There were a lot of really good photobooks released in 2020 and there are many that I have not yet had the chance to see. I only picked up six this past year and not all of them are 2020 releases. I’ll share a few thoughts on these in order of book size, smallest to largest since that’s how they’re stacked in front of me.
This small form book of Meyerowitz’s work was originally published by Phaidon in 2014 and I found a used copy for a very reasonable price. Joel is my favorite photographer and while I have many other books of his already, adding this to the collection was an easy decision. It includes photos from his early street and landscape work up to the World Trade Center photos from 2001 with commentary on each. I was familiar with most and still enjoyed getting a better understanding of what Joel was thinking or feeling while making them. The nice print quality helps overcome the small size of the photos. Great pickup for the price.
I was introduced to this series as Jeff posted images to his Instagram feed. These incredibly personal yet highly anonymous views of txt messages are incredible. Apartment life, work, relationships, drugs, casual sex… nothing is left out. Unsurprisingly, the book generated some controversy and I hope it helped sales. The whole book is printed in black and white on vibrant blue paper. Maybe to mimic the blue light from a phone screen or the blue txt bubbles on an iPhone? Published by Mack, 2020.
Sunsetting is a collection of photos Jeff Masamori made in late 2019 near the end of a 10 year period of living in the Sunset District of San Francisco. It’s a wonderfully straightforward concept that showcases Jeff’s eye for light, form, and color. I’m an absolute sucker for the photos he has shared in this book and I have returned to look at them several times since receiving it late in the summer. They make me want to go back to San Francisco as soon as we can safely travel again. Self published, limited edition of only 100.
The dictionary definition of airs and graces is, “an overly superior or proud way of behaving.” I first found Shane on the Framelines YouTube channel he shares with Josh Edgoose. Shane has filled this book with classically stylish and beautiful photos of central London streetlife. Most of the photos appear to be taken with a 50mm or longer focal length, giving them a very different look than a lot of what I see in current street photography. Nearly all the images are in portrait orientation as well. I suspect there is some influence from the work of Saul Leiter in the way Shane composed these photos and in his editing. My signed copy arrived with two prints just before Chrtistmas and I’m looking forward to spending more time with it. Self published in October 2020.
Another self published book, Chilpaco is the work of Nathan Hirschler. Possibly influenced by Joel Meyerowitz’s St. Louis work, this is a collection of photos from his hometown of Chillitothe, Ohio, each featuring the bold red and white smokestack of the paper mill. This work was shot over a four month period in 2020. The smokestack is an appealing subject and Nathan has made some compelling compositions with it, many in gorgeous light. I think that the series would grow nicely if Nathan continued to develop it over several more years. I really hope he builds upon what is in the book and would be very interested to see what a second edition might look like should one ever happen. Overall though, an awfully good project and certainly more than many are publishing at just 18 years old.
This book was on my list to get since it was first available but for whatever reason, I didn’t end up purchasing it until last year and I am so glad I finally have it. The layout of the book is great and it nicely supports the images which are truly top notch. The photos were all taken between 2008-2016 and being in the city every day for that period of time really paid off. Richard has such a great eye for the streets and the moments happening that go unnoticed by so many. If you enjoy street photography, I recommend this book without hesitation. Published by Peanut Press in 2016.
Finally, I’ll make a pitch for picking up publications directly from the artist whenever possible. Four of the above six were direct purchases and five of the six are signed. Buying directly likely puts the most money in the photographers pocket and often gives you an opportunity to thank them directly. 2020 has been a really tough year for many people. If you see a book above you’re interested in or any others, go make a purchase if you can afford to. Help out an artist and get some fine photography to inspire you in 2021.