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Best Books: A Closer Look Part 1

We've just published our 2012 Best Books list and over the next few weeks we'll be publishing a number of reviews and write-ups on selected books. To get started with our exploration of this year's Best Books, we've pulled out the 39 books that we've already featured on the blog with reviews, write-ups, interviews and videos, and we will collect them all here over the next few days.


Lick Creek Line by Ron Jude
Lick Creek Line.
Photographs by Ron Jude.
Mack.

Selected by:
Adam Bell
Andrew Phelps
Christian Patterson
Natasha Egan
John Gossage
PDN Editors

Ron Jude's latest book, Lick Creek Line, uses a fur trapper and a small community in northern Idaho to tease apart these fictional boundaries. His work asks provocative questions about the relationship between photographs, personal experience and knowledge, as well as our persistent desire to understand images in spite of their maddeningly murky nature. -- From the review by Adam Bell

View the BookTease  -- Purchase Lick Creek Line



The Present by Paul Graham
The Present.
Photographs by Paul Graham.
Mack.

Selected by:
Colin Pantall
Aaron Schuman
John Gossage
Todd Hido
Tom Claxton

Flip open the book, and the cover is replicated over 114 pages set out in a series of diptychs and triptychs, all shot on the streets of Manhattan. So you open the book and see a picture. Flip a page or open a gatefold and another image appears, remarkably similar to the first. So you look back at the first and start to notice the differences. Then you go on to the next picture and repeat the process. Looking at the book, turning the pages, opening the gatefolds builds up a rhythm. Turn, look, fold, look back and then repeat. Give the book to somebody else and most of the time you get the same rhythm. You can hear people looking at the book, taking in what Graham wants us to see. -- From the review by Colin Pantall

View the BookTease  -- Purchase The Present


Kiev -- Rob Hornstra
Kiev.
Photographs by Rob Hornstra.
The Sochi Project.

Selected by:
Jonathan Blaustein
Pierre Bessard
Sputnik Photos

These are not the photographs that Hornstra expected, but this is the second book published by The Sochi Project that gets mileage from the malfunctions or quirks of analog photographic technology -- the other being Safety First, that featured images damaged by the nearly omnipresent x-ray scanners in the Chechen capital of Grozny. Given the power of these books, I have to agree with Hornstra's decision; the success of both isn't simply a matter of turning lemons into lemonade. The physical weaknesses of analog technology make for metaphorical advantages, and The Sochi Project has managed to find poetic expressions in the chaos of life. -- From Sarah Bradley's blog post

View the BookTease  -- Purchase Kiev



City Diary by Anders Petersen
City Diary.
Photographs by Anders Petersen.
Steidl/Swedish Books/GUN.

Selected by:
Christian Patterson
Anne Wilkes Tucker
Tom Claxton
Sputnik Photos

The City Diary book from Steidl and Gun Gallery pulls in more of the images from this 100 image exhibit which presented over 5 years of photographs from Petersen's travels. Many of the images in this book are familiar, having been included in some of Petersen's earlier publications, but the sequencing is notable. Various locations are gathered into each book, and without a firm sense of place the images are connected intuitively with Petersen as the unifying element. -- From the blog post by Sarah Bradley

View the BookTease -- Purchase City Diary



A Girl and Her Room by Rania Matar
A Girl and Her Room.
Photographs by Rania Matar.
Umbrage.

Selected by:
Colin Pantall
Svetlana Bachevanova
PDN Editors

I like Rania Matar's new monograph A Girl and Her Room more and more each time I move through this bright series of portraits of teenage girls, at home in their most private and personalized spaces. The initial pull of these often chaotic images of girls and their stuff yields to a nuanced look at that space between child and adult, innocence and self-awareness. -- From the review by Karen Jenkins

We were also fortunate enough to interview Matar about her A Girl and Her Room series. Read the interview here.

View the BookTease -- Purchase A Girl and Her Room



A New American Picture by Doug Rickard
A New American Picture.
Photographs by Doug Rickard.
Apterture.

Selected by:
Marco Delogu
Natasha Egan
PDN Editors

For two years, Rickard delved into the vast database of Google Maps Street View, and in a parallel journey, chose from among its imagery his own; photographing sparsely populated scenes positioned on his monitor. Considering only the rote mechanics of such a process belies their uncanny expressiveness. The diffuse edges and muted palate of pavements bordered by sun-dappled yards and billowing clouds have been likened to a watercolor aesthetic. Yet for the tech-savvy viewer, their soft focus and artfully "flawed" look may instead conjure the luminosity of the computer screen and the increasingly ubiquitous creative filters Instagram and Hipstamatic. -- From the review by Karen Jenkins

A New American Picture was also featured in our In-Print Photobook video series. Watch the video here.

View the BookTease -- Purchase A New American Picture



Jeddah Diary by Olivia Arthur
Jeddah Diary.
Photographs by Olivia Arthur.
Fishbar.

Selected by:
Jonathan Blaustein
Alec Soth
Andrew Phelps

I keep returning to the conceptual dissonance created by the very nature of Arthur's project, her attempt to photograph what cannot be shown. By necessity, her subjects live their lives in a bubble, cloistered from the world at large, which for Arthur led to further challenges, frustrations and confusion. The lives of Saudi girls is nearly an impossible photographic subject, and perhaps their world too is nearly impossible to know by someone not immediately in it. Even so, by approaching from oblique angles, Arthur has allowed us a peek in. The book is personal and memorable, and a notable accomplishment. -- From the blog post by Sarah Bradley

View the BookTease -- Purchase Jeddah Diary



Sunburn by Chris McCaw
Sunburn.
Photographs by Chris McCaw.
Candela Books.

Selected by:
Erin Azouz
Rebecca Senf
Anne Kelly

The physicality of the sun-scorched burn across (and often through) his photographs is integral to the experience and because I've seen the real thing, I was uncertain that someone who hasn't could appreciate what they are looking at. Would the book pull it off?

The answer is an emphatic yes. In fact, the first image in the book is reproduced front and back, with a die-cut "burn" hole through the page, just as the real, silver paper image would appear. You can see the front side as well as the back, complete with McCaw's handwritten title. By starting out this way, the reader is primed to understand the physicality of what they are looking at in the following pages.
 -- From the review by David Ondrik

Anne Kelly also interview Chris McCaw on his new book, which you can read here.

View the BookTease -- Purchase Sunburn



Petrochemical America by Richard Misrach & Kate Orff
Petrochemical America.
Photographs by Richard Misrach & Kate Orff.
Aperture.

Selected by:
Rebecca Senf
Natasha Egan
Melanie McWhorter

The book itself is full of eye candy. The endpapers present an aerial view of the region with numbered circles correlating to the plate number of Misrach’s photographs. The book measures approximately 27 inches wide when opened demanding full attention to all its details. Words and arrows flow around the page leading the eye on to the next illustration. Orff often references Misrach’s photographs to illustrate her charts, graphs and timelines, and the double-ribboned page markers make it easy to reference both the photographs and the Throughline. It is a book to be revisited often as it offers more visually and intellectually with each reading. -- From the blog post by Melanie McWhorter

View the BookTease -- Purchase Petrochemical America



Elementary Calculus by J Carrier
Elementary Calculus.
Photographs by J Carrier.
MACK.

Selected by:
Alec Soth
Christian Patterson
Shane Lavalette

Although there is a narrow range of images and subjects, the book's focus and edit creates a powerful narrative of displacement and longing. In one image pairing, miscellaneous cell-phone parts strewn across the sidewalk for sale are juxtaposed with another sidewalk full of pigeons – two opposing technologies of communication. The cellphone parts offer the hope to repair and fix existing and/or outmoded technology, while the pigeons suggest that some old technologies never truly disappear – they just get pushed aside. In addition to the repeated subjects, image sequences of successive frames pepper the book. One such sequence shows a crane operated vending machine filled with money. Like the fraught circumstances of their existence, it teases the imagined players with money that is so close, yet just out of reach. Fortunately, the repetition and limited subjects never becomes tiresome, but gives the book a rhythmic pace. The gaps and blank pages function like pauses or line breaks. The image sequences build, reflect and expand upon Carrier's themes like rhyming stanzas in a poem. -- From the review by Adam Bell

View the BookTease -- Purchase Elementary Calculus



(based on a true story) by David Alan Harvey
(based on a true story).
Photographs by David Alan Harvey
BurnBooks.

Selected by:
Colin Pantall
Markus Schaden
PDN Editors

So where does that lead us? Well, there's a new book out by David Alan Harvey called (based on a true story) and it rather sets a new high water mark in imaginative, effective book design. Add the fact that it's intelligent, sexy and really, really cool and you end up with a book that is certainly the most enjoyable I have handled in the last few years.

And it's fun. It comes in a box overprinted with a black and white crazy paving design. Open that up and there's a cloth-covered slipcase, again with a black and white design. Then you're into the book. The cover is an unsaturated picture of a girl in a bikini. Pale pinks and light blues mix with a beach ball, an ice-cream and some big Brazilian buttocks. Yay, we're not in Kansas anymore! Let a thousand clich├ęs blossom!
 -- From the review by Colin Pantall

View the BookTease -- Purchase (based on a true story)



My Dakota by Rebecca Norris Web
My Dakota.
Photographs by Rebecca Norris Webb.
Radius Books.

Selected by:
Erin Azouz
PDN Editors

Do not think of this book as a chance to see Rebecca Norris Webb's home state of South Dakota. It is not. Think of it more as a visual journal on loss. Not loss for a time that has passed, but a more personal grief. Rebecca Norris Webb made a series of photographs where the landscape is loss, specifically, that of her brother who died suddenly. Norris Webb begins the book by saying it is an elegy for home. The tone is set from the start. -- From the review by Tom Leininger


View the BookTease -- Purchase My Dakota



Los Restos de la Revolucion by Kevin Kunishi
Los Restos de la Revolucion.
Photographs by Kevin Kunishi.
Daylight.

Selected by:
Erin Azouz
Anne Kelly

While Los Restos is a documentary project, Kunishi's work is in line with many contemporary photographers whose photographs blur the distinction between documentary and fine art. What the best of these projects achieve is a more nuanced description and understanding of their subject, one that connects with emotional and personal realities rather than dwelling on capturing a cold historical timeline. Kunishi's project and this book are fine examples of this. Seeking traces of the civil conflict, now many years removed, Kunishi's photographs give credence to the lasting turmoil of those years, uncovering the scars of the conflict without having to excavate into an unrelatable past. -- From the blog post by Sarah Bradley

View the BookTease -- Purchase Los Restos de la Revolucion

Check back tomorrow for the next installment. View the complete list of 2012 Best Books.

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