Top 10+ Photobooks of 2010 by Alec Soth

The Mushroom Collector by Jason Fulford
When this book arrived, I saw the cover and was afraid to look inside. I flipped through the first few pages and then put it down. I didn’t look at it again for days. It was everything I’d been waiting for and almost too much to handle. Now, after living with it for weeks, I can finally set aside my insane jealousy and proclaim this not only my top book of the year, but one of my all-time favorites.

La Carte d’apres Nature edited by Thomas Demand
It is rare that an exhibition catalog becomes a work of art in and of itself (see You and Me and the Art of Give and Take by Allen Ruppersberg on my 2009 list).  Based on René Magritte’s short-lived magazine of the same name, La Carte d’apres Nature is a dreamy, free-associative ramble through Monaco, Surrealism, Botanical Gardens, Luigi Ghirri’s eye and Thomas Demand’s brain. With a catalog this good, who needs the exhibition?

Family by Chris Verene
One of the masters of combining text and image, Verene’s book feels like an invitation to Galesburg, Illinois for a family slideshow. Funny, tragic and tender.

Story / No Story by Tobias Zielony
A floating, nocturnal tour around the globe of teenagers waiting for something to happen. Story / No Story perfectly captures the romantic ennui of the end of youth.

3 or 4 books by John Gossage: The Pond, The Thirty-Two Inch Ruler / Map Of BabylonHERE
What a treat to follow Gossage’s labyrinthine eye from his 25-year-old masterpiece to his utterly vital current publications. I can’t choose just one.

Fiume by Guido Guidi
If I were to make a list of my top 10 magazines of the year, #1 would be Fantom, the excellent new Italian photo magazine (or at least it would be tied for #1 with Foam, but I digress). Fatom is also in the book business. Their second offering (after an excellent Takashi Homma book) is a modest little softcover about a modest little river near Guidi’s hometown. Like John Gossage, Guidi is a photographer’s photographer who looks at the world with tremendous subtlety. Now if only someone would make a Guidi book with wide US distribution.

Yutaka Takanashi, Photography 1965-7
4 & Books on Books #6 Yutaka Takanashi: Toshi-e
A double-punch knockout of Yutaka Takanashi for photobook connoisseurs. These two books are the perfect combination of craftsmanship and scholarship.

The Sound of Two Songs by Mark Power
Just when I’m in the deepest depths of large-format, color-photo fatigue, along comes Mark Power to save the day. Power’s pictures are so good that they almost make me want to haul the 8×10 out of storage.

Picture Book by Hannah Höch
During 2010 most of my book collecting budget went toward photographically illustrated children’s books. Since most of these books are over fifty years old, they tend to be pricey. So I was enormously happy to find this inexpensive facsimile of Höch’s fantastic children’s book.

Playing Borders by Anouk Kruithof
A mixture of photos, pamplets, poscards and posters, Playing Borders is always on the verge of falling apart – as is its subject: an almost empty, generic office space in which office workers create performances and temporary sculptures. Unfortunately I recently learned that Playing Borders came out in 2009 (it took awhile for it to find its way to Minnesota). But if you want a good photobook by a young Dutch artist dealing with generic office spaces from 2010, I can also recommend How Terry Likes his Coffee by Florian van Roekel (see my list of self-published books below).

Ten self-published photo books
It is important to highlight the incredibly vibrant world of self-publishing in 2010. What I love about much of this work is that it is less about the aspiration for profundity than it is about raw energy. To use the music analogy, these books are more like live shows than albums. As such, much of this work rejects the world of traditional commerce, book awards and top 10 lists. Nonetheless, here are ten that caught my eye this year:

Procrastinations by Jack Webb
720 (Two Times Around) by Andrew Phelps
Sketches by Viviane Sassen
Repose by Charlotte Dumas
Desperate Cars by Sébastien Girard
Grown Down by Lindsey Castillo & Tuomas Korpijaakko
As It Is? In Four Chapters by Harvey Benge
Since July by Eric Ruby
How Terry likes his Coffee by Florian van Roekel
Getting to know my husband’s cock by Ellen Jong

But like all of this list-making business, it just comes down to personal taste. I encourage people to visit some of the resources out there for finding those thrilling little gems that speak to their own experience:

Happy Hunting,

PS. Only a couple of year end lists have been published so far (5b4Sean O’Hagan/Guardian) – I’d love to hear your favorites.

26 Replies to “Top 10+ Photobooks of 2010 by Alec Soth”

  1. “Amami” by Cuny Janssen. A very clever book-object.
    “Murmuration” by Rinko Kawauchi. A simple and efficient montage.
    Plus, obviously, your own work (“The Loneliest Man in Minnesota”).

  2. “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” would have to be up there. Great book and the brouhaha it created raised the interest in photobooks in general.

  3. I will be thinking about my top ten list on my return from Italy today, which I hope to post on The PhotoBook this weekend. I met with Marco Delogu this past weekend to finalize the deal on my Edizioni Punctum photobook “Douglas Stockdale: Ciociaria” to be published next Fall. More later, Ciao! ;- )

  4. (digressing) are you the Douglas Stockdale whose “In Passing”? series of roadside memorials was featured in Lenswork? well if you are, just wanna say I loved that series!

    well I don’t know about photobooks of the year, but I’d love to have these!

    1. Luigi Ghirri – Its Beautiful Here Isn’t It
    2. Harvey Benge – All The Places I’ve Ever Known
    3. Jurgen Nefzger – Fluffy Clouds
    4. Nadav Kander – Yangtze The Long River
    5. William Eggleston – For Now
    6. Jeff Brouws – Approaching Nowhere

    oh, and between “Brighton Photo Hunt” and “Broken Manual”… can’t really decide which is better…..

  5. Thanks for sharing your favorites of 2010. Who cares about Playing Borders being published in 2009. It is a great publication. I am also very curious about 720 by Phelps that is also dealing with empty office space, but it is not available any more. Another Dutch favorite of mine besides Anouk Kruithof and Florian van Roekel is PERCEEL NR. 235. Encyclopedie van een volkstuin [Plot No. 235. Encyclopedia of an Allotment] by Anne Geene. I do not full understand why the text is only in Dutch, but the text is not that important. Conditions by Andrés Marroquín Winkelmann is also one of my favorites of 2010 and another small publication I liked very much is Studio by Harry Watts. Finally, French newspaper Le Monde also published a photo book top ten [].

  6. I’ve heard rumors of both Loosestrife and Hatje Cantz doing books in 2011. It will hopefully be the year of Guidi.

    (Good luck cleaning those nasty turds out of your litter box).

    1. Hi,
      in the last number of FOAM magazine there’s a little article by Gerry Badger about a photograph by Guidi. In it, Badger says he’s writing an introduction to “A map of Italy”, a new Guidi’s book. I suspect there’s a connection to the Loosestrife rumor……

  7. Hello Alec:

    My top 10-2010 (with a certain Dutch flavour…)

    Krass Clement: Paris: Carnet de Recherche
    Cuny Janssen: My Grandma was a Turtle
    Henk Wildschut: Shelter
    Rob Hornstra: Empty land, Promised land, Forbidden land
    Tobias Zielony: Story, No Story
    Takanashi: Photographs 65-74
    André Thijssen: Fringe Phenomena
    Richard Misrach: Destroy this Memory
    Sebastien Girard: Desperate Cars
    and yous: broken Manual.

    all the best, Ruud

  8. And another list (mostly random):

    Miyako Ishiuchi, Sweet Home Yokosuka 1976-1980
    Ari Marcopoulos, The Round Up
    Cuny Janssen, My Grand Ma Was A Turtle
    Stephen Gill, Coming Up For Air
    Takuma Nakahira, For a Language to Come
    Han Chao, Rhapsody For My Wretched Little Universe
    Greg Girard, In The Near Distance
    Masashi Asada, School Road
    Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey, Spring Journey
    Andreas Laszlo Konrath, So alone I keep the wolves at bay

  9. Since Jeff’f cat seems to know, I think we can let the Loosestrife Editions book list out for Spring of 2011.

    A New Map of Italy, by Guido Guidi
    Springfield by Michael Abrams
    San Francisco in the 21st Century by Tisa Walden
    The Actor,
    She Called Me by Name, both by John Gossage.

    Should be printing about March in China.

    the Loosestrife cat

  10. Mark Power’s The Sound of Two Songs is up there for me too. I admit I’m suffering from large format fatigue as well but this book really grabbed me. Broken Manual is another on my list, as is Robert Frank’s reissue of Black, White and Things – I can’t get enough of that book, it was the first series of photos that really sparked my imagination. And you’ve got to love The Little Prince quote: “It is only with the heart one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

  11. Your list is great. But what about the just-released Photo-eye Books of the Year list? Not one but two, including #1? Congratulations! Broken Manual is one of my all-time favorites.

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