10×10 American Photobooks27 April 2013
After the well-deserved success of last year’s 10×10 Japanese Photobook exhibition, the International Centre of Photography and the Photobook Facebook Group are working together again, this time celebrating the American Photobook. 10×10 American Photobooks will include events in NYC, an online presence and a printed catalogue, and will culminate in a photobook reading room at the Tokyo Institute of Photography.
Visit the 10×10 website to see the full list of events.
I’m honored that I was invited to be involved in this year’s project, and I hope that I have contributed something of value to the discussion on contemporary American Photobooks. The organizers asked contributors to select ten titles produced by American photographers, released in the last 25 years, and to be sure to acknowledge books that have been produced by independent publishers.
Somewhat daunted by the task at hand, I applied more specific criteria: to select one title for every year, from 2003-2012. The omissions in this selection are glaring, and compromise had to be part of my process; surely any discussion on American photobooks of recent years should include Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood, the somber nocturnal meanderings of Todd Hido or the considered observations of Shore, Sternfeld and Epstein. However, I’d like to think that this is a collection of compelling and thoughtful titles that successfully unite the various elements of photobook production, while challenging the medium’s restraints – American photobooks that are affecting, influential and treasured objects.
Previews of all ten books will be posted on the bookshelf page of Claxton Projects over the next two months.
10×10 American Photobooks Statement
Ten photobooks, each the work of an American photographer, published in the last ten years, and chronologically ordered by year; the following selection reflects the compelling and eclectic vision of a small group of inquisitive and thoughtful American artists, and a selection that is mindful of lesser known titles and releases from independent imprints.
American culture is confident, self-assured and its influence is all consuming– but as an outsider living in the United States, it has always been the lives of those on the extremities of the American dream (and the social contradictions to this concept) that I have found most compelling. As a result, nostalgia and romanticism are largely absent from this list and although there is evidence of the American dreams ideals, they are predominantly tarnished and unfulfilled.
However, this is not a miserable inventory of an empire’s damned and hopeless. In the exquisite beauty of Raymond Meek’s Crime Victims Chronicle, the intense exploration of gender in Collier Schorr’s Jens F, or the empathetic discovery of the everyday in Mark Steinmetz’s South Central –something more reassuring resonates from within this selection.
These photobooks all have one critical characteristic in common: insightful and intelligent artists have produced them. They are photographers who use the tools of their medium to enquire, reflect and provoke, and have produced works that compel the viewer to question both the subject documented and the social landscape of our surroundings.
1. Michael Abrams, Welcome to Springfield (Loosestrife Editions, 2012).
2. Malerie Marder, Carnal Knowledge (Violette Editions, 2011) – Preview
3. Raymond Meeks & Deborah Luster, Crime Victims Chronicle (Silas Finch, 2010).
4. Michael Schmelling, The Plan (J&L Books, 2009) – Preview
5. Ken Schles, A New History of Photography (White Press, 2008).
6. Jessica Dimmock, The Ninth Floor (Contrasto, 2007).
7. Mark Steinmetz, South Central (Nazraeli, 2006).
8. Collier Schorr, Jens F. (SteidlMACK, 2005) – Preview
9. Paul Shambroom, Meetings (Chris Boot, 2004) – Preview
10. Taryn Simon, The Innocents (Umbridge, 2003).