The Best Books of 2011 (self and indie published)

December 20th, 2011

This list below features a diverse and international selection of self-published and indie published photobooks from 2011 that are part of the Indie Photobook Library. My nomination for Best Book of 2011 for TIME Magazine is Iraq Perspectives by Ben Lowy. My list for photo-eye this year celebrated self-, indie, small and traditional publishers and will be published here.

courtesy of the Indie Photobook Library

(clockwise starting from the bottom left corner)

On Thin Ice, In a Blizzard
Paula McCartney
(self-published, 2011)

Once again Paula McCartney plays with our perception of what is real and what has been constructed to look real in her newest body of work about snow and ice. For fans of McCartney’s work that can’t afford her more expensive artist books, this edition – a mix of handcrafted and professionally printed – is the perfect beginning.

Ofer Wolberger
(Horses Think Press, 2011)

Wolberger explores authorship and control in surveillance photography – turning the dynamic of photographer versus subject and observer versus observed on its head. The beauty of this book is the subtlety in the face of the red stripe that runs down the gutter, deceivingly and blatantly marking the secret – brilliantly fabricated book spreads.

Unmarked Sites
Jessica Auer
(Les Territoires, 2011)

Canadian photographer Jessica Auer takes us on a quiet journey through historical sites of Newfoundland and Labrador in this very polished travelogue. The beautiful color landscape photographs of treeless tundra, rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, and small communities nestled in coves are interspersed with short journal-like entries. What led people to these places and what leads us there now?

Law and Order Gets Me Through the Night
Laura Noel
(self-published, 2011)

This title pushes the boundaries of what a photobook can be – fifty 3×2 inch individual cards, a storage box and a miniature stand constitute this “photobook” by Laura Noel. The photographs are stills from Law & Order, one of the longest-running crime shows on American primetime TV. These frozen scenes captured off the television during times of insomnia are printed onto cards through the print-on-demand service Moo. For me, successful print-on-demand books often come when the result from the company is only the start of the final piece. Noel uses what is available but puts her artistic stamp on it. Interact with the piece and create your own rotating exhibition of Law & Order images by displaying them on the included stand.

Estaría Bien Poner Un Título Aquí
Alba Yruela
(PogoBooks, 2011)

“It would be good to put a title here”? is the English translation for the title of this book. The photographs within are an opaque narrative mixed and matched from Yruela’s photographic projects that come together in book form as a stream of consciousness and exploration of the photographer’s being, awareness, friends, environment, and life. They exude a youthful freedom that most born before the early 1980s no longer have.

Jamie Hawkesworth, Adam Murray, Robert Parkinson
(Preston is my Paris Publishing, 2011)

I was introduced to the publishing trio of PPP (Preston is my Paris Publishing) through the bibliophile and co-author of The Photobook: A History, Gerry Badger. In the self-publishing and indie imprint world, word of mouth among colleagues is one of the few ways to find out about some of these titles. And with some titles, by the time you hear about them, they are all sold out. PPP’s zines and newsprints are a bargain and they all encapsulate the spirit of DIY. Derby chronicles one weekend in this town in England. No text, just photographs – a woman smoking a cigarette, a busy store parking lot, a marching band, portraits of locals, people crossing the street. A whole lot of nothing in particular, but the publication successfully portrays a place, creates interest in the mundane, and is a smart use of materials that strengthens their artistic idea.

Movements and the Iceland Trilogy
Christopher Colville
(self-published, 2011)

Christopher Colville utilizes alternative photographic processes in a fresh and contemporary way. This exquisite two-book set contains four unique but interconnected bodies of work about ancestry, ritual, and a connection to the landscape. Each is a double-sided accordian-folded photobook with cloth-covered book board attached to the beginning and the end, so as you finish one series and close the book, the back cover becomes the beginning of the next. As day fades into night and dark back into light, this immutable cycle and passage of time parallels the continuous reading of this book and speaks to a much broader human connection to history and place and the people who have been there before us and after.

Jeroen Hofman
(self-published, 2011)

Book craft and quality in the Netherlands is hard to match and Playground by Dutch photographer Jeroen Hofman is a great example from this year of what can be done. The photographs: color landscape work of the training grounds for emergency personnel and military as seen from atop a cherry-picker. The book: hard cover, two different page sizes, great design, green text, and the dust jacket turns into a poster. Every detail is thought through.

The Liminal Points Project
Nick Rochowski
(Rokov Publishing, 2011)

Rochowski’s seemingly other-worldly landscapes are devoid of people but there is a sensed presence whether from an alter reality or from ancient lore. There is also the sense that something is about to occur or of something having already taken place and the viewer is left with the afterglow. The photographs conjure up our childhood fears of being alone in the forest at twilight and take hold of our imagination.

(and ending in the middle)

16 Bilder
Rebekka Seubert
(1%ofONE Verlag, 2011)

I see this book as a poem in photographs by Rebekka Seubert of the water’s edge in winter.

The Indie Photobook Library, founded by Larissa Leclair, is an archive of self-published and indie published photobooks that showcases them through pop-up and feature-length exhibitions (most recently in China and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC), promotes them through written articles and lectures, and preserves them as a non-circulating public library. Having a specific collection dedicated to these kinds of books allows for the development of future discourse on trends in self-publishing, the ability to reflect on and compare books in the collection, and for scholarly research to be conducted in years to come.

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