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2016 Best Books: Melanie McWhorter

Books Melanie McWhorter: 2016 Best Books Melanie McWhorter Selects Mexico, Come to Selfhood, and Black is the Day Black is the Night as the Best Books of 2016
Melanie McWhorter
Melanie McWhorter joined CENTER as Programs & Outreach Manager in 2016. Before CENTER and since her move to New Mexico in 1997, she managed the internationally recognized photo-eye Bookstore + Project Space. She has gained a reputation as a knowledgable photography professional; has been interviewed about photography in numerous print and online publications including PDN and NPR’s The Picture Show; has judged the prestigious photography competitions including 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 including PhotoNOLA and University of North Texas.

MexicoBy Mark CohenUniversity of Texas Press, 2016.
Photographs by Mark Cohen
Mark Cohen fully won me over to his photography with his book Dark Knees (Le Bal / Editions Xavier Barral, 2013), but each book that has been published in the last few years – Italian Riviera, Grim Street, True Color, Frame. A Retrospective – demonstrates that he continues to produce images that collectively read well in a book. Yet, each image also speaks for itself. His newest book Mexico has 200 images by Cohen that span decades, and each has Cohen's handwritten captions below the printed frame. The book is a journey through the streets of Mexico and feels somewhat nostalgic as if looking at the images of Mexico by Walker Evans or Manual Alvarez Bravo. The eye-catching yellow and green cover gets my attention, but the engaging imagery keeps my attention the rest of the way through the book.

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Come to SelfhoodBy Joshua Rashaad McFadden
Ceiba, 2016.
Come to Selfhood
Photographs by Joshua Rashaad McFadden
This is the newest book by publisher Ceiba who has produced numerous award-winning books including the newer edition of Red String and The Middle of Somewhere. Each further book that they produce has excelled in design and the combination of photography, ephemera and book-object makes their recent publication Come to Selfhood on par with past publications. Come to Selfhood is a handmade book with a deep yellow wrap-around half cover surrounding a black debossed faux-leather paper wrapper. Joshua Rashaad McFadden photographed black men, himself included. The portraits are displayed opposite a family photograph of a father or grandfather and include commentary by these men discussing personal identity in their own handwriting on insert slips of semi-opaque pieces of paper. The book is a well constructed, moving and thoughtful discussion of personal identity. It’s a book to savor.

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Black is the Day, Black is the NightBy Amy ElkinsSelf-published, 2016.
Black is the Day, Black is the Night
Photographs by Amy Elkins
Amy Elkins book Black is the Day, Black is the Night comes from a performance-based, conceptual project looking at the memories, emotions and identity of death row inmates in Texas. Elkins discovered a website on pen pals for death row inmates and started to write some of the inmates. This book presents some of the highly pixelated portraits – the lack of clarity is based on the contrast between years of freedom and years of incarceration – with double exposed landscapes noting the memory of the explorations of childhood, and other photographs or facsimiles of objects associated with the pen pal relationship and institutional incarceration. The softbound book contains the images on the right in a perfect bound book opposite the stiched text-based book on the interior left. This project, and the resulting book, is a highly emotional exploration of the solitude of death row inmates and is a very creative approach to a controversial subject. With it, Elkins reminds me of the ethereality of freedom and of our universal human need for contact especially in the face of almost unceasing solitude.

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