Here we present a collection of five photobooks that won major awards in 2011. Most are distinctly sociological and serious-minded, examining, variously, a still divided South Africa, the effect of incarceration on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, the Mafia controlled streets of Naples, and the most dangerous city in the United States. And for even more variety we include the director of one of 2010’s worst reviewed movies (Fred: the Movie, with a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) playing dress-up for his award-winning photobook.




Johannesburg 1948-2010


CREDIT: Contrasto.


In April, South African photographer David Goldblatt won, with co-author Ivan Vladislavic, the Kraszna-Krausz Best Photography Book Award for his examination of Johannesburg over 60 years. The book TJ: Johannesburg Photographs 1948-2010 / Double Negative: A Novel is two volumes, one featuring Goldberg’s pictures, the other Vladislavic’s prose.


The judges – Mary McCartney, David Campany and Yuka Yamaji – commented: ‘Goldblatt and Vladislavic’s ambitious project explores the relationship between text and image. A highly effective pairing of fiction and photography, this innovative collaboration redefines the possibilities for writing on and about photography.’


Of David Goldblatt, Claire Guillot in the Guardian said ‘He spent years, largely ignored by the media, exploring the values of South Africa. His beautifully composed, subtle pictures dissect the country’s contradictions, revealing the inner life of a still divided population.’





If the light goes out


CREDIT: Dewi Lewis Publishing



‘When you are suspended by a rope you can recover but every time I see a rope I remember. If the light goes out unexpectedly in a room, I am back in my cell.’

Binyam Mohamed, Prisoner #1458


In May, Edmund Clark won best photographic book at the New York Photo Awards 2011 for Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out, which documents ‘everyday living space in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and in ex-detainees’ homes, considering the ongoing effect of incarceration on the prisoner’.


Clark explains on his site that ‘rather than an attempt to monumentalize the historical fact of the Guantanamo camps, these images illustrate three ideas of home: The naval base at Guantanamo which is home to the American community and of which the prison camps are just a part; the complex of camps where the detainees have been held, and the homes, new and old, where the former detainees now find themselves trying to rebuild their lives.’





be somebody


CREDIT: Clay Weiner. Self-published.



In June, writer and director Clay Weiner won the D&AD Award for Photography for Design for Try-Ons, a chronicle of his attempt to ‘be somebody’ by inhabiting the lives of an eccentric gallery of real and imaginary characters. He explained to the Denver Egotist ‘Growing up, I was always told to be somebody … In an attempt to find myself, I tried 85 personas. I’m still confused.’





the land of the camorrah


CREDIT: Valerio Spada. Self-published.



In September, Italian photographer Valerio Spada won Blurb’s Photography Book Now Grand Prize for Gomorrah Girl, about adolescence in the land of Camorrah (the name of the Mafia in Naples).


Spada explained to Blurb that ‘the book centres on a specific incident: On March 27, 2004, 14-year-old Annalisa Durante was killed in Forcella, a Naples area under the control of the Camorrah … In general, Gomorrah Girl shows the problems of becoming a woman in a dangerous, crime-ridden area. Adolescence is almost denied.’





Most dangerous city in the united states


CREDIT: Images En Manoeuvres Editions



This week, French photographer Jean-Christian Bourcart won the annual Prix Nadar for his photobook Camden, a portrait of a New Jersey city, the most dangerous in the United States.


He explained his intentions to the British Journal of Photography. ‘I needed to be closer to reality, closer to everyday’s life. I was also questioning myself on the motives of photojournalists who travel to a place and ‘coldly’ reports on what he or she sees … I didn’t want to pretend that I was telling other people’s stories, instead, I wanted to portray my own relationships with others’.






And as a bonus:


Best selling photobook 2011 (U.S.)


CREDIT: National Geographic


For the second year in a row, National Geographic published the bestselling photobook in the U.S. The book, Simply Beautiful Photographs, is a compilation of images from the National Geographic archive.






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