PHOTOBOOKS OF NOTE 2020 - Rachael Banks
Faride Mereb/Aquiles Nazoa - The Private Life of Rag Dolls published by Letra Muerta
Admittedly, I never played with dolls or had much of an interest in them but that might change. I lack the words to adequately convey this but simply put – this book is beautifully designed. If you’re not a fan of photography, this book alone is a must-have for the quality of its design. I own a LOT of books and many of them are thoughtfully designed – this book is on a different level. While it is a book of art it is a book that is a work of art in itself. Even in 2020, there is still value in the printed book and The Private Life of Rag Dolls is the proof.
This book is for: design nerds, storytellers, poets, people who read books backward/forwards/sideways/upside down
Maude Arsenault - Entangled published by Deadbeat Club
Nepotism Alert: I like this book so much I don’t care that it is a Deadbeat Club book and that I am writing for Deadbeat Club.
First, I like how this book feels in my hands. It’s larger than most books and the images command my attention but, it’s not so heavy that I could use it to knock out a home intruder or an ex-boyfriend. Reading, handling, and viewing a photobook is a very tactile experience and I love how this book and its pages feel (you’ll just have to buy it to see what I mean). I’m new to Arsenault’s work and I appreciate this book as a very welcomed introduction. It is true that as we grow older there is much we lose or let go of but only to create space for what we gain. Arsenault’s work thoughtfully reflects on femininity, youth, and the growing pains of aging and change. I think we are all a work in progress and this book addresses that as Arsenault examines a new perspective on the portrayal of women in photography. Being a work in progress is evidence of being accepting of change (a change that can be good). I wish I met this book in a former life but I’m happy to have it now.
This book is for: 13 year old me stealing makeup samples from my mother, anyone with a mother, daughter, or sister, people with an affinity for softness or the color pink
Odette England - Keeper of the Hearth published by Schilt Publishing
Is it a photobook or a research bible? I received this book unexpectedly (thank you, Laura Moya + PhotoLucida) and I LOVE it! This book has contributions from so many wonderful photographers - Lydia Panas, Kelli Connell, Aaron Blum, Doug Dubois, Kris Graves, Cig Harvey, Sara Macel, Tierney Gearon, the list goes on… Trust me, I struggled to stop after that list of names because there is so much good work in this book and it is truly a gold mine of contributions from both gifted writers and photographers. It also features a well-written forward by Charlotte Cotton (I love sharing her books with my students) and it is perfectly suited for this new publication. While I see this book as being both a photobook and a research database...it is beautifully designed and doesn’t disappoint. This is a big and heavy book but not for show – there is a lot to unpack in this book so be prepared to spend a lot of time (or multiple days) looking through it.
This book is for: Everyone who read Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, everyone who needs to read Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, every photography student, and educator, that one (or several) photography student(s) who is freaking out about their thesis, any photographer who needs to be reminded of why we even bother to pick up a camera
David Billet and Ian Kline - Rabbit/Hare published by Deadbeat Club
Repeat Nepotism Alert: Deadbeat Club put out some great books during an exceptionally shitty year. While I found it difficult at times to be motivated about anything from changing my pants or bothering to see what day of the week it was, I am glad that photobooks were still flowing – probably at a time all of us need it the most. Clint did not coerce me into adding this book to the list but I do have a crush on Ian Kline. Bias aside, this is another really good book.
Like many of you readers, I hardly left my house this year and Rabbit/Hare by David Billet and Ian Kline provided the dose of escapism I needed from my poorly insulated basement studio. I’m a sucker for collaborative projects (do you know who Nathan Pearce is) and Billet and Kline are good friends making good work while living their best life. Yes, you can still make good, great, or even critically acclaimed photographic work while having fun! Rabbit/Hare was made on a road trip to Texas and I’m (not) sorry to inform you that this will not satisfy your desire to bear witness to every stereotype you’ve expected of Texas without visiting. Granted, some stereotypes exist for a reason and Billet/Kline don’t shy from that but they also don’t overindulge on low-hanging fruit. Many places have their inaccuracies concerning how they are portrayed for popular media (ask me about Kentucky) but, you don’t know a place until you’re there. I lived in Texas for several years and my misconceptions were quickly corrected – making the place I formerly dreaded a dear and important part of my memory. It’s not until you’re there that you can appreciate its complexities, uncover hidden truths, debunk a few myths, and quietly enjoy that some of the rumors are true. Within the pages of this book, you will find that there are cowboys, horses, parched landscapes, and the moments in between that are simultaneously fascinating and unremarkable. You can judge this book by its cover but not Texas (spoiler: neither will disappoint).
This book is for: Anyone who is used to explaining to strangers that where they are from is “not really like that,” At the Drive-In and Power Trip fans (RIP Riley Gale), every person looking for a quick escape from the reality of being stuck indoors, fans of Tim Carpenter’s writing and those who have not been graced with reading Tim’s work
Rachael Banks is a photographer and educator at Northern Kentucky University. She curated a great exhibit this year called Bound and Determined: A (virtual) Photobook Exhibition that i highly recommend you have a look at.