Soth’s Top Ten

This is the time of the year when everyone who blogs (except me, and I’ve done it in the past) makes up their top 10 lists of something or other, and if few of the have the little bit of excitement we’ve seen in the UK in recent weeks over the Christmas number one in the pop charts (see The Day the Music was Resurrected if you’ve somehow managed to miss the story as it was presented in the Morning Star – rather more interestingly than in some other papers) they do sometimes have a little fascination. Most popular with photographers are lists of the year’s top ten photographic books, and there are quite a few of these around this year as always.

Alec Soth’s list on the Little Brown Mushroom Blog  interests me for several reasons. Of course he’s a photographer whose work I admire, but there are two particular books he lists that caught my eye. Both that are at least in part familiar.

Soth writes about Robert Adams‘s 1985 book Summer Nights, “I used to be embarrassed that the 1985 edition was one of my favorite photobooks.”  Well I’m not ashamed to say it has long been one of my favourites too, and the fact that the first edition is still available second-hand at under £20 reflects the fact it was popular as photographic books go – and I don’t entirely share Soth’s thoughts about the cover design.  Of course it isn’t the 1985 volume he is listing, but a new version of the book with extra images, Summer Nights, Walking, again published by Aperture.

I wrote quite a lengthy piece perhaps 8 years ago about a then largely forgotten body of work by Chauncey Hare, again published by Aperture, Interior America. Depending on where you buy this a copy can cost anything from around £65 to £650 (though the latter price is from a”rare book dealer”) which perhaps reflects the rather more difficult nature of his images of American domestic interiors, though I was hooked on his work as soon as I saw some images projected at a workshop by Lewis Balz.

A day or so after my feature went on line at (where of course it has long disappeared) I got an e-mail from Hare, who I think was surprised that anyone remembered his work  and was bothering to write about it. By then pursuing a different career he was uncertain that he wanted to be written about, although after a few exchanges I managed to persuade him and got his permission to add a little material about his later life to my piece.

Again, Soth isn’t listing the 1978 classic, with its elegant and sober design by Marvin Israel and Kate Morgan, but a new volume from Steidl, Protest Photographs, which includes work form both Interior America and his 1984 This Was Corporate America along with other pictures. You can see 20 spreads from the book on the Steidl site, and as Soth says “I haven’t had time to wrap my head around this tome, but it only takes a quick glance to know that this book is a killer.

I’ve not had time to look at all the other books that he lists, though I’d familiar with several – including one I think I’m most unlikely to buy or review.

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