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Best Books 2015: Melanie McWhorter

Best Books 2015 Best Books 2015 Melanie McWhorter 2015 Best Books picks from Melanie McWhorter.

By Mathijs Labadie
Thomas Eyck

This oversized book is a document of conceptual cataloguing work by artist and designer Christien Meindertsma and photographer Mathijs Labadie of the raw materials and by-products of a municipal waste plant. The book provides a scientific, cultural and artistic inquiry into the final story of our raw and consumer materials through a full diagram of the incinerator, exterior landscape images, and the details of the burned materials shot on stark white backgrounds. This description makes the final product sound quite lackluster, but the slightly oversized, well-conceived object is one to behold.
By Paul Kooiker
Art Paper Editions

This chunky book of 336 pages is wrapped in green cloth and stamped with the title in silver foil in three different fonts, one for each word. Each image is catalogued with N (for nude), A (for animal), and C (for cigar) and the next sequential number and follows the pattern N, A, C until the final plate of C63. It is a very exhaustive look at some of of Kooiker’s twenty-year career that coalesces in a book with a simple and thematic concept with three of the recurring subjects. I find this book quite charming and a bit funny.
By Phillip Toledano
Dewi Lewis

This book is a revisiting by Toledano of the memories and found objects associated with the childhood death of his sister Claudia at the age of nine. Toledano photographs objects tucked away from Claudia’s childhood collection. The still-lifes also document the light as it moves across the background and this movement brings to mind the cycle of life. The black background and black pages remind us of the colors of mourning while the objects celebrate the preciousness of life. The intimate design forces the viewer to engage and ruminate on the universal themes of love, survival and loss that the subject prompts us to consider.
By Jesse Burke
Daylight Books

I have been a fan of Jesse Burke’s work for years since his projects Low, portraits of homeless men in contrast with still-lifes of weeds, and the book Intertidal, a project that he states, shows the “delicate balance that exists between the heroic idea of masculinity and the true reality of men.” His new book Wild & Precious explores another male relationship, that of a father. We get a glimpse into the explorations of Jesse and his daughter Clover. Like many of his projects, this is another chapter in the autobiography where gender roles and nature play a major part in the grounded, yet wild drama of his life. The variation of the plate sizes and mixing of color and black-and-white images make the book captivating.
By TR Ericsson
The Cleveland Museum of Art

This book made the shortlist of the 2015 Aperture Paris Photo Prize for best catalogue and no offense to the final winner, but I am quite surprised that it did not take home the final honor. The book tells the story of TR Ericsson's relationship to his late mother. It presents a timeline of her life in photographs, documents, writings, film stills and artifacts. The object could be simply a means of personal catharsis, yet the book is deserving of all the praise as an extraordinary photobook.
By Barbara Bosworth
Radius Books

The Meadow is a multi-year study of The Greenough Property near Carlisle, Massachusetts by photographer Barbara Bosworth and writer Margot Anne Kelley. The texts are printed on delicate, creamy white inserts, slightly shorter than than the illustrated pages, and are placed after a few of Bosworth’s images. The book finishes with an appendix divided into chapters of Ants, Bird Doors, Bird Walks, Foraged Food Table, Lichens, Mushrooms and Pebbles. The book more than fairly displays Bosworth’s wonderful photos of the meadow with many of the images almost reaching the edges of the 12" tall book. It also includes an insert of a 1794 survey with a 2014 Google Map overlay and a book of erasure poems by Kelley inserted into a slit in the back dust-jacket. The complexities of this project are handled masterfully in the book’s design and packaging.
By Kurt Simonson
Flash Powder Projects

First, the simulated paneling printed on the wrapped cloth and the close-up shot on a knitted afghan printed on the front and rear endpapers set a mood for this book before even getting to the content. The introduction is in Kurt Simonson’s own hand with a facsimile letter tipped-on to the book page describing memories and objects he found in and around grandmother’s home. He shows portraits, interiors and landscapes illustrated with photos of pages from his grandmother’s hand-noted Bible painting a picture of his life in rural Minnesota. It is a sweet little book for the new imprint Flash Powder Projects.
By Jason Vaughn
Trema Förlag

The images in hide simply present exterior shots of deer stands at varying distances in the Wisconsin landscape. There is little text aside from the title page, a colophon and a brief introduction of the book by the photographer about the work, the project’s halt because of a cancer diagnosis and how the photographs took on a much deeper cultural and personal meaning after the terrible news. The book is modest, but not devoid of layers of complexity within its personal meaning and the purpose and symbolic nature of the deer stands and the residents' connection to the Wisconsin land.
By Sachiko Kawanabe
Super Labo

Sachiko Kawanabe’s sononite (Japanese for “at the orchard”) measures about 6x9" and is wrapped in paper with a reproduction of one of her images of an apple tree on the cover. Her photographs of the orchard are a two-year long project among the apple trees often with the accompaniment of her four-year-old daughter. She shot them during the time of declining health and eventual death of her grandmother. Printed in color offset, the square images sit perfectly on white pages and the lead on a journey from the snows of winter into the ripe fruit trees of summer. It is sweet and very nicely printed.
By Peter Mitchell
RRB Publishing

When I first saw this book, I thought it was a stretch. I did not like the photographs of scarecrows beside images of ephemera from Mitchell’s life. The images of the scarecrows are great in themselves: they are just good and engaging photos despite the subject. I kept coming back to it. The cover with his silver foil stamping and deep blue: I assume a star chart, that reads like a foreign language to me. I came back to it and now I am a lover of the juxtaposition. Without the contrast, the book would be too simple. It is good as it is.

Melanie McWhorter has managed photo-eye's Book Division for 18 years and is a contributor to the photo-eye Blog. She has been interviewed about photography in numerous print and online publications including PDN, The Picture Show and LayFlat, has judged the prestigious photography competitions Women Photojournalists of Washington's Annual Exhibition and Fotografia: Fotofestival di Roma's Book Prize, has reviewed portfolios at Fotografia, Photolucida, Review Santa Fe and PhotoNOLA, and taught and lectured at numerous venues.

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