My fascination with the mundane: Zeleny, a visual sociologist, documents the fading past and uncertain future of the rural Canadian West. Nothing much happens in any of these pictures and maybe that’s the point. Out West is a sad, beautiful portrait of the small communities that speckle this landscape and the remnants of the people who still inhabit the place. With smart essays by Zeleny, Craig Campbell, and Ginger Strand.
The back-to-the-land lifestyle has been heavily documented and The Return is a fine addition to photographic study of the topic. Chesser and White immerse themselves in a series of travels with a community of modern nomads and the result is a poetic meditation on the contemporary hunter-gatherer way of life. It’s impossible to imagine living like this but the book is a sound reminder that each of us is part of the broader narrative of environmental and human history. We’d be wise to listen to the basic principles that underscore its subjects’ desire to live like they do, off the grid, in harmony with nature.
Campany is a scholar of the first order and his subject — Walker Evans, the photographer and writer — is incredible. The book is hefty and gorgeous with an extensive, illustrated historical essay and plenty of layout reproductions that showcase his contributions to a variety of avant-garde journals and mainstream magazines. Books like this remind us how image and text functioned on the 20th century printed page and presumably point to their 21st century incarnation on the digital touchscreen. A must-have for the history buffs.
Is an antique photography renaissance underway? It seems like tintypes are everywhere. Keliy Anderson-Staley is one of the more visible practitioners keeping that tradition alive. Her elegant portraits have circulated online for years and it’s a treat to see them, finally, collected in print. These are striking, sensitive images and exquisitely printed — one of the best looking books of the year. With essays by Geoffrey Batchen and Matthew Williams.
My mother always says, “A tree is a tree” — she can’t understand my fascination with them. Maybe she’s right. Still, I love a good landscape. Adams is one of the elder statesmen of the genre and A Road Through Shore Pine, his quiet observation of the routes in and around Nehalem Bay State Park in Oregon, is a lovely reflection of the kinds of views so often taken for granted. Trees are worth pondering; they’ll be here long after we’re gone and Adams’ book is an opportunity to consider our place among them.
A photography book about the act of photography. Curator Barbara Levine is one of our most vocal champions of the vernacular picture and the images she collects — “Vernacular photography, anonymous art, found ephemera” — tell us more about ourselves than we think. Camera Era is a smartly designed gem that fits in the palm of your hand or your back pocket. Digital media makes it easier than ever to express ourselves but the urge to document our lives isn’t new. The impulse to selfie — I photograph, therefore I am — may be as old as humankind.
Ballen’s pictures are crazy — parts painting, sculpture, performance, and photography. The best part is the short film that accompanies the book: Asylum of the Birds lives across multiple media and that’s really exciting. See it at asylumofthebirds.com.
Someone said this to me once — “There’s not enough humor in photography.” That’s true and I’m not sure why. Enter The Reluctant Father. Phil Toledano’s follow up to his wildly popular Days with My Father has more heart than you can shake a stick at. The book is simple and confessional and honest — and very, very funny. Turns out you can judge a book by its cover. Buy this for your pregnant friends!
Confessions is a subjective documentary; an archeological dig through the past and present. The photographer revisits his father’s memory (he passed away in 2000) by way of a clever assemblage of family photos, written ephemera, and personal pictures to present a complex visual narrative of his family history. Evans calls the book a “first person interaction” and it’s a handheld extension of a larger IRL installation he stages in venues across the country. This story is deeply personal and, simultaneously, universal — an exploration of the sometimes problematic struggle to understand the people who raised us.
Andy Adams is an independent producer + publisher whose work blends digital communication, online audience engagement, and web-based creative collaboration to explore current ideas in photography and visual media. He is the editor of FlakPhoto, a website that promotes the discovery of photographic image-makers from around the world. In his spare time he hosts the FlakPhoto Network, an online community focused on conversations about photo/arts culture.