PHOTOBOOKS OF NOTE 2019 - NELSON CHAN
Tick Check by Will Matsuda, Elementary Press.
This intriguing little artist book is about love, lust, blood-sucking codependency, and the intimate reliance of strangers. Tick Check is probably one of the most sincere, tender, and funny books I’ve picked up in a long time. The pictures are seductive and with a few delightfully surprising layout shifts, the design is so well executed.
The American - Drawings of Robert Frank by Jason Polan, self-published.
This tiny little book stole the show at the 2019 NYABF and warmed the mourning heart of this Frankophile.
Notes by Alyssa Minahan, Datz Press.
People talk about “the book as object” all the time (me included). People don’t often talk about finding the right publisher for their work though. Well, if you ever wanted to see an artist/publisher match made in heaven who both really care about the book as object, look no further than this amazing debut title by Alyssa Minahan.
Passing Through, Eatin’ by Anonymous, TIP books.
I flew back to NYC just to get a slice of this. I still don’t know who made it dough...
“Who is Michael Jang?” by Michael Jang, Atelier Editions
Who, you ask? Just some Chinese American, punk rock loving, Bay Area photographer who’s debut monograph coincided with a large exhibition at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts in SF. Coming from parents who immigrated to NYC in the 1970’s, I’m the first in my family to call the West Coast home and for some reason, seeing Jang’s photos (particularly that of his family photos) was the perfect California welcome I wasn’t expecting to receive.
Sleep Creek by Dylan Hausthor and Paul Guilmoth, VOID.
I was anticipating the release of Sleep Creek more than any other title this year. These pictures are nightmarish but still beautiful and reading through this book feels like that rush you get when suddenly waking up from a fall into the abyss. This debut book of photos by two of my art crushes published by two of my other art crushes doesn’t disappoint. I would’ve been happy to fly to Paris just to buy this book, which is sorta what I did.
The Island Position by John Lehr, Mack Books.
With this book, Lehr takes me back to school with how pictures are constructed, how surfaces are rendered, interpreted, and how the world is often more nuanced than we realize. Similar to how My Life in Politics by Tim Davis made me return to Robert Frank’s The Americans, The Island Position is taking me back to Walker Evans’s American Photographs. Thanks, Professor Lehr.
China Dream by Teresa Eng, Skinnerboox.
This book explores the concepts and feelings connected to a Chinese diaspora that is often talked about, but not often seen through such a beautifully sequence of images. I look forward to spending many years with this book.
Campaign Child by Xiaopeng Yuan, Loose Joints.
Campaign Child has this “too cool for school” fine art/commercial photographer aesthetic, but I find that Yuan’s own cultural incongruity adds another layer of authenticity to this often obtuse approach to image-making. Having grown up in Hong Kong, I was surrounded by advertisements of a white utopia in a city that isn’t one, and this book is an intriguing look into the manufacturing of that falsity.
Family Car Trouble by Gus Powell, TBW Books.
After getting through its sequence, this book left me with a lump in my throat, but also with a warmness in my chest. When I get back to NYC I look forward to giving Gus a long thankful hug - all 6’7” of him.
At No Point In Between by Zora Murff, Dais Books.
Zora Murff’s meditation on systematic oppression and white supremacy has a nuanced and deeply personal approach that lets everything linger. It allows room for reflection, examination, condemnation, critique, and everything in between. I look forward to seeing the inevitable wear of the text block’s inky black edges from years of my students thumbing through it.
Zilverbeek - Silver Creek by Lucas Leffler, The Eriskay Connection.
This book is definitely conceptual, thankfully unpretentious, and has its heart in storytelling. It’s modest in page count, but still densely rich with information. Without being too meta, it’s self-referential enough to the medium of photography for almost any photography nerd to fall in love with.
Christmas Day, Bucks Pond Road by Tim Carpenter, The Ice Plant.
I may be a bit biased having this one on my list since I did the book’s production (as well as share a business with its author), but it’s damn good and speaks to the photobook’s ability to transcend a day’s worth of photographing into a compelling body of work. It’s proof that good work sometimes needs only to be measured by how long your walk was and not in years. I feel so privileged to have such intimate knowledge into the imaging-making process from this mensch.
Lucuna Park by Nicholas Muellner, Self Publish, Be Happy.
“Color correction could only do violence to this tenderness. This intimacy demands that one thing bleed into the other. Youth has no space for perspective. And neither does dying.” - This is an excerpt from Muellner’s essay, Color Correction, where he’s speaking about the colors and tones that exist in Mark Morrisroe’s work. This beautiful essay will now become mandatory reading in my advanced printing course - at the end of the semester though - after I’ve already taught my students how to remove that pesky color cast.
Family by Masahisa Fukase, Mack Books.
I often love reprints because we get to have the rare and out-of-print books that we’ve always wanted. This is certainly one of those times.
Nelson Chan is an Assistant Professor of Photography at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. He is also one of the 3 proprietors of TIS Books. Nelson has helped us out with most of the more serious books we have published... he knows WAY more then us about printing. I bet he has had some kind of involvement with a good chunk of your favorite photobooks that you own.
Photo of Nelson by: Gina LeVay