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Best Books of 2015: Reviews


Best Books of 2015 Best Books of 2015: Reviews A selection of reviews of 2015 Best Book picks.
Songbook
By Alec Soth
Mack

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by:
Aaron Schuman
Ed Templeton
Jeffrey Ladd
John Gossage
Martin Parr

"The crucial shift from LBM Dispatches to Songbook — and the primary reason I consider it a landmark monograph — is that the photos are stripped of their accompanying stories. Zellar was a symbiotic part of the original team. But he's been axed and the work thus transformed. It's not necessarily better but it is radically different… With no text, the complete weight of meaning falls on the photographs. The reader can guess the context, and might even guess correctly, but most of the photos remain deliberately ambiguous. A few are downright bizarre. The reader is faced with unresolved images and forced to respond only visually. That's the zen prick heart of photography and the core strength of this book."—from the review by Blake Andrews




An Island in the Moon
By Jordan Sullivan
Ampersand Editions

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by Christopher J. Johnson

"Just as a volume of poetry has a lot of blank space around the poems, so do the images in An Island In the Moon. Some appear full page, but many are smaller, causing the viewer to examine them more closely. Often two or three smaller images share the same page, an invitation for one to consider their relation to one another or their similarities. Like poetry, An Island in the Moon is a craft of contrasts, metaphors and the unexpected."—from the review by Christopher J. Johnson



Playground
By James Mollison
Aperture

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by Little Brown Mushroom

"He visited schools for the privileged and the poor, private and public, and like his earlier project Where Children Sleep, the photographs collected in Playground are striking in their depiction of cultural and economic disparities amplified in their variation on the theme. The many photographs Mollison made during each school visit were source material for the composite photographs he made to represent each experience of play and the playground. He describes his technique as a type of time lapse, by which each photograph’s figures and groupings become summary of all he observed, rather than the emblematic representatives of a singular chosen moment."—from the review by Karen Jenkins




Deadline
By Will Steacy
b. frank books

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by Little Brown Mushroom

"When The Philadelphia Inquirer began to founder in the early years of the millennium, Steacy smelled a photo essay. Over the course of roughly four years, May of 2009 to February of 2013, he photographed the newsroom and printing facilities of the once proud Inquirer with unrestricted access. The resulting publication Deadline is a project of mammoth scope and ambition. Although it contains Steacy's photo essay, and will be sold in photobook stores and marketed to the photobook community, this isn't a traditional photobook. Instead it's a full-sized newspaper, as thick as any Sunday edition."—from the review by Blake Andrews






Good Dog
By Yusuf Sevincli
Espas and Filigranes Editions

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by Christopher J. Johnson

"But an homage to Moriyama would be selling Good Dog under a very small portion of its worth - at which point I interject, this photobook is one of the best, most haunting and powerful that I have encountered since undertaking a discourse on the subject; rarely is a photobook as immediate as this without utilizing some brutality of fact. Good Dog is melancholic, eccentric and, perhaps, a bit eerie, but it is not brutal nor does it evoke dream. Good Dog has the impression of a memory."—from the review by Christopher J. Johnson




Until Death Do Us Part
By Thomas Sauvin
Jiazazhi Press

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by:
Alejandro Cartagena
Daniel Boetker-Smith
John Phelan
Martin Parr
Rafal Milach
Sarah Bradley

"The games are ingenuous, but that’s not the first thing that grabs you about the book. The first thing is the packaging. ‘Don’t ignore the obvious’ is one of the basics of design, and Sauvin has definitely not ignored the obvious; the book comes in the form of a cigarette packet. It’s a card flip-top, with the bottom cellophane still attached. Flip the lid and you see the tops of cigarettes illustrated on the cover of the actual book. Take the book out of the pack and a faint whiff of tobacco hits your nose."—from the review by Colin Pantall




Find a Fallen Star
By Regine Petersen
Kehrer Verlag

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by Kevin Messina

"In the end, the rocks are the most tangible evidence the stories have to offer. Silent, obdurate, the meteorites have traveled a long way to land here and have nothing to prove. In the face of their silence, we concoct elaborate stories that orbit the otherwise straightforward facts of their existence and arrival on our planet. Petersen has woven three interlocking stories around these otherwise mute objects and revealed the ways in which chance events can trigger explanations and poetic musings that extend beyond their simple scientific meaning."—from the review by Adam Bell




Early Works
By Ivars Gravlejs
MACK

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by:
Alejandro Cartagena
Colin Pantall
Martin Parr

"Early Works isn’t cuddly and Gravlejs doesn’t always come out of it well. He’s a little shit at times (especially if you’re a girl), he’s annoying and probably deserved a slapping on many an occasion. But that’s what boys are like — they’re little shits — and that’s what Gravlejs communicates without prejudice. Early Works is original, and brilliant, but at the same time, you get the feeling it’s a beginning rather than an end. It’s a photobook that should be a novel, a musical, a film or an installation, part of a creative output that goes way beyond photography. It’s the Early Works."—from the review by Colin Pantall




YU: The Lost Country
By Dragana Jurisic
Oonagh Young Gallery

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by:
Daniel Boetker-Smith
John Phelan

"This body of work is quiet and subtle; Jurišić’s­ isn’t a heavy-handed approach. Even the sporadic images insinuating decay and violence maintain a muted tone. A sense of nostalgia and longing characterize the pictures she makes of the landscape and people. This visual language, together with her written words, suggests the palpable incongruence of her memories from childhood and experience decades later. Her words convey the frustration of recognizing little of her past — and West’s written record — in these places. The intermittent use of images of entanglement and tethered objects serve as a poetic metaphor for Jurišić­’s experience — a forced connection that she cannot escape or take control of. It is heartbreaking."—from the review by Allie Haeusslein




Some Thing Means Everything to Somebody
By Peter Mitchell
RRB Publishing

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by:
Christopher J. Johnson
Jeffrey Ladd
Melanie McWhorter
"Through the strength of Mitchell’s vision, what at first seems a peculiar pairing becomes a steadfast symbiosis. In part, the scarecrows are a means to explore the emotional content and formal aspects of Mitchell’s catalogue of objects appearing opposite them in each spread. In the 1950s, their exuberance and heroic stance mirrors Mitchell’s imaginative wanderings via model planes and I-spy volumes. Nuclear disarmament handouts are more disconcerting in their placement across from a vertiginous horizon, hazy skies and a bloated, especially inert scarecrow."—from the review by Karen Jenkins




In the Shadow of the Pyramids
By Laura El-Tantawy

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by:
Alejandro Cartagena
Colin Pantall
John Gossage

"That’s what El-Tantawy picks out, the quiet moments of faces amid the frenzy, and that’s what makes the book stand out as a very special book. It’s a triple edit; the before, the now, and the after, an edit made in the full light of what was to come; the old dictator becoming a new dictator, the oppression shape-shifting into suits and fatigues, into the subsequent killing and torture that never fit into anything as neat and tidy sounding as the Arab Spring. In the Shadow of the Pyramids is a visualisation of a mentality, a picture of a repressive state of mind and what happens when that is manifested through violence and armed force. In the book, the dream becomes a nightmare and the square becomes darker."—from the review by Colin Pantall




Fire in Cairo
By Matthew Connors
SPBH Editions

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by:
Gerry Badger
Aaron Schuman

"Fire in Cairo has its roots in a previous body of work by Connors, General Assembly, which was shot in Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011-12. It was during this time that Connors met some Egyptians, who had participated in the initial uprisings in Tahrir Square and inspired him to travel to Egypt. Composed entirely of similarly formal black-and-white portraits, the images in General Assembly are both compassionate and revealing and call to mind the poignant portraits of Iraq war protestors by Judith Joy Ross. Holding up signs or standing defiantly, the portraits, like those in Fire in Cairo, give identity to the people involved and defies the urge to dismiss them as faceless radicals. Although Connors expanded the scope of his images in Fire in Cairo, both bodies of work grapple with the nature and visual presence of revolutionary change not only in the participants, but also in the surrounding landscape."—from the review by Adam Bell




Assignment No. 2: San Quentin Prison
Photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto and Richard Misrach. Text by Michael Nelson
TBW Books

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by Kevin Messina

"Nelson completed his assignment while in solitary confinement, without access to class notes or handouts. Isolated from these resources and classmates, he relies on in-depth, visual analysis to discuss the photographs of two seminal contemporary photographers — one of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s black-and-white theaters and the other of Richard Misrach’s Las Vegas drive-in theatre. Though both photographs depict blank screens without people, Nelson quickly recognizes they are made using distinctly different visual languages and describes these differences with ease. His descriptions are poetic; Sugimoto’s blank, illuminated screen operates like 'a mouth whose light screams out to be heard, to be seen.'”—from the review by Allie Haeusslein




Bottom of the Lake
By Christian Patterson
Koenig Books

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by:
Gerry Badger
John Gossage
John Phelan
Rémi Coignet

"Christian Patterson’s new book, Bottom of the Lake, is first a 175-page facsimile of his family’s telephone book for his hometown, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin from February 1973 (he was born the year before). He mines the mundane utility of the phone book’s white and yellow pages in the creation of his art, teasing out through doodling pen, photographs and other visual insertions, unintentional humor and new layers of meaning. He tells us where to start looking; yet it’s by no means immediately clear from the spin-off Patterson creates what elements of the original struck a familiar cord, as his interventions within rarely seem overtly personal or close to home."—from the review by Karen Jenkins




Skin
By June Yong Lee
The Arts at California Institute of Integral Studies

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2015 by John Phelan

"The images are printed double truck, full bleed throughout the book. Thus, as you read the book and turn a page you unfurl a new canvas in front of you, between your hands. You read these images like blueprints, or maps, although you may, as I did, occasionally jump, symbolically speaking, from map to mask (nipples and navels as eyes and mouths) to the pallid underside of a ray. Full versions of the images appear in thumbnails at the book’s end; that compact gallery affords a clearer sense of the impression Lee’s work makes."—from the review by George Slade





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