The Year of the Photobook


General Photography

This past year really has been the year of the photobook for me. I cannot remember another year where I looked at so many photobooks, bought so many of them, got so many in the mail; and what truly amazes me is how all of this resulted from me actually being not so happy about the boring conservative format that so many books employ. In the end, I decided not to leave it at that, but instead to look for what else there was to get, and to put my money where my mouth is. In parallel to all of that, I ended up going to less and less gallery shows, something I realized just a couple of weeks ago. (more)

I might of course be mistaken, and I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me, but I think on the average, gallery shows have become very safe and predictable over the past couple of years. Before the art market crashed there was more risk - and more fun - on display in Chelsea. It seems risk simply doesn’t sell right now, but somehow the pendulum seems to have swung a bit too far into the decorative, forgettable territory. Of course, I go to Chelsea to look at photography and not to buy it, so who am I to complain?

But photobooks have provided a very welcome way to get exposed to risk and fun. Mind you, publishing books itself is a big risk. But with smaller editions now easily doable, the risk has become smaller. Add to that a lot of people who won’t just publish yet another gallery-show-on-paper - the Dutch clearly have the edge in that respect right now - and the photobook market has easily become about as exciting as the internet to look at photography.

The (minor) irony here is that the internet - which according to the standard narrative will do away with printed media - has actually facilitated the spread of photobooks. This, of course, makes perfect sense, since the one challenge left for photobook makers is distribution, and I expect to see some interesting developments in that area over the next few years.

So I’m really looking forward to next year’s photobooks, especially to the many independently published gems (hopefully) to be had.