December 10, 2013

Favorite Photobooks of 2013

Filed under: books,Photography — John @ 10:44 pm

Hello again.

Favorite Photobooks of 2013

While I am in no position to declare what The Best Photobooks of 2013 actually are, I am able to offer a list of my own personal favorites from the year. I’m not that involved or invested in the photobook culture, and what’s more I didn’t even purchase ten new books in the past twelve months. I did get four worth sharing.
There’s no particular order but I’ll start off with a book published in late November in 2012. Close enough.


PORTRAIT 楽しい写真2 / Enjoying Photography 2
by Takashi Honma / Heibonsha / 1200 yen

A slim collection of good portraits of a beautiful woman, model Mikako Ichikawa. It would be difficult to estimate how many collections of attractive pictures of attractive women are produced each year in Japan, but this book is firmly outside the realm of the rote-gravure idols and bikini models which make up 99% of the genre. It might take time for the viewer to realize that the photos inside are ones where prints were pasted to walls and apparently re-photographed.
It’s a book of pictures of pictures.

The book’s cover announces that it is a sequel to Honma’s 2009 photo theory (text)book Enjoying Photography. The subtitle on the obi for volume 2 asks “What’s a good portrait?”

Instead of a written response the book answers this question with what appears to be Honma’s kindest or at least warmest pictures yet- although this may be thanks to his stunning subject more than anything else.


Einmal ist Keinmal / My Small Fib
by Mika Kitamura / Therme Books / 3600 yen

The December 2013 issue of Nippon Camera features a Best Of photobook review feature with the choices of several critics and writers of photography. Famed critic Kotaro Iizawa placed Ms. Kitamura’s book at the top of his list for 2013.

I wrote about the opening to the exhibition which accompanied the book (or is it the other way around?) It’s excellently made and designed in a way that makes no apologies for being intensely personal. With a very particular sense of detachment Kitamura’s images are intriguing. Hopefully her Two Sights Past series can get a similar publishing treatment in the future.


死小説  Death Novel
by Nobuyoshi Araki / Shinchosha / 1900 yen

Published late in November of 2013 this book is firmly an entry in Araki’s long-going Photo Manic series- my favorite thread of his body of work. The vertical format makes it feel somehow more novel-like, the pictures within flow along as a possible tributary headed towards the Styx.

The book’s production looks like something you’d find in a Japanese funeral home- complete with a slightly opalescent washi cover and formal script. Content remains familiarly Araki but the inclusions of Buddhist imagery, photos of newspaper obituaries and funeral announcements allude to the winter of this great artist’s life. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the inclusion of three old photographs of his father as a young man. The theme of reflection isn’t at all subtle but it is moving.


nagi no hira – fragments of calm
by Suda Issei / Toseisha / 2800 yen

There were a lot of Suda Issei books put out this year. This one, the catalog for his retrospective show at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography is going be the best bang for your buck. It’s decent all around, and bilingual as well.


A “Favorite photobook” list means that objectivism is out the window- here’s what was published through Totem Pole Photo Gallery in 2013:

Shrove Tuesday
Keijiro Kai has been visiting England for a local and traditional mob football matches for the past few years and has exhibited pictures from this series at Totem Pole and at the Nikon Salon. Get a copy here.

Ariphoto Vol.4
The fact that Shinya Arimoto‘s fourth volume of his popular Ariphoto series is already almost sold out suggests to me that a proper hardbound photobook would not only be profitable for a publisher but also make a lot of photography fans around the world quite happy. Get it here.

FREEBIES- Totem Pole Photo Gallery published two small books to accompany both of the gallery member group exhibitions in 2013.

Simply titled Portrait (June 2013) and Landscape (November 2013), they were available for visitors to the gallery to take home. Stocks have been entirely depleted- they’re gone and not available anywhere, ever again.


- Books I didn’t buy:

A whole bunch!
Leiko Shiga’s book Rasen Kaigan is huge and heavy and usually sealed in the shops. Maybe I shouldn’t have read the “B Grade Horror” comment about it before I actually found a copy that I could flip through. I see why it’s getting The List Love, but it’s not something headed for my shelves (60% due to price / 40% lack of interest).
I’m not really a Moriyama or Kawauchi fan either, so none of their work joined my collection this year.
Also, foreign/Non-Japanese books- each December I look through the Best Of lists for photobooks and simply nod along with blank eyes. I don’t follow along much what what’s going on in Europe and America. Perhaps I ought to make more trips to Shelf in Aoyama.

- Books not from 2013 which I acquired/enjoyed this year:

Joel Meyerowitz’s Wild Flowers !
Juergen Teller’s Pictures and Text !
Nobuyoshi Araki’s Silent Wishes !



  1. [...] the many more books that largely go unmentioned but that sound interesting (example). So I’ll do a _Valerian and look at Japan and not sekai (as the rest of the world is called [...]

    Pingback by swell photobooks of 2013 | microcord — December 14, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

  2. Welcome back, _valerian. Now don’t go away again, OK?

    I look through your short list and realize that the first three are completely unfamiliar. Nature’s way of telling me that I don’t spend enough time in bookstores, I suppose.

    Aside from “expensive”, any comment on Seto’s “Cesium”? (I guess it’s not really your scene. It’s not mine either, but I’m fascinated by it all the same.)

    Comment by microcord — December 16, 2013 @ 9:33 am

  3. I’ve not seen anything from that series in book form, just the prints he pins to the stairwell walls leading to Place M. What I’ve seen I don’t have any feelings for either way just yet but I can see why a book of those images would be of interest to other people.

    Comment by John — December 16, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

  4. Time permitting, I’ll go and take a third look at the Cesium book.

    When I looked at it before, at no point was I turning the pages over impatiently, muttering “Yes, yes, yet another overexposed flash photo of a rock” (or whatever): a major contrast with another oversized (and “independent”! http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/photography-blog/2013/dec/13/best-independent-photobooks-2013 ) Japanese photobook.

    The ultimate list: http://blakeandrews.blogspot.jp/2013/12/favorite-photobrooks-of-2013.html

    Comment by microcord — December 18, 2013 @ 8:13 am

  5. [...] Claxton, Microcord, Eric Gundersen, Conscientious, Tim Clark, Monsters & Madonnas, Valerian and Discipline and Disorder just to name a [...]

    Pingback by Seven Photobooks I Have Enjoyed | Prison Photography — January 6, 2014 @ 8:06 am

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