My Favorite Photobook Buys of 2013

DSCF2025 Rather than a list of the top ten photobooks published in 2013, I thought I'd share my favorite eleven (because, you know, not ten) photobook acquisitions of the year. Some were released this year and some have been out for a while, but are new to me. So with that, my list in no particular order:


Electric Tears and All Their Portent by Jim Mortram. Café Royal Books, 2013. Jim has a heart bigger than the English Isles and it rings true in his photographs. We can all learn a lot from him.


Twelve Nashville Waffle Houses by Tammy Mercure. TCB Press, 2013. Tammy is one of the most prolific photographers working in Appalachia and the southeast today. She's a great person and hellabookmaker. I can't wait to see what she has lined up for 2014.


Ping Pong Conversations - Alec Soth with Francesco Zanot. Contrasto, 2013. Less photobook and more conversation, this quickly became one of my favorite books of the year. I appreciate photographers who talk about their work (and I think it's important to be able to talk about your own work) and Zanot creates a space for Soth to give us important background for many of his photographs (78 to be exact).


Iris Garden - stories by John Cage and photos by William Gedney. Little Brown Mushroom, 2013. It's no secret that I'm a huge admirer of William Gedney's photographs. Paired with writing by Cage and designed by Hans Seeger, I'll never be able to reassemble this book the way it was put together (it's not bound), but whatever. It's just beautiful.


Slow Burn: A Photodocument of Centralia, Pennsylvania by Renée Jacobs. Penn State Press, 2010. I've wanted this book for a while now as I've been fascinated by the story of Centralia. When I went to Jacobs' website to look for it, I couldn't find it, but instead found some beautiful nudes. After some digging, I found a copy via the publisher. It's the epitome of what I look for in a photobook about place: maps, smart layout, and a balance of photographs by the observer and text/interviews with people in the community.


Truck Stop by Marc F. Wise. University Press of Mississippi, 1995. Hat tip to Bryan Shutmaat for recommending this one. If you don't own it, you should. I'm pretty sure an entire class could be based on this book.


Rough Road: The Kentucky Documentary Photographic Project (1975-1977) by Bill Burke, Bob Hower, and Ted Wathen. Quadrant Incorporated, 2011. Thanks to John Edwin Mason for bringing this fantastic project to my attention. I called Ted Wathen last week and ordered this amazing little book. I'm going to be chasing Bill Burke in 2014.


The Quiet Sickness: A Photographic Chronicle of Hazardous Work in America by Earl Dotter. American Industrial Hygiene Association, 1998. I'll thank Rob Amberg for introducing me to Earl Dotter's work. After I sat with this book for a while, I began to see Dotter's work everywhere. Powerful and poetic.


APPALACHIA USA by Builder Levy. David R. Godine, 2013. I've admired Builder's work for years now. He recently sent me his latest book, APPALACHIA USA, with a beautiful inscription. The miner pictured on the cover, Toby Moore, worked at the same mines (I believe) as my grandfather, Cecil May. I can't recommend this book enough.


Mitakuye Oyasin by Aaron Huey. Radius Books, 2013. Beautifully printed, designed, and bound. Be prepared to have your eyes opened to a part of America few people like to talk about, much less see. I can't thank Huey enough for guiding us there and reminding us that this country was founded at a tremendous cost, one that's still being exacted.


Excerpts from Silver Meadows by Todd Hido. Nazraeli Press, 2013. Thanks to Susan Worsham for convincing me to get THE LAST available copy at LOOK3 earlier this year and for standing in line with me to get Hido to sign it.