Year in Review: 2023 Photobook Review Statistics

Last year, we collectively reviewed a total of 88 photobooks here at Collector Daily, which was essentially the same amount as in the previous year, offering perhaps a dose of consistency after a few years of tumult. As regular 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. This tracking effort serves two purposes – it provides us with an internal check on what we are doing, and in some years, it can offer unexpected insights into how the larger photobook world is evolving.

It seems that every year we wrestle with the same interrelated complexities of scale and discovery in our practice, knowing that if we can scale up to review more books, we will also inevitably reach out further beyond the mainstream, thereby providing a broader and richer survey of what’s happening in the photobook world – the further we encourage ourselves to get out of the well traveled ruts, the more surprises we tend to encounter.

The tables below reflect some of the metrics we use to measure ourselves, and while many of the data points are relatively stable from year to year, it’s the outliers and the changes in relative weight that tend to provide the flashes of insight.

Photobook Reviews by Book Type
Monograph 79 reviews / 89.77%
Zine/Newspaper 5 reviews / 5.68%
Catalog/Retrospective 1 review / 1.14%
Box/Portfolio 1 review / 1.14%
Photopoetry 1 review / 1.14%
Biography/Essays 1 review / 1.14%

As seen in the data above, it will likely come as no surprise that the single photographer single project monograph continues to be the dominant form in the photobook world. This position has been obvious and unquestioned across all of our years of statistical tabulations, at a relatively consistent rate. On a smaller scale, what’s different this year are movements up and down on the margins: more zines, less exhibition catalogs, and a selection of other approaches that bring photographs into engagement with text.

Photobook Reviews by Artist Gender
Male 48 reviews / 54.55%
Female 36 reviews / 40.91%
Non-Binary 2 reviews / 2.27%
Multiple Artists 2 reviews / 2.27%

Last year, we congratulated ourselves on reaching gender parity in our photobook reviews – for the first time, we reviewed the same amount of photobooks made by female photographers as those made by male photographers. To reach that goal, we had worked hard to pay attention to gender in selecting our titles, and as a team, worked together to keep the numbers even, all the way through the final reviews of the year. In 2023, we reverted to being less overt and intentional about those choices, and it shows – we fell back to a meaningful disparity between the gender of the artists we reviewed, with men back in a statistically dominant position. And so we will need to recommit to rebalancing the scales going forward, bringing active selection with gender in mind back into the mix.

Photobook Reviews by Artist Nationality (by Region)
USA/Canada 34 reviews / 38.64%
Western Europe 15 reviews / 17.05%
Asia 14 reviews / 15.91%
United Kingdom/Ireland 6 reviews / 6.82%
Scandinavia 5 reviews / 5.68%
Central/South America 5 reviews / 5.68%
Middle East 4 reviews / 4.55%
Russia/Eastern Europe 3 reviews / 3.41%
Australia/New Zealand 1 review / 1.14%
Africa 1 review / 1.14%

The geographic spread for our reviews has been decently consistent over the past few years, with the same ordering of the top two slots and not much variation in the percentages. In this year’s tally, Asia, Scandinavia, and the Middle East all trended upward, while UK/Ireland, Russia/Eastern Europe, and Africa moved downward. Clearly, there is more work to do in terms of getting out beyond our easily accessed comfort zones of the US and Western Europe, and some of the data flows one way or the other may simply be due to the normal fluctuations of what is getting published and widely distributed in any given year.

Photobook Reviews by Publisher
Self-published 6 reviews / 6.82%
MACK 4 reviews / 4.55%
Aperture 3 reviews / 3.41%
Eriskay Connection 3 reviews / 3.41%
TBW Books 3 reviews / 3.41%
Akaaka 2 reviews / 2.27%
Dashwood Books 2 reviews / 2.27%
GOST 2 reviews / 2.27%
Kehrer 2 reviews / 2.27%
Kult Books 2 reviews / 2.27%
Loose Joints 2 reviews / 2.27%
Prestel 2 reviews / 2.27%
Same Paper 2 reviews / 2.27%
Witty 2 reviews / 2.27%

At first glance, the publisher stats for 2023 don’t look all that unexpected, with self-publishers once again in the top slot (where they are every year) and recognizable names like MACK and Aperture in prominent positions. What’s intriguing is that aside from MACK, none of the names above made the top publisher list last year (and by corollary, none of the names from last year made this year’s list.) What I think this tells us is that the photobook world is still remarkably fluid, and that great photobooks can and are being published by all kinds of publishers (large and small) all over the world. To me, this unruly turnover is a healthy sign, reminding us that the diverse artistic creativity that drives the photobook market also prevents it from becoming too concentrated.

***

As we look ahead to the as yet unseen photobooks of 2024 (and scouring up the last of the noteworthy 2023s that we may have missed for one reason or another), we are once again reassessing our hit lists and accumulated stacks, in search of those elusive books that will show us something we haven’t seen before, introduce us to a photographic voice with something new to say, or offer us an entry point into a topic we’re ready to wrestle with. It is the bold artistic vibrancy of the photobook genre that keeps us coming back, so onward we go.

For those interested in comparing the numbers above with our photobook statistics from previous years, summary reports are available for 2022 (here), 2021 (here), 2020 (here), and 2019 (here).

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