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Best Books 2013: Darius Himes

Best Books 2013 Best Books 2013 Darius Himes Best Books picks from Darius Himes Director of Fraenkel Gallery.

By Alexis Fabry
RM/Toluca Editions

One of the most important developments in our field over the past 15 years has been the bringing to light of photographic histories of people outside the standard American/European canon. This has been achieved primarily through the diligent efforts of numerous historians, and aided, in no-small part, by cheaper airfare and the Internet. 
By Jason Fulford
The Soon Institute

Jason's entire photographic career has been devoted to the printed page and an intelligent, playful exploration of how we can learn, and problem solve, through pictures. He only gets better with time. Hotel Oracle comes with an open invitation to several carefully crafted experiences (spread out across various American cities). When has the potential of photography and books ever been so joyously embraced and shared with so many?
By Christopher Anderson

Anderson's closely cropped portraits of American politicians caught in the act of giving their "stump speeches" is a visual tour de force. Anderson enhances the effect by including formally identical portraits of audience members, a syrupy dose of color to balance out the intense, sweaty, grainy black and white images. Helmar Lerski's portraits made in the first part of the 20th century come to mind, but Anderson's feel more like a slap than a caress. Powerful.
By Todd Hido
Nazraeli Press

I became aware of Todd’s work through his first book House Hunting. The photographs depict lower middle class homes and small town motels mostly shot at night. There are lights shining from within, and the occassional solitary street light illuminates a dirty pile of snow, a broken down car, a fenced in yard. As viewers, we’re neither too close nor too far from the apparent subject. There are no humans depicted in House Hunting. Over subsequent volumes (Hido has published roughly 6 monographs), portraits of people, mostly women, crept into the work. Excerpts from Silver Meadows is a full-blown masterpiece of photographic noir, rife with suggestion; place is as much a central character as the women who make appearances and then fade in the rear-view mirror. We are in 'the vicinity of narrative' — a fictional narrative, in my view — without being told the story.
By John Gossage
Harper's Books

Gossage has cultivated one of the most original photographic voices of the past 25 years. He stands as a contemporary of (in descending chronological order) Eggleston, Shore, and Parr; he stands next to, but apart from them in voice but not concerns. He is a photographer of the everyday, the banal, the passed over, the ordinary (with Parr as the photographer of the obvious. See the book Obvious & Ordinary from a few years ago). Gossage is in also deeply devoted to and engaged with the photobook as a medium and is a deft editor and designer (along with being a collector and publisher).
By Alec Soth

Why is this book so important? Alec himself said it best on his blog.

"There are so many things I love about this book:

1) Nobody knows my work better than the Italian critic and curator Francesco Zanot. This book-length conversation is richer than any other interview I’ve ever done. Everyone who’s read it (a couple friends, mom & dad) loves it. It is a wide-ranging, unpretentious, funny and surprising. Francesco’s introductory essay is also a killer.

2) The book’s 78 photographs are wonderfully surprising. While a number of my best known photographs are in the book, there are tons of obscure pictures from my archive that aren’t online anywhere else. The printing is also rock solid."
By Oliver Chanarin and Adam Broomberg

Hands down the most sober (and inspired, and connected to the history of the medium) artists and project included in this years' New Photography 2013 at MoMA, Broomberg and Chanarins' The Holy Bible took Bertolt Brecht’s personally annotated and collaged Bible as a starting point. They have overlaid politically charged images of violence, gathered from the Archive of Modern Conflict, inside the pages of a King James Bible. The result is electrifying and a cause for contemplation.
By Lieko Shiga

Two years ago in Paris I picked up a smaller, earlier version of the work in this book. The text was all in Japanese and I couldn't tell if these were photographs from an alternate universe, the work of a Photoshop wizard, or something born from some secret pagan ritual witnessed by a lost graduate student. In other words, I was confused. I was also mesmerized and the images stuck with me. This year, a full monograph was published and the photographers' residence in one of the villages hit hardest by the Fukushima disaster became clear. This is powerful work by a young artist employing photography to address a situation of deep emotional, spiritual, environmental consequence.
By Ruth Van Beek
RVB Books

Collage and the absurd were made for each other; in the case of Ruth van Beek, they go hand-in-glove. This is the second book by Dutch artist van Beek, who uses "how-to" manuals and guides from the middle of the 20th century as her primary source material, making elegant cuts and snips serve her playful purposes. As with any good collage, the world as we know it has been twisted, broken-up and reconfigured to teach us something new, and point the way towards a newly imagined future. With van Beek, that process is surprisingly simple and full of pleasurable surprises.
By Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs
Kodoji Press

Kodoji Press has released an enigmatic book of mysterious images coupled with excerpts from Polish sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem. Onorato and Krebs are an experimental duo who deservedly won the Paul Huf Award for 2013 (I was a juror). Light of Other Days only increases their influence.

Darius Himes is Director of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. Prior to that, he was a co-founder of Radius Books, a non-profit publisher of books on photography and the visual arts, where he continues to serve on the Board. He was founding editor of photo-eye Booklist, a quarterly magazine devoted to photography books, which ran from 2002–2007. A lecturer and writer, he has contributed to Aperture, Blind Spot, Bookforum, BOMB, PDN, and American Photo. In 2008, he was named by Photo District News as one of the fifteen most influential people in photography book publishing. His most recent title, Publish Your Photography Book, co-authored with Mary Virginia Swanson, was released by Princeton Architectural Press in the Spring of 2011. An updated 2nd edition will be published in the Spring of 2014.