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Best Books: A Closer Look Part 3

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. We share with you the final installment. See Part 1 and Part 2.

In the Car with R by Rafal Milach
In the Car With R.
Photographs by Rafal Milach.
Czytelnia Sztuki.

Selected by:
Shane Lavalette

Milach and Huldar Breiðfjörð, an Icelandic writer, strike out for 10 days around Iceland. The result is an incomplete picture of Iceland, but an interesting tale told in succinct notes and atmospheric pictures. Breiðfjörð often writes that Milach asks a lot of questions, stops the car often to make non-cliché pictures, all with an idea that something interesting will result.

As an object, the book feels raw. Two uncovered boards hold the bound book together with two rubber bands. The spine has a red piece of book cloth with the title on it. It feels like a travel journal, but one that has been very clearly thought out. The roughness is obviously planned and well conceived. These elements make it appealing as an object. This is not like any other book I have purchased before.
 -- From the review by Tom Leininger

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Cathedral Cars by Thomas Mailaender
Cathedral Cars.
Photographs by Thomas Mailaender.
RVB Books.

Selected by:
Erik Kessels

One stand out factor about this book is how tightly edited the images are. There is a sense when flipping the pages that the artist was aware of the limitations of the subject and decided to give the viewer just enough, which in this case makes for a strong body of work. I like this book. I'm glad it made me think beyond just the subject. Or at the least serve as a platform to discuss -- even if only a little -- my thoughts on the potential for a photography to be overly repetitive in practice. In the book form this work is fun, light and is displayed appropriately. -- From the blog post by Antone Dolezal

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The Address Book by Sophie Calle
The Address Book.
Photographs by Sophie Calle.

Selected by:
Anne Wilkes Tucker

The Address Book was featured by Melanie McWhorter in our In-Print Photobook video series. Watch the video here.

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The Actor by John Gossage
The Actor.
Photographs by John Gossage.

Selected by:

At first glance, The Actor is a cryptic and odd title for a photobook about banks until you realize that Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber, was nicknamed ‘the actor.’ While this provides the most obvious reading, Gossage himself is another ‘actor’ in this script. As the subtitle of the book states, the images are “other phantoms of my youth.” Although his images have always had their own formal clarity, he has always done so without a tripod or view camera. Gossage famously discarded the tripod long ago – the cursed three-legged beast – for the freedom of the handheld camera. Created in 1975, the images were set aside until Alec Soth’s enthusiasm encouraged him to revisit the work. It represents a road explored, a part played, a style explored, if not later set aside, only to be brought back to new life. The book is also dedicated to Gossage’s father, a character whose own company seems to suggest an equally checkered and adventurous past. -- From the review by Adam Bell

Sasha by Claudine Doury
Photographs by Claudine Doury.
Le Caillou Bleu.

Selected by:

Where many photographers try to portray the transition into adolescence through portraits emphasising an in-between time of affective withdrawal, with a focus on the physical and emotional oddness of adolescence, Doury has projected her explorations onto the physical world. It’s a poetic view but one with a solid grounding in the non-sentimental reality of being coming-of-age, of the loss of a childhood that is supposed to have gone yet still remains, and the responsibility and worry of an adulthood that may never come. Combing beauty and complexity, Sasha is a book that continues to reveal new layers with every viewing. -- From the review by Colin Pantall

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The Altogether by Chris Coekin
The Altogether.
Photographs by Chris Coekin.

Selected by:

Part of that craftsmanship is found in the book itself. Every detail is thought out and included so it connects into a narrative whole. First off, the book comes with a foil-blocked embossed cover of a man pulling on a rope. It's chalk white against coal black cloth, a touch-and-feel introduction to a book in which tactile, visual and auditory combine to perfect effect.

Open the book, and you don't see any pictures. Instead you get lines from a verse; "Days, Days at the factories," "They come and they go," "As sure as the sun sets." Coekin wrote the verse, a parallel text that pulls the book and the images together through language, rhythm and song.
 -- From the review by Colin Pantall

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A Possible Life by Ben Krewinkel
A Possible Life.
Conversations with Gualbert.
By Ben Krewinkel.
f0.23 publishers.

Selected by:

Beautifully designed and thought out, A Possible Life is a multifaceted book that makes a coherent whole out of a huge mix of materials. Krewinkel carves a life out of documents, letters, notes and photographs. That is no mean achievement. What elevates the book even further is the hidden element, that concealed subconscious you have to cut through, that world of sorrow and loneliness that lies beneath. Combining complexity and subtlety, Krewinkel has come up with a very human, and emotional documentation of what living in the limbo of an illegal immigrant means. -- From the review by Colin Pantall

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Heaven or Hell by Joel-Peter Witkin
Heaven or Hell.
Photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin.

Selected by:
Erin Azouz

First, the book is an exhibition catalogue, but secondly and more importantly, it is a scholarly exploration of Witkin’s oeuvre. A daring exhibition from the start, the curators have defined their choices and why they have put Witkin’s work in the context of their print collection. The exhibition gave them the opportunity to dust off some of the fine prints that would otherwise not be seen by a wider audience and allowed them to explore the multitude of themes within Witkin’s work as it relates to their collection. In the highly academic and beautifully written 11 page opening essay Through A Glass, Darkly, curator Anne Biroleau speaks about dandyism relating the featured artist’s work with the ideas and/or personalities of Oscar Wilde, Kierkegaard and Baudelaire. -- From the blog post by Melanie McWhorter

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Entropic Kingdom by Tom Chambers
Entropic Kingdom.
Photographs by Tom Chambers.

Selected by:
Anne Kelly

As an artist, at some point you ask yourself... “Do I have an interesting and large enough body of work to be published as a book?” In the last year, I felt the time was right for me to take the leap and was encouraged by ModernBook Editions, which also represents my work, to think about book publication. After some conversation, we decided to work together. The second step was deciding the book format, and we settled upon an overview of my work from the last 13 years, picking the strongest work from five series. We chose to separate the book into chapters or sections, one for each series with an introductory page. I relied upon gallery owners and publishers Mark Pinsukanjana and Bryan Yedinak at ModernBook to use their expertise and critical eye to select the work and decide upon the order the images within each series. -- Tom Chambers from the interview on photo-eye blog

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Rothko / Sugimoto
Rothko / Sugimoto.
Dark Paintings and Seascapes.
Photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto.
Pace Gallery.

Selected by:

The plates are printed in tritone with separations by Thomas Palmer and printing by Meridain Printing in Rhode Island, two of the finest practitioners in their respective field. The gallery has reproduced 16 of Sugimoto's silver gelatin photographs and 17 of Rothko's later untitled acrylic paintings on paper mounted on canvas with one gatefold of Sugimotos's Tyrrhenian Sea, Mount Polotriyptch. Sugimoto's Seascapes strike the eye with varying degrees of white and black with subtle tones of grays that developed based on the artist's exposure, time of day or night and source of light--Boden Sea, Uttwil; English Channel, Weston Cliff; Lake Superior, Cascade River all glisten on the page as the silver print might illuminated on the Pace London walls. The seascapes speak with Rothko's neutral tone paintings-a palate not of vibrant, striking colors, but abstracts of muted and organic tones. The horizon line, if we may also use this term for these works by Rothko, grounds the book without creating any sense of boredom in its connection. The dialogue of the work is so simple visually, but so complex intellectually. -- From the blog post by Melanie McWhorter

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Out to Lunch by Ari Marcopoulos
Out to Lunch.
Photographs by Ari Marcopoulos.
PPP Editions.

Selected by:

The publisher, PPP Editions, chose to include Marcopoulos' early work in New York and work from the last few years. Marcopolous challenges the art aesthetic of photography and presents it as a tool for documentation of the quotidian. He marks each day; the proof of its existence in the photograph and often with the time stamp printed on the photo. His work is analogous with the tagging of the gangs or paintings of the street artists. His books are often as impermanent as the spray paint, printed on non-archival materials. This volume, likely the most comprehensive book on Marcopoulos totaling 368 pages, will last for years, but in its construction are elements meant for its deconstruction: vinyl stickers, removable posters and even the perfect binding within the black gauze. It is a collectible object perfectly complimentary to its content. -- From the blog post by Melanie McWhorter

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Vanitas by Joel-Peter Witkin
Photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin.
Arbor Vitae.

Selected by:

Vanitas was featured by Erin Azouz in our In-Print Photobook video series. Watch the video here.

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From Above and Below by Sharon Harper
From Above and Below.
Photographs by Sharon Harper.
Radius Books.

Selected by:

The book From Above and Below will be released by Radius Books next month, in November. The book brings together twelve years of photographs and video stills that use the sky as a site for images we can’t see without a camera. The photographs flow freely between projects and are sequenced to build an experimental, symbolic relationship between the camera, the image-maker and the natural world. Throughout the book, images of the moon, stars and sun bridge the medium’s ability to verify empirical evidence and to create poetic connections between our environment and ourselves. -- From the blog interview with Sharon Harper

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