It is about this time of year that the various publishers, photographers and photobook collectors gather in wait to see which of the photobooks will be singled out as a “Best of 2010″ on somebody’s (or hopefully many) of the lists that are published by photobook reviewers (including yours truly), magazines, bloggers and other indicators of public opinion.
I am guessing that as a result of these “Best of” lists, sales might increase for those who have been crowned, perhaps that final inventory might disappear (without that dreaded “mark down” and sitting on the seconds or discount rack) and a few chosen photobooks are now “out of print”, the photobook becomes more sought after and of course the value subsequently increases in the secondary market.
I suspect that with the slight abmount of sarcasm you might realize that a “Best of 2010″ list might not be posted on The PhotoBook this year. Actually I have been thinking about this since I published my list for 2009 last year and the ensuing 12 months since. Such that as I read and reread a new photobook, lurking in the back of my mind was the thought, is this one of the best of”s for this year? Since I also had a backlog of photobooks to review from 2009, least keep up with the torrent of new titles for 2010, I was not sure that I was staying that current, so it was becoming more of “Best PhotoBooks that I reviewed this year”, not necessarily published in 2010.
This year was also a year in which I was reviewing probably as many self published photobooks as I was from the established publishers, e.g. publishers who were out there publishing someone else’s work beside their own. This year was also complicated by my stupid assignment travel schedule which limited the quantity and size of the books that I wanted to review.
All of this added up to a marvelous observation; that just about every photobook that I encountered this year has some merit, that every photographer who self-published or worked with a publisher was trying their damnedest to put together the best photobook that they could muster. Some of the photobooks were created by young spirits and early in the game, still working to find their voice and others had that wonderful maturity about them. Perhaps some were more brilliant than others in their first impression, while others needed the time to be read and reread to be better understood.
So where does this lead to, eh?
A long time back, I remember reading (Intro to Cultural anthropology?) about a Hopi (Indian Nation) tradition of their annual race. Everyone could enter and there with no limitations to age or sex. The interesting aspect was that all who finished, regarding of when, were equal winners.
To me right now, that is how I feel about anyone who has published their phtotobook in 2010, that each of you are indeed a winner. To initiate, create and develop a photographic project, to endure the process of editing, sequencing and designing the body of photographs from a conceptual form to an actual book dummy, to perhaps go through multiple submissions and rejections, then arm wrestling with the publisher to push your photobook agenda forward, or undertake the financial risks of self publishing and finally to see it in print and then find yourself on the editorial end of the reviewers. Oh my gosh, what you have been through. The ups (acceptance letter!) and downs (another rejection letter, or you don’t like my favorite photograph and you are not going to put it in my book!?) and finally let downs of completing the entire process. And yet the book is finally complete and available to us to hold, consider and enjoy. nice.
So regretfully this year I just do not see myself being able to differentiate between the many wonderful photobooks that I have seen this year (and the few that I finally finished my review) to provide a list of those I think are “The Best”. I realize that this might be a disappointment for a few photographers and publishers, and it is not because I am afraid to stick my neck out but I think you will eventually understand where I am coming from. I think that the publishing bar is already high, that the photobooks being published now are very creative and wonderful and that we will see yet many more photobooks to come this next year. And for those who did have their photobooks published this year, in my eyes you are all winners.
Warmest regards for the Holiday Season and the very best for the New Year,