Book Reviews / Featured / December 4, 2019

By Elin Spring and Suzanne Révy

Here we are again, at the close of another year. Time to reflect on past events, prepare for the holidays and wrack our brains for wonderful gifts. In our humble opinion, great photo books make terrific presents! We’ve reviewed the offerings for 2019, many of which we found to be as tumultuous as world events and frankly bleak. You will not find those here. Instead, we feature an array of subjects in both new monographs and retrospectives that consider compelling matters with a big dose of humanity and a modicum of hope. We also include a listing of all the books we’ve found significant enough to review in the past year, most of which were also published in 2019 or fairly recently. For your convenience, ALL books have a link for further information or purchasing.


Midlife by Elinor Carucci (The Monacelli Press)

If the pervasive American peddling of manufactured glamor leaves you deflated, Elinor Carucci’s “Midlife” will seem like a breath of fresh air. In unsparing yet compassionate portraits of herself and members of her family, Carucci’s searching, sensuous imagery confronts the pathos, and yes, humor of that infamous transition most try to conceal.


Italian Views by Gail Albert Halaban (Aperture)

Gail Albert Halaban continues to whet our natural and seemingly inexhaustible curiosity for seeing how others live in her “Italian Views.” A continuation of the “Out My Window” series, this time with glorious Italian backdrops, Halaban’s expansive frames invite us into intimate relationships inside homes, realistically-staged in complicity with their actual inhabitants. The effect is mysterious, inviting and endlessly mesmerizing.


hyle/curtain/backdrop by Anni Leppälä (Kehrer)

This delightful softcover book guides readers through a poetic journey of landscape, light, texture and wit. Readers seamlessly move between pages of varying sizes and transparencies to reveal or conceal deeper color and changing patterns through a delectable dance. This is, quite simply, a lovely visual dream. 


Allowed to Grow Old by Isa Leshko (University of Chicago Press)

Through respectful, eye-level engagement with sanctuary farm animals, Isa Leshko’s “Allowed to Grow Old” dignifies the gift of life without sentimentalizing its aged subjects. While the text offers strongly worded advocacy, Leshko’s lush, tactile B&W portraits pull at heartstrings through their elegant simplicity.


At No Point In Between by Zora J. Murff (Dais Books)

Murff tackles the charged subject of institutional racism and police brutality through a small elegant indictment of a book that is by turns beautiful and disquieting. Combining ephemera and stunning imagery alongside brief but pointed writing, it asks readers to consider the violent and inequitable systems that have flourished in this country.


Mexico by Philip Perkis (Anmoc) 

The second book by Perkis published with Anmoc press in South Korea since 2016, Mexico is a subtle journey in a spiritual country as seen through the eyes of a curious wanderer with a keen sense for the emotional tenor of a place. His pictures draw the reader to look longer and deeper and to slow their pace through a masterful sequence. 


Taken from Memory by Sheron Rupp (Kehrer)

Searching for a sense of memory and self, Sheron Rupp turns her attention to the threshold  between our private and public spaces: the back and front yard. Photographing in New England and Ohio, Taken from Memory brings together an impressive portfolio of warm color images that reveal the natural and relaxed light of summer and a sense of belonging for both photographer and subject.


Animals by Sage Sohier (Stanley Barker Books, London)

Incredible, hilarious, touching – and sometimes all at once – Sage Sohier’s deadpan B&W images in Animals chronicles the human attachment to the non-humans who share their homes. People with their dogs, cats, rabbits and more exotic pets like pigs and snakes are caught in sometimes chaotic exposures that are as wonderfully revealing as they are captivating.


I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating by Alec Soth (Mack)

Soth returns to large format portraiture with this work, which also includes interior spaces bathed in soft light and neutral palettes. These portraits lack the tension or edge of his earlier work, yet they revel in a tranquil intimacy that draws viewers into the loving embrace of compassion and empathy for his subjects and the spaces they fill. 


Brooklyn: The City Within by Alex Webb & Rebecca Norris Webb (Aperture)

An ode to their home for the past two decades, “Brooklyn: The City Within” is another melodic collaboration between Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. As Alex finds the pulse of Brooklyn’s unique neighborhoods in the vibrancy of its streets, Rebecca evokes the halcyon reprieve of its parks, gardens and cemeteries in a two-part harmony of lyricism and pure visual pleasure that ultimately transcends place and captures the human spirit.




Portraits of Modernity by Berenice Abbott (Fundación MAPFRE)

This large volume is a true compendium of Abbott’s long, illustrious career with comprehensive coverage of the three areas of modernist photography for which she’s best known: portraits, NYC architectural and street photography and scientific photography from her late days at MIT.


Keith Carter Fifty Years (University of Texas Press) Essays by Rosellen Brown and A.D. Coleman

This retrospective collection of the Texas-based photographer is a handsome and heavy book with rich reproductions. Readers are treated to an autobiographical essay that reveals Carter’s childhood introduction to photography through his mother and his self-education on a trip to New York City in the early 70’s. This visually poetic – but not chronological – sequence of Carter’s photography includes familiar images alongside lesser known work, including photograms and two striking portraits of his late wife.


Moyra Davey By Moyra Davey, Brian Sholis, Ben Lerner, Élisabeth Lebovici and Eric Rosenberg (Steidl/Scotiabank Photography Award) 

Since 2010, Scotiabank has given an award to a mid- to late-career Canadian artist to recognize past achievement and to allow that artist’s work to rise to the next level of national and international attention. Last year’s winner was Moyra Davey, and this year her work was published in a large retrospective book that covers all aspects of her oeuvre, from photographing newsstands and microscopic views of pennies to her writing on motherhood and art. 


Light Break by Roy DeCarava (David Zwirner Books)

Roy DeCarava married his superb intuition and compositional artistry with a distinctive print development technique that drew out an “infinite scale of grey tones” which served to amplify his lyrical view of the black American experience, from NYC streets and parks into the jazz clubs of Harlem. This comprehensive book represents the full arc of DeCarava’s gorgeous work.



VIEWPOINTS: Photographs from the Howard Greenberg Collection by Kristen Gresh and Anne Havinga (MFA, Boston)

Created in celebration of MFA, Boston’s acquisition of the Howard Greenberg Collection, a “hit parade” of the 20th century’s most memorable photographs, this superb volume features 85 B&W photographs distinguished not only by the cultural significance and emotional power of the images but by the physical qualities of the prints themselves, a trait reflecting Greenberg’s appreciation for and access to significant photographic objects. The emotional and social impact of the photographs is contextualized by the MFA’s eloquent curators Kristen Gresh and Anne Havinga, along with a section by Howard Greenberg himself, making this standout collection one you’ll cherish in your library.


Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico by Kristen Gresh with an essay by Guillermo Sheridan (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

This handsome exhibition catalog is organized into nine categories of work by the famed Mexican photographer. We are treated to contact sheets and rich reproductions of Iturbide’s portraits, landscapes and striking decisive moments which reveal the contradictions and tensions between the traditional rites and rituals among an increasingly modern country. 


Beyond Architecture by Michael Kenna (Prestel)

Michael Kenna is such a prolific B&W landscape photographer that it might feel easy to dismiss yet another collection of his work, but don’t. This 20-year retrospective focusing on Kenna’s architectural photography is a unique treatise on the grand ways that we shape our environment, with delightful cross-talk between representational and abstract images that draw apt analogies to the natural world.


A Way of Seeing By Helen Levitt with an essay by James Agee with an afterword by Marvin Hoshino (Film Documents LLC)

Originally published in 1965 as a small, compact book, this seminal series of photographs was redesigned the early 80’s and again in the late 80’s as larger books. However, this recent reissue returns the work to a smaller format and reclaims several images into the sequence which Levitt had abandoned in the 1980’s versions. It closes with a note from the editor, Marvin Hoshino, which offers a publication history and anecdotes about Levitt and her collaboration with James Agee, who wrote the introduction. 


Minkkinen by Arno Rafael Minkkinen (Kehrer Verlag)

Recent gold winner of the 2019/20 German Photo Book Award, this 50-year retrospective features both famous and unpublished works by the ingenious Finnish-American photographer. Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s sometimes precarious and always imaginative nude self-portraits in nature are instantly recognizable: magical, surreal and cunningly humorous.


Bea Nettles: Harvest of Memory Edited by Jamie M. Allen and Oliva Lahs-Gonzales with additional texts by Bea Nettles and Amy Powell (University of Texas Press)

Known for her hand-made photographs, books and photographic tarot cards, this exhibition catalog spans fifty years of artist Bea Nettles’ career. Co-organized by the George Eastman House and the Sheldon Art Galleries, this prolific artist uses alternative processes and imagery from self-portraits, the human form in relation to nature, and issues around mothering, aging and loss. The exhibition, currently on view at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis, MO will travel to the Eastman Museum in 2020. 


Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker by Sarah Kennel (Peabody Essex Museum/ University of Washington Press)

This lovely book, published in conjunction with a retrospective exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum, traces the inventive forty-year career of still-life photographer Olivia Parker. Beautifully reproduced photographs are accompanied by lively essays and commentary that contextualize how Parker’s joys, mishaps and tragedies spurred an ongoing series of photographic adventures that comprise her visually rich and rewarding archive.


Ezra Stoller: A Photographic History of Modern American Architecture (Phaidon)

For those of us who love photography and architecture, there is no one who beats Ezra Stoller, the legendary photographer who elevated mid-century modern architecture to an art form and put a generation of architects on the map. This comprehensive survey of Stoller’s exquisite work, tapping a previously unpublished archive, is a must-have.




Read our comparative book review “Winter’s Silent Songs”: https://whatwillyouremember.com/transcendental-concord-lisa-mccarty-may-days-dana-mueller-upstate-tema-stauffer-nothing-falls-away-meg-griffiths-eliot-dudik/

Transcendental Concord
by Lisa McCarty
Preface by Rebecca Norris Webb
Essay by Kirsten Rian
Published by Radius Books

May Days
by Dana Mueller
Published by Fraction Editions

by Tema Stauffer
Forward by Xhenet Aliu
Essay by Alison Nordström
Published by Daylight Books

Nothing That Falls Away
by Meg Griffiths and Eliot Dudik
Published by Zatara Press


Raad our comparative book review “The Shapes of Water”: https://whatwillyouremember.com/water-by-adam-fuss-littoral-drift-ecotone-by-meghann-ripenhoff-the-state-of-water-by-brad-temkin-floridas-changing-waters-a-beautiful-world-in-peril-by-lynne-buchanan/

Water by Adam Fuss with an essay by Carter Ratcliff
Published by Damiani, 2018

Littoral Drift+Ecotone by Meghann Riepenhoff
Texts by Charlotte Cotton and Joshua Chuang
Co-published by Radius Books and Yossi Milo Gallery, 2019

The State of Water by Brad Temkin
Conversation with Anne Wilkes Tucker
Published by Radius Books, 2019

Florida’s Changing Waters: A Beautiful World in Peril
Photographs and text by Lynne Buchanan
Essays by Jason M. Evans and Robert L. Knight
George F. Thompson Publishing, 2019

Elin Spring

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Best Photo Picks December 2019


on December 5, 2019

Thoughtful and heartfelt choices for your list.

on January 14, 2020

It would be wonderful to own each of these listed books but the one I would most like to own is Animals, Photographs by Sage Sohier. Sohier shows the love and the humor of people with their animals – it would be fun to look at these photos at any time. Humor is good, especially these days.

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