A Short List of the Obnoxiously Undervalued Photobooks of 2021 in no particular order…
Kovi Konowiecki - And In Its Place, Another - Deadbeat Club
I have been waiting for this title to drop for a while. Kovi’s intensely lyrical investigations of portraiture coupled with his unerring eye for hinterland debris ask the viewer to imagine place, without being given definitive answers as to where the physical terrain lies, thus invoking a deep psychological deliberation of environment. It is a thought-provoking title. The images in the book are beautiful and press interesting questions for reading work as indisputable in its potential to force answers outside of the inner terrain of the artist. Nearest Truth episode forthcoming.
Matilde Søes Rasmussen - Unprofessional - Disko Bay
I have been a huge fan of this book and the model/artist whom I have spoken with for Nearest Truth. I mention model as Mathilde’s time modeling as a European “type” in China is part of the story. I find the energy, humor, and vibrancy of Mathilde’s images and text within the book inspiring. I have said this multiple times, but I do feel it is one of the closest examples of a book with this kind of energy that I have felt since Scalo was in operation.
Martin Kollar - After - MACK
A deep and ruminating investigation regarding the death by suicide of the artist’s partner Maria, herself a burgeoning and critically acclaimed filmmaker of the Slovakian scene. These images, though distinctly Kollar’s are a late collaboration of an incomplete film that the couple were to embark on before the death of Maria. Kollar is an incredibly gifted artist and his contributions to the book medium should be much more heralded and noted.
Damian Heinisch - Erde,Feuer,Wind,Wasser - Kehrer
An incredible four-volume project (not as expensive as you might think) by Heinisch, whose book 45 won the MACK first book award last year. This is a continuation of Heinisch’s interest in pan-European identity, the fragility of political tensions, and the ability for the documentary tradition to be considered as valid in an era when its form and validity is consistently challenged as an unmoored desire in regard to representation.
Jet Swan - Material - Loose Joints
I have written quite widely on this title over the past week, but think it is criminally underrated. Jet’s interest in photographing people directly outside her studio door are presented in a manner of deep psychological investigation shrouded in a low pulsing light juxtaposed with strange studies of truncated bodies that suggest a haunting presence that is offset by the confrontational gaze of the local community in front of her lens
Rita Lino - Replica - APE
I am completely biased about this title as I wrote the text in the book. This is Lino’s mature work. Her investigations of her body have reached a new level where she considers herself less as a manipulated body in front of the lens and more of as an image and an image to be controlled, manipulated and rendered in near abject terms by her own dispassionate make. There are no more tears, no more odes to flippant eroticism, no more emotions. This is the artist in full control of self, her image, and it is all screened through William Mortensen’s The Model, an odd and quirky technical book by one of the 20th Century’s most important and unloved photographers.
Nick Meyer - The Local - MACK
I really think this is an excellent book and though it got adequate play, I had expected it to go a bit harder overall if I am honest. Meyer’s book takes a hard look at his local community, its cracks and its sensual landscapes all impinged upon the years of tumult experienced towards the end of 45’s reign. The use of color is masterful and Meyer points at an America that is fragile but has not given into nihilism. I think the book is expertly edited and should be regaled as the silent potential masterpiece that it is.
Laura Bielau - Arbeit - Spector Books
A clinical, minimal, and important body of work. Bielau investigates labor and art production through extremely stripped back images of herself and her studio. It is the sort of book that is not easy at first glance, and you need to spend time with, but when it finds traction, it grips hard. Its minimalism is a huge asset. It is also important to understand scale when referring to the work. You must understand their physical size on the wall for the work to make complete sense.
Thiago Dezan - When I Hear That Trumpet Sound - Selo Turvo
Gritty as fvck. Dezan examines multi-state violence and resistance in his dark and punishing monochromatic images. It, followed by the release of Gilles Peress’ (Whatever You Say, Say Nothing) are two of my favorite books of the year for their unrelenting documentation from their respective forms of photojournalistic experience of difficult political moments. Dezan feels like an extension of Peress and it is refreshing to see a young artist hard at work embedded in the shit and fumes of the burning world.
Kata Geibl - There Is Nothing New Under The Sun - VOID
A great investigation of hyper-capitalism and how we think of it in photographic terms. I have been told that this project started out as a dissertation and ended as a completely formed photobook. The images are oddly sublime and suggest a more in-depth corroboration with the text and diagrams in the book that might not be immediately apparent. Geibel questions the value of the camera and its usage as well as the re-assessment of urban centers in our contemporary indentured moment. Geibel’s book suggests a condition of hyper-capitalism between its invisible condition and its reality. Important to note would also be João Linneu’s move to lighten the design of the VOID book covers, a move that successfully transitions the publisher from a morose and existential publisher of similarities to that of a fully evolving publisher bent on progress and not stasis.
Brad Feuerhelm is the editor of Nearest Truth and American Suburb X. His book Mondo Decay was released by Witty-Kiwi in early 2021