Photobooks of 2019: Simon Baker

Busy Living

Photobooks of 2019: Simon Baker

Busy Living: Everything with Everybody, Everywhere, All of the Time by Coco Capitan
If You’ve Seen it All, Close Your Eyes by Coco Capitan
The first book made for my first season of programme as director of MEP, a characteristically wise and playful re-imagining of an exhibition catalogue by the brilliant Loose Joints, in which the artist corrected my boring curatorial texts. Usually I would not list a book with which I was involved but it really exceeded both the brief and the expectations of an institutional publication, thanks to all involved. I mention here also the beautiful book of Capitan’s writings published by Chose Commune, even though it’s not a photobook – but so much the better…

Mayflies by Dimitra Dede
Void books made several great books this year, and it was hard to choose. They are a one of the strongest contenders at whichever book fair they do. For me Mayflies stands out both because it is by an artist with whom I was not previously familiar, and because it is so complete and coherent. It is, like the best photobooks, a real immersion in the world of the artist. Being Void, appropriately, it is a dark world, but a rich and beautiful one.

Richard Prince 1234 Instagram Recordings by Sebastien Girard
I seem to remember that Girard was on my list of best books for last year too…so he is something of a repeat offender. Both the concept (12 vinyl album-shaped compilations of one year of Richard Prince’s Instagram feed) and the launch at Plac’Art Photo in Paris, with people frantically assembling their preferred ‘box-sets’, were high points of the book year.

So it goes by Miho Kajioka
Any reference to Kurt Vonnegut in the world of photography deserves credit, but So it goes reaches almost to the timeless level of that great writer, who used the phrase in his masterpiece Slaughterhouse Five every time someone died. Both books (his and Kajioka’s) are about time; its layers, displacements, repetitions and slippages. Many years in the making, Kajioka’s constant revisions and adaptions have resulted in a truly special book. Already the recipient of the Prix Nadar, it was also one the few books that our bookshop manager at MEP, Edith, bought as soon as it arrived. Given how many books she sees and resists, this is a major recommendation, and so on…

Cyanotypes / Name Dropping by Thomas Mailaender
From the sublime hand-made edition of 30 unique books (already sold out) to the ridiculous catalogue of Chris P Bacons and Gary Doodlesacks, Mailaender proves he can go both ways and remain at his alchemical best.

Human Spring by Leiko Shiga
Not often an in-house museum publication makes this kind of list. But this is a very unusual and haunting book. After so many devastating and moving projects on Fukushima, Shiga nevertheless contributes something original and powerful.

The Books of Images by Stefano Stoll
Images Vevey have an incredible record of both having great ideas and delivering them in a way that the public can not only understand but enjoy. This ‘Illustrated Dictionary of visual experiences’ is rich, inspiring and also (unusually!) potentially useful… Great work!

Hola Mi Amol by Karla Voleau
An incredible, tough and radical book by a young but confident and convincing artist, seductively designed by SPBH.

Simon Baker is the director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie.

Images: top – Busy Living by Coco Capitan, below – Mayflies by Dimitra Dede