If you read this blog, you might know that am a big fan of Ron Jude. He takes great photos and is a very nice guy. He also has pretty darn good taste in photobooks. I asked Ron to share his best books for 2008. Here is what he had to say:
I’m a big fan of photo books. In fact, I typically prefer them to exhibitions. However, as is the case with so many things in my life, I’m not very organized about how I go about collecting books. I’m not a big reader of blogs, and I don’t keep a list of things I need to get as soon as they’re released. I order books online occasionally, but I usually prefer to hold a book in my hands and get to know it in a tactile sense before I lay down $50 or $60 dollars for it. This means that by the time I end up buying a book, it’s usually already been around for a few months, sometimes a few years. This delayed and haphazard strategy means that I’ll inevitably miss out on a few things—like Paul Graham’s A Shimmer of Possibility, since there was a feeding frenzy when it was released. (I guess I’ll get the $65 SteidlMack version.) I’m usually drawn to buying books with lower profiles anyway, so I’m okay with missing out on a few blockbusters. Books that are over $80 or $90 when they’re brand new and still in print I usually won’t buy out of principal. I know high-quality photo books are expensive to produce, but the book format for me is principally about allowing a broad audience access to the work, not just the same people who are probably also buying editioned prints from the photographer’s gallery. (I have a few books in my collection for which I broke this rule, like John Gossage’s brilliant Hey Fuck Face, but not many.) So, with this disclaimer in mind, I’ve compiled my list of the “top-nine photo books of 2008”. Only five of which were actually published in 2008—three were put out in 2007, and one in 2006, but I got them in 2008. (Dumb, I know.) All but two of these books are photo books that crossover into the realm of “artist’s books,” which is the kind of book I have a particular fetish for. I think the biggest challenge in book publishing, especially with so many “indie” presses out there these days, is making quality books that rely on good simple designs and strong, yet understated concepts, without huge budgets.
1. As Far As I Could Get by John Divola. Published by Farewell Books, Gothenberg, 2007. This, to me, is damn near a perfect book. (And it cost $10!)
2. Empty Frames by John Clayman. Published by MOT International, London, 2006. Right up my alley: utterly esoteric and mind-numbingly obtuse. What a great book! This one made me giddy when I first picked it up at Printed Matter in New York, and like any truly good book, I keep going back to it and it continues to engage me.
3. Dirt Land by Peter Sutherland. Published by Gallery White Room, Tokyo, 2007. The prolific Peter Sutherland has renewed my faith in photography. Awesome book.
4. Streets and Trails by Bernhard Fuchs. Published by Hassla Books, New York, 2008. A quiet, beautiful book that completely refreshes the Düsseldorf aesthetic. (Bernhard tells me that Walther König is going to publish another book of this work in the spring. Get this understated version while they’re still in print!)
5. Nina Pohl by Nina Pohl. Published by Snoeck, Köln, 2007. A high-end monograph (exhibition catalog, actually), with an artist’s book sensibility. Fantastic design, beautiful reproductions, and very smart photography. (Thanks to Tricia Gabriel for putting me on to this one.)
6. The Marine Layer by Peter Holzhauer. Self-published, 2008. Peter Holzhauer is a fantastic photographer from L.A. who seamlessly blends traditional, large-format aesthetics with complex conceptual strategies. Really smart work, and a successfully nuanced sequence for the book version of this project.
7. Heart Shaped Hole by Charlotte Dumas, Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam, 2008. Charlotte Dumas has a deceptively simple program that builds on itself very effectively with each subsequent read. I recommend buying all of her publications and sitting with them for a while. Really beautiful, simply designed books, masquerading as catalogs. (The reproductions are outrageously good, too.)
8. The Chance is Higher by Ari Marcopoulos. Published by Dashwood Books, New York, 2008. I know, I know, another book by Ari Marcopoulos… This is one instance when I’m a sucker for fancy design. This is a solidly conceived of book by David Strettell at Dashwood, and designed by Gavillet & Rust in Geneva. A really beautiful object that is carefully balanced with Marcopoulos’ tough, Xerox-copied, photographs. A great book. (Coming in right at my cut-off price of $85.)
9. Photographs by Jason Polan and Michael Worful. Self-published, New York, 2008. An un-ironic blend of earnest sentiment and transcendent humor. A really fantastic, staple-bound book of 18 photographs.