to grow over the next two weeks, so check back each day for a new group of favorite books!"
https://www.photoeye.com/Best-Books-2018/index.cfm



This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our renowned listing of the year's best photobooks. To mark this milestone, we've decided to do something a bit different. We've asked 88 internationally recognized luminaries from the photobook world to choose their favorite photobook of the year. Their favorite book could be unforgettable for any number of reasons but the chosen books affected our selectors on a very personal level. These books led each of our contributors to conclude, "If there's one book not to miss this year, it would be this!"

Each day for the following two weeks we will publish additional titles selected by our distinguished group of photobook lovers. Subscribe to PhotoBookDaily to get our email announcements in advance!

Check back daily to see a new group of favorite books!



Michael Mack's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Michael&Lastname=Mack
Landfall
Photographs by Mimi Plumb

"This book illustrates the value of the age-old relationship between an author and her publisher. Mimi Plumb’s brilliant photographs from the 1980s lay fallow in her archive until she began work with the team at TBW Books."




Éanna de Fréine's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=%C3%89anna&Lastname=de%20Fr%C3%A9ine
Dark Cities
Photographs by Shyue Woon

"The three volumes — Carpark, Capsule, and Eujiro — are incredibly immersive and really fascinated me as I browsed through them. It’s a book I’ll be going back to time and time again."




Jeff Mermelstein's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Jeff&Lastname=Mermelstein
Ice Fishers
Photographs by Aleksey Kondratyev

"The book is understated in its physicality but with elegance and subtlety depicts these people with grace, homage, and respect. A humble, refined testimony to survival, adaptation and a spirit of pure strength and that is a welcome thing to see in our world right now."




Tricia Gabriel's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Tricia&Lastname=Gabriel
Remembering the Future
Photographs by Angel Albarrán and Anna Cabrera

"In Remembering the Future, published by RM, artists Albarrán Cabrera (Angel Albarrán and Anna Cabrera) found a way to string together a series of beautiful and mysterious images that feel otherworldly. They seem like clues to a new place to discover."




Lauren Henkin's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Lauren&Lastname=Henkin
Transcendental Concord
Photographs by Lisa McCarty

"Transcendental Concord is a beautiful meditation on Transcendentalism, photography and visual poetry. The book design, printing, scale, and material selection are handled with such care by Radius Books, that the viewer is left to fully engage and succumb to McCarty’s imagery and the accompanying text of Rebecca Norris Webb and Kirsten Rian."




Karen Jenkins's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Karen&Lastname=Jenkins
Public Matters
Photographs by Janet Delaney

"Street photography is a crowded club; the best of its acolytes, like Delaney, have left an enduring mark on how I see the world and what I expect of art. With Public Matters, I have stepped into the shoes of so many like and unlike myself, in a welcome jolt of recognition, regard, and re-invigoration."






Books 2018 Favorite Photobooks — Day Seven Day 7 of our 14-day series featuring the Favorite Photobooks of 2018! This year we asked a number of luminaries from the photobook world to select their favorite photobook of the year. The list will continue to grow over the next two weeks, so check back each day for a new group of favorite books!"
https://www.photoeye.com/Best-Books-2018/index.cfm



This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our renowned listing of the year's best photobooks. To mark this milestone, we've decided to do something a bit different. We've asked 88 internationally recognized luminaries from the photobook world to choose their favorite photobook of the year. Their favorite book could be unforgettable for any number of reasons but the chosen books affected our selectors on a very personal level. These books led each of our contributors to conclude, "If there's one book not to miss this year, it would be this!"

Each day for the following two weeks we will publish additional titles selected by our distinguished group of photobook lovers. Subscribe to PhotoBookDaily to get our email announcements in advance!

Check back daily to see a new group of favorite books!



Daniel Shea's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Daniel&Lastname=Shea
One Wall A Web
Photographs by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa

"This text is simultaneously so deeply personal and so deeply theoretical, its exploration of the meaning and consequences of race, that its implications can’t be ignored; we need to constantly be pressing to resist longstanding realities. We need to resist the comfort and delusion that maintains a status quo."



John Jenkins's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=John&Lastname=Jenkins
The New Colonists
Photographs by Monica Alcazar-Duarte

"What I like about The New Colonists is the way in which it interweaves two separate yet conceptually intertwined bodies of work. The first presents photographs of Mars, Pennsylvania. They depict life in a small rural American town — a high school football game, the local pizza shop, the county fair, etc."




Tomoki Matsumoto's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Tomoki&Lastname=Matsumoto
Margins of Excess
Photographs by Max Pinckers

"I have been following Max’s works, and Margins of Excess is my favorite. Very strong book with wonderful pictures, well-done texts, and a beautiful design. I am always surprised by how he challenges the boundaries of storytelling via photography. What is the “truth” in this world?"




Forrest Soper's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Forrest&Lastname=Soper
No More, No Less
Artist book by Kensuke Koike & Thomas Sauvin

"The way in which we read and interpret photographic images is constantly changing and evolving but by studying and comparing the designs of these three books, one can gain a better understanding of how individual perception is largely dependent on context and presentation."




Marco Delogu's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Marco&Lastname=Delogu
The Map and The Territory
Photographs and text by Luigi Ghirri

"I saw too many books of Luigi Ghirri, too many shows. This one has a particular point of view, the seventies, and is a great contribution to understanding the work of Ghirri. It is a serious book on Italy and Ghirri, on the relationship between writers and history."




RVB Books's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=RVB&Lastname=Books
Diary of Tom Wilkins
Printed and hand-bound by Sébastien Girard

"This archive of 911 polaroids found by Girard and printed in its integrality could have remained anonymous but a unique self-portrait of the author printed in page 79 reveals the identity of its author and the story behind this visual obsession."






Books 2018 Favorite Photobooks — Day Six Day 6 of our 14-day series featuring the Favorite Photobooks of 2018! This year we asked a number of luminaries from the photobook world to select their favorite photobook of the year. The list will continue to grow over the next two weeks, so check back each day for a new group of favorite books!"
https://www.photoeye.com/Best-Books-2018/index.cfm


2018 Favorite Photobooks — Day 6

This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of our renowned listing of the year's best photobooks. To mark this milestone, we've decided to do something a bit different. We've asked 88 internationally recognized luminaries from the photobook world to choose their favorite photobook of the year. Their favorite book could be unforgettable for any number of reasons but the chosen books affected our selectors on a very personal level. These books led each of our contributors to conclude, "If there's one book not to miss this year, it would be this!"

Each day for the following two weeks we will publish additional titles selected by our distinguished group of photobook lovers. Subscribe to PhotoBookDaily to get our email announcements in advance!

Check back daily to see a new group of favorite books!



Ed Templeton's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Ed&Lastname=Templeton
Youth Unemployment
Photographs by Tish Murtha

"I love picking up a book with a name I’ve never heard of and being blown away. Youth Unemployment was it this year, especially after hearing it was a posthumous book shepherded into being by Tish Murtha’s daughter."




Douglas Stockdale's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Douglas&Lastname=Stockdale
On Abortion
Photographs by Laia Abril

"Abril and Pez have not shied from this thorny inter-continental and multilayered cultural, political and religious land-mine like the subject of Abortion. They provide ample evidence of how over the years many women have suffered extensively due to their reproductive capabilities."




Joshua McFadden's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Joshua&Lastname=McFadden
Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness
Photographs by Zanele Muholi

"In this beautiful monograph, Muholi uses the self-portrait a vehicle for social change while demonstrating a vulnerability that is inspiring. Adorned with found objects, Muholi presents strong themes of freedom from bondage, inequality, and injustice. This book is a must-have, and you should buy it immediately."




Renate Aller's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Renate&Lastname=Aller
Desert
Photographs and text by Jungjin Lee

"Jungjin Lee’s publication Desert offers our eyes a tactile experience. She gives us permission to trace the surface texture in an intimate close up and to get lost in a space devoid of structure and time. The book perfectly translates the experience of viewing her large-scale installations on handmade paper"




S. Billie Mandle's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=S.%20Billie&Lastname=Mandle
How We See: Photobooks by Women
Photographs by Jo Ann Walters

"Looking through Wood River Blue Pool is slightly painful. Some of the portraits feel too intimate — as if Jo Ann Walters had captured neighbors or cousins, maybe myself. Laura Wexler’s essay and Emma Kemp’s companion book give a powerful context: voicing the moral pain held in and around the pictures and our lives."




Emily Sheffer's Favorite

https://www.photoeye.com/best-books-2018/details.cfm?FirstName=Emily&Lastname=Sheffer
The Splitting of the Chrysalis and the Slow Unfolding of the Wings
Photographs by Yorgos Yatromanolakis

"The allegorical imagery feels like a stumbling fever dream through a familiar place. The size and length of the book is just right, as are the carefully chosen details on the hardcover design. It’s rare that I find a book that feels so complete within itself — as if it needs to live only in this form."





Book Of The Week Deana Lawson Photographs by Deana Lawson Reviewed by Blake Andrews Since the early eighties, Gerry Johansson has made quiet pictures of quiet places, often lying in the shadows of industrial decline. For American Winter, Johansson travelled through semi-deserted towns in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, finding as much beauty as there was misery in landscapes cloaked in snow
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=AP647
Deana Lawson. By Deana Lawson.
https://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=AP647
Deana Lawson
Photographs by Deana Lawson

Aperture, New York, 2018.
104 pp., 40 color and duotone illustrations, 11x13¾".

Deana Lawson's Aperture monograph hit me like a Mack Truck. Starting with the very first photo — a barely dressed couple locked in a sultry embrace, the woman leering askance near their sleeping infant. It's a disquieting image, and just an inkling of what's to come. A flood of theatrical and bewitching portraits follows, or what seems a flood anyway. In reality, the book only has 40 photos. But they feel like a multitude. This is Lawson's first monograph, after all, and it comes at age 39, more than a decade into her career. Bookwise, she's been bottled up. So it's no surprise her debut packs a wallop. This huge book pulls out all the stops, with marbled endpapers, maroon gilded edges, and exhibition-quality reproductions. But of course, it's the photos which are the core.

Lawson's subject matter varies but certain motifs abound. Most of her models are nude. They're generally centered in the frame and set in messy domestic spaces, from which they glare back at the camera. Are they bored? Irritated? Proud? Defiant? It's hard to say. Indeed, the magic of these photos lies in their ambiguity. One shows a shirtless man holding a half-cocked rifle. In another, a naked woman floats in erect yoga pose over a tiger rug. There's a man with a large dental implement matching his gold chains, a bloody pig's head worn as a hat, a nude couple crisscrossed under Mickey Mouse. These photos aren't afraid to air dirty laundry, sometimes literally. But what exactly is going on here?

Part of what makes Lawson's portraits unsettling is that they give the effect of documentary exposures, when instead they're carefully choreographed. Lawson finds her models in various locales —"from lower-class or working-class backgrounds"— locates sets, then combines her subject matter in ways that look beguilingly real and regal. "Her people seem to occupy a higher plane," writes Zadie Smith in the opening essay. You can see strains of other strong portraitists in Lawson's direct style —Arbus, Weems, and Bruce Wrighton, to name a few. All share a certain rugged brutalism. But Lawson's voice is hers. In fact, she's found what all photographers seek: Immediately recognizable authorship.

Did I mention that Lawson and all of her subjects are black? Oh yes, the racial component. I'm a white man, and I'm going to speculate that most of Lawson's audience is also white. Perhaps you are too? So the book's inherent dynamic —caucasian viewers consuming black subjects— is weighted with the troublesome baggage of the white gaze. As John Edwin Mason recently tweeted, "white people like to look at photos of black people. No question. There's a seemingly insatiable demand for photos of black folks."

Lawson is unquestionably aware of this dynamic. Perhaps she's leveraged it to advantage by amplifying the exoticism of her subjects? Her photos dance around racial stereotypes, depicting her subjects as primitive, fierce, lascivious, and gauche. Could whitey make these photos? Hell no. But in Lawson’s hands they are something else. She embraces generalities and tosses them back at the viewer.

"Prelapsarian," Zadie Smith calls Lawson's photographs: "before the fall." The book's final photo encapsulates Smith's thought — a naked couple sitting amid lush vegetation. But her words might describe any photo in the book, which is seeped throughout in a tone of Edenic timelessness. They seem to exist outside of time or place. Long before receiving her MFA, Lawson's own creation story carried seeds of photo prehistory. She grew up in Rochester. Her grandmother worked for George Eastman, her mother for Kodak. Her father was an avid photographer. "I was destined to be an artist with a camera," she tells Arthur Jafa in an interview included in the book. She's far surpassed those beginnings at this point, with an MFA, Guggenheim fellowship, and now Aperture monograph in hand.


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Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, OR. He writes about photography at blakeandrews.blogspot.com.