Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Best Books of 2009

2009 is drawing to a close and it was a good year for photography and art books. I had a very hard time weeding books out for this list. I see now it is a really odd mix that reflects my ever-shifting tastes.

Best Books of 2009

1. Lisboa: cidade triste e alegre
by Victor Palla and Costa Martins. I applaud this incredible reprint of the classic Palla and Martins book as the production is as impressive as the photographs. An extremely complicated book to do a facsimile and they nailed it right down to the printing, paper and binding. Plus it is very affordable considering how expensive it was to produce each copy. Do not hesitate. These will not last long.

2. Robert Frank: Looking In. Priceless. 14 years in the making. And I thought I was tired of The Americans. Get the hardcover version with all the good additional material.

3. Protest Photographs by Chauncey Hare. Great photographs, fine Steidl printing.

4. John Baldessari: Pure Beauty. This catalog from LACMA has remained my bedside reading for the past two months. Great retrospective, great book.

5. Studien nach der Natur by Jurgen Bergbauer. The charm of this certainly should have worn off by now. It hasn't.

6. Bettie Kline by Richard Prince. Love Kline. Love Bettie Page. Love Prince for putting them together.

7. Greater Atlanta by Mark Steinmetz. The third in his Southern trilogy. I wish his photos would just keep coming.

8. Novemberrejse by Krass Clement. A quiet master of beautiful photographic sequences.

9. Wald by Gerhard Richter. The best of the twelve Richter books published this year.

10. In this Dark Wood by Elisabeth Tonnard. One of my favorite discoveries of the year. I need to get her other books now.

And since I had such a difficult time choosing, here are ten runners up that should be included above...

11. Landmasses and Railways by Bertrand Fleuret

12. Nothing But Home by Sebastien Girard.

13. Overpainted Photographs by Gerhard Richter

14. Not Niigata by Andrew Phelps

15. School by Raimond Wouda

16. Nationalgalerie by Thomas Demand

17. Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archive of Robert Venturi and Denise Brown

18. Gröna Lund by Anders Petersen

19. New Topographics by Britt Salvesen

20. Ruhrgebiet by Ulrich Mack


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the list and the passion you keep on injecting in this fine blog.
Number 1 is by far one of the best and most important reprints of the last few years - absolutely essential.
Novemberrejse is fantastic, Baldessari's Pure Beauty very good. And Steinmetz so under-rated - but simply genius.

Anonymous said...

Great list, but don't think I have one of these books. Makes me wonder where I went wrong. I would like to nominate 'Flow and Fusion' by Ken Kitano, that I saw at Paris Photo...

Federico said...

I opened this post hoping you had included the latest Mark Steinmetz. The photography is amazing and he and Nazraeli have managed to put it beautifully into book form. The same can be said of the earlier two "chapters" of the work. I just hope the trilogy is only temporary -that this collection of American photographs expands into further installments.

Anonymous said...


thank you for this year's list and for sharing your knowledge and passion through yet another year with us.
The Lisboa book seems a real gem but as I looked again today the page that you link to, is not longer available!
I show yesterday that the book would become available from Dec 11th.
Any idea whether the book would be available via the major internet bookshops, or is there any other way to contact the seller?

jeff ladd said...

I just updated the link for the Lisboa book.

Anonymous said...

thank you jeff!

Pierre-Yves Racine said...


What do you think of the just released "Seven Stories" by Robert Frank ? I think it deserves to be mentioned here..

Thanks for your writing !

Sebastian said...

ceterum censeo: Wytske van Keulen "We would come to doubt Everything"

Mr. Whiskets said...


I like Seven Stories but it didn't bump anything off the list so I left it out. I will be giving that a review soon.

Mr. Whiskets said...


You're gettin all Latin on us and sh*t with your ceterum censeo.

That book is good. I bought one in LA from Markus but it didn't stick to me.

Anonymous said...

Interesting list, but some of the titles are pricey. I've followed your blog for a while and you seem to be becoming ever more obscure in your choice of books reviewed. Nothing wrong with widening the field, it's just that the price tags leap up commensurately. You get a lot of stuff for free, courtesy of publishers, but what about the bohemian collectors with hardly a coin for bread and soup. Here's a solution for later years, separate lists for beggars and bankers: 10 books under £30 (about 60 bucks) and 10 under £100. What do you say?

Mr. Whiskets said...


Yes I have become more obscure but I tend to not like most of the stuff coming from the mainstream.

That said, only four of the twenty on my list are expensive, the rest are normal prices.

When it comes to most of the books published I say buy the soup and bread.

Anonymous said...

Here's my list, albeit an Amazon merchant's, I hope Jeff you don't mind -- nor anyone else. I live in NYC so I get to thumb through a good many books. Only about a third on Jeff's lists have I come across

Drawn from the mainstream by an outsider to the art and photography world, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Tad Fancy - lesser known '70s action sitcom actor said...

You have Joel Grey on your list? Ouch. Malick Sidibe is from 2008; a great book nonetheless.... but Joel Grey? Schtick to the theatah...

Tad Fancy said...

Scoosie - maya culpa- the Malick Sidibe, released in 2008 in France but Amazon has American release date of 2009.

Anonymous said...

Was 2009 a bumper year for photo books? Most people would give a resolute no. That's the paradox: more books than ever, but fewer of note. Here's my pick anyway.

1) Andreas Gefeller, Photographs
2) Joseph Koudelka, Piedmont
3) Emmanuel Guibert & Didier
4) Lefevre, The Photographer (for it's novel mix of cartoon and photography working so surprisingly well)
5) Yann Mingard and Alban Kakulya, East of a New Eden
6) Mark Steinmetz, Greater Atlanta (the perfect finish to the trilogy)
7) Andrew Phelps, Not Niigata
8) Simon Roberts, We English (though I wish the editing had been stricter)
9) Bruce Connew, On the Way to an Ambush (a late re-edition of a gritty tale)
10) Petersen, Anders & J.H. Engström, From Back Home

Surprise of the year: Bendiksen's Satellites reaching crazy prices.

Unpretentious, cheap, literary Christmas stocking-filler: Little people in the City, Slinkachu.


a mind with no ceiling said...

It's probably best to make lists as obscure as possible, Jeff— since the main interest of these kind of lists for the people who read them is to make "finds", not to evaluate art works like a sport competition or something.
I would have put "Landmasses & Railways" upwards in the list, though ;-)

a mind with lo ceiling said...

Mind with No,

I've gotten through the night with my eyebrows uplifted with staples. Wow! What a difference! Two boxes of Aperture titles already on the street!

And not looking forward to football -- at all!

jeff ladd said...

Mind with No,

I try to make my list as honestly as I can without looking at obscurity or popularity as a gauge. It is pretty clear to me when trying to make a list which books stand out through memory and not by scanning my bookshelves for a reminder. This list is of those books.

Of course, there are dozens of books I didn't see released in 2009 which might be worthy of mention.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list, Jeff, and for all your good work this year! Really looking forward to seeing the Lisboa reprint. In the meantime, I found this pdf:

Henry Lawson Books said...

Great list, glad i found it before Christmas.