With the benefit of hindsight, 2022 now feels like a year of consolidation in the photobook category here at Collector Daily. Last year, we collectively reviewed a total of 87 photobooks, which was somewhat less than in previous years, but we achieved that total with just three consistent book reviewers, which is a smaller and more focused team than we’ve had in other years.
As long time readers of our photobook reviews will know, we track our broader photobook efforts with a decent degree of systematic thought and analysis, gathering various statistical measures on the books we are reviewing and their makers. We have been publishing a summary of this data for several years now, with our 2021 report here, and earlier 2020 and 2019 data sets here and here. 2020 was a particularly intriguing year, as it was the first year of the pandemic, when the lockdowns forced us to covert our entire team to photobook reviews for many months, pushing our total review numbers much higher.
It seems that every year we wrestle with the same interrelated complexities of scale and discovery in our practice, knowing that if we can grow to review more books, we will also inevitably reach out further beyond the mainstream, thereby providing a richer survey of what’s happening in the photobook world. This tension remains at the center of our thinking, and 2023 will likely once again see a drive to expand our team of writers, to further extend our range of voices and expertise areas.
The tables below reflect some of the metrics we use to measure how we’re doing, and while many of the data points are relatively stable from year to year, we did mark one notable highlight this year, in finally reaching full gender parity for the photobooks we reviewed.
|Photobook Reviews by Book Type|
|Monograph||79 reviews / 90.80%|
|Catalog/Retrospective||5 reviews / 5.75%|
|Zine/Newspaper||3 reviews / 3.45%|
The breakdown of book types above closely tracks the percentages in previous years, with single photographer single project books (in various forms) continuing to be by far the most dominant approach.
|Photobook Reviews by Artist Gender|
|Male||41 reviews / 47.13%|
|Female||41 reviews / 47.13%|
|Multiple||5 reviews / 5.75%|
Several years ago, we first realized how out of balance the gender split of the makers of the photobooks we chose for review actually was. As an example, back in 2020, the gender split found in our reviews was 60% male/36% female (with 4% coming from multiple artist publications), and we wondered at the time whether we had some internal bias that needed correcting or whether the problem was larger, in terms of a more prevalent bias across the photobook industry in the books being published (and from which we were then choosing). In a sense, it was both, and with a renewed sense of directed attention, we have incrementally closed that gap in the years since, ultimately reaching parity in this past year, with the caveat that a few more photobook authors are deciding to stand outside that simple male/female binary. Overall, this even-handed balance is where we should have been all along, but it was satisfying to reach this milestone nonetheless.
|Photobook Reviews by Artist Nationality (by Region)|
|USA/Canada||28 reviews / 32.18%|
|Western Europe||17 reviews / 19.54%|
|Asia/India||10 reviews / 11.49%|
|United Kingdom/Ireland||9 reviews / 10.34%|
|Russia/Eastern Europe||9 reviews / 10.34%|
|Central/South America||6 reviews / 6.90%|
|Africa||4 reviews / 4.60%|
|Scandinavia||2 reviews / 2.30%|
|Middle East||1 review / 1.15%|
|Australia/New Zealand||1 review / 1.15%|
Our geographic spread for reviews in 2022 was nearly identical to that of the previous year, with essentially the same ordering of regions and similar percentages of the whole. The US and the UK continued to hold the top two individual country spots, with Japan, Italy, and France rounding out the top five. Clearly there is more work to do, both in raw numbers and on a percentage basis, in terms of identifying intriguing and worthy photobooks from some of our more underserved regions, and we’d certainly welcome recommendations and tips from readers to expand our collective net.
|Photobook Reviews by Publisher|
|Self Published||15 reviews / 17.24%|
|Damiani Editore||4 reviews / 4.60%|
|Stanley/Barker||3 reviews / 3.45%|
|Area Books||2 reviews / 2.30%|
|Art Paper Editions||2 reviews / 2.30%|
|Kominek Books||2 reviews / 2.30%|
|L'Artiere Edizioni||2 reviews / 2.30%|
|MACK||2 reviews / 2.30%|
After a small lull in the volume of self published photobook reviews in 2021, we erased that apparent slowdown with a more robust selection of self published titles this past year. In aggregate, our reviews extended to a total of 62 publishers last year (plus the 15 self publishers), so our reach continues to get decently far out toward the edges of the photobook world. Finding the right balance between the known and the unknown remains a persistent challenge, and we’re tending to come at these decisions personally, with a decided tilt toward amplifying exciting books that move one of us (for one reason or another) or may have been more generally overlooked or under appreciated.
As we look ahead to the as yet unseen photobooks of 2023, it feels like a good time to shake things up and reassess our hit lists and overfilled accumulated stacks, in search of those elusive books that will show us something we haven’t seen before. Every photobook review offers us the opportunity to step through a door to somewhere new; hopefully the next crop we encounter will be overstuffed with risks, challenges, and more than a little unexpected audacious genius.