Photobooks of 2018: Ron Jude
I’ve slowed down on my photography book consumption over the past couple of years, but of the titles I have on my shelf from 2018, the following six stand out as books that I’m consistently excited by and look at repeatedly. They’re not listed here in any particular order, as they each work in unique ways and I’m hesitant to rank apples and oranges.
One Wall a Web by Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa. (Roma Publications)
I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of this book, and it doesn’t disappoint. Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa has restored my faith in the documentary mode and utterly revitalizes the urgency of the form. A mix of original and appropriated photographs are deftly edited into a hefty, 220-page volume that never collapses under its own weight. There’s not an ounce of fat in this book. One Wall a Web is a razor sharp, unflinching look at race, power and the cultural framework upon which our imbalanced institutions are built. This is an important book by a photographer and intellectual who will no doubt be shaping the conversation around the medium for decades to come.
Vandalism by John Divola. (MACK)
This book highlights an early body of work by one of the most versatile, imaginative and ambitious artists to ever pick up a camera. Vandalism set the stage for a career that has helped many of us see the indexical qualities of photography not as something to be leaned on and taken for granted, but to be poked at and turned inside out. This book should live on the shelf of anyone interested in artists who have unbuttoned the medium, and certainly anyone interested in Divola’s work specifically.
Manifest by Kristine Potter. (TBW Books)
This book is packed with beautifully executed photographs, woven together in a way that keeps me on my toes and never reads the same way twice. Potter’s poetic use of the figure in the landscape allows us to consider how the wilderness shapes our perception of masculinity in the west. Simple, impeccable book design and printing, and a terrific supporting essay completes the package. I love this book.
Tulare by Jake Longstreth. (The Ice Plant)
Leave it to a painter to show us how formal restraint can yield surprisingly seductive images. In a muted, sundrenched palette, Longstreth tours us through California’s Central Valley farmland, in an area that was once under Tulare Lake, a massive inland body of water. Through pictures of rolling yellow hills, irrigation canals and roadways, we’re invited to consider the quiet poetics of a landscape whose topography clings to the ghost of its former self. This is my favorite kind of landscape book. It asks for repeated viewings and that we turn our phones off and pay attention.
Halfstory Halflife by Raymond Meeks. (Chose Commune)
Halfstory Halflife occupies the unlikely space between a state of grace and anxiety. Raymond Meeks expertly creates a world that illustrates our collective need for transcendence, and our obliviousness and neglect of the physical world around us. While exploiting his gift for lyricism, Meeks never lets us forget the grit of the underlying reality in these images. This is an amazing book that reminds me how much I love photography and what it can do in the right hands. Buy this book before it’s gone.
Fathom by Bernhard Fuchs. (Koenig Books)
Bernhard Fuchs’ photographs are bold in their unwavering faith in quiet observation and nuanced form. This book of 40 portraits, all taken with natural light in interior spaces, reaffirms his insistence that the simplest, most reductive images are alive and rich. Through understated color, light, gesture and body language, Fuchs shows us how to really look at a subject. Every few years Fuchs releases a book, and every few years I’m reminded to slow down, mute the clever ideas, and think about the depth of the visible world.
Ron Jude is a photographer based in the western United States. He has published numerous books including Alpine Star, Emmett, Lago, and most recently Nausea. He teaches photography at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Images: top – Tulare by Jake Longstreth, below – Vandalism by John Divola