Completing the Triangle

Nadav Kander, Jim Marshall and others bring the best photo books of 2019

Jim Marshall: Show Me the Picture
by Jim Marshall, Amelia Davis; compiled by Karen Grigsby Bates, Michelle Margetts, Joel Selvin and Meg Shiffler. Chronicle Books, $55.

It’s kind of unfair that one photographer got to take the photos of Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire at Monterey Pop Festival AND the shot of Johnny Cash shooting the bird (“one for the warden”) at San Quentin. But that was just Jim. For a time,  Marshall was seemingly everywhere. From capturing contemplative moments with Coltrane to good times with Waylon and Willie and his famous, vulnerable frames with Janis, Marshall set an unreachable bar for aspring music photographers.

Show Me the Picture also introduced me to aspects of Marshall’s work I’d never known. His street photography and images associated with civil rights and social movements are powerful and were just as important to him. Marshall had an inherent talent for depicting these struggles of race and class with a grace and dignity for his subjects.

The Meeting
by Nadav Kander. Steidl, $95.

Nadav Kander’s photographs read like no others. The viewer has no choice but to feel and imagine. There’s childhood innocence  in “Ella and Talia” and “Oren (Batman),” blurry intensity in the Michael Stipe and David Beckham portraits and an uneasy honesty in “Schoolgirl (white photographer).” He conjures darker, otherworldly scenes with curiousity, strength and vulnerability in his subjects. “I don’t photograph to tell stories. I photograph to make stories,” Kander states. “If I manage to make a portrait that stirs a viewer then they complete what I call ‘the triangle’ by bringing their own story or state of mind to the picture.” The Meeting is nothing short of cinematic, and its cast of characters ranges from President Donald Trump to Desmond Tutu.

Blue Alabama
by Andrew Moore. Intro by Imani Rerry, story by Madison Smartt Bell. Damiani, $60.

Blue Alabama is the type of work I daydream I’d be doing if I’d never left the South. As a young man, I had no qualms about trespassing for a shot if I found something interesting. It seems as if Andrew Moore feels similarly. One of these curiousities landed him and a friend face-to-face with an elderly lady named Pearlie wearing a house dress with a pistol tucked underneath, asking, “Do you know Jesus?”  What seemed (to me) like a threat turned into a friendship and left Pearlie with the impression that the Lord sent him to photograph her and her 200-year-old home. “I don’t know anything about being God’s photographer,” Moore writes, “but during my past four years of work in lower Alabama, there were moments where I sensed something beyond the serendipity of a chance encounter.” This book is full of beautiful people, interiors and landscapes that the Lord may have sent his way.

Magnum Streetwise
by Magnum Photos, Stephen McLaren. Thames & Hudson, $39.95.

Streetwise, on the surface, is an extensive look at the Magnum Photos archive. It’s a powerhouse collection of the genre’s legends and contemporary greats (Cartier-Bresson, Abbas, Sergio Larrain, Constantine Manos, Bruce Gilden, David Alan Harvey, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Alex Webb, Christopher Anderson and more). But as you dive deeper, you realize the book is also asking the reader to rethink the genre’s boundaries and “go beyond the street.” It isn’t all silhouettes and long shadows on concrete, moreso any improv captures of moments and emotions in public spaces. “Street photography’s most iconic images may suggest to us gritty street drama … but the scope for making candid photographs about all aspects of the human experience is boundless.”

Brooklyn: The City Within
Photographs by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. Interview by Sean Corcoran. Aperture, $40.

Alex and Rebecca Norris Webb have been documenting Brooklyn for the past five years. This ongoing portrait of the city they call home really celebrates BK’s beautiful diversity and vastness. Alex’s approach was to leave no stone unturned, taking photographs in all parts of the bourough. While Rebecca focused more on the “green heart of Brooklyn” where folks of all walks share space in public parks and gardens. Aperture handles these two approaches uniquely in layout. Alex’s photographs kick off and close the book at full size while Rebecca’s images are beautifully inset in the middle, a smaller book within a book.

Bleu Blanc Rouge
by Christopher Anderson. Hatje Cantz, $39.

Bleu Blanc Rouge is a catalog of works from Anderson’s exhibit of the same name. The images, presented in a large-format magazine style, are comprised of poetic  portraits, chance moments, and still lifes shot in several countries. A signature of this series (and his brilliant monograph Approximate Joy) is his use of vivid reds, shadow play and textures. The use of these elements transform everyday items and scenes into more than just a photograph. A rack of Adidas pants in “ Sete, France, 2011” looks like it could be a work of Jasper Johns. And the weathered wall in “Berlin, 2017” has distinct Rauschenberg vibes.

Errors of Possession
by Garrett Grove, Travis Klunick. Trespasser, $50.

Errors of Possession is a glimpse into small coastal farming and logging towns in Oregon and Washington. The book notes the photographs were taken leading up to and shortly after the 2016 presidential election. Although the images in Errors are very obscure and don’t come across political in any way, they do embody some of the feelings and themes I associate with that time. The portraits are distinctly blue collar and small town. The landscapes are mostly broad and desolate. The buildings are worn and the interiors are empty. Errors is almost completely void of text so Grove lets you wonder. Who are these people and where are these places? What is going on during this moment in their lives? It feels like there’s something missing. And maybe that’s the point.

Portraits
by Gunner Stahl. With contributions by Swae Lee and Chi Modu. Abrams Image, $24.99.

I place Gunner Stahl’s Portraits in this collection to contrast the long-standing, iconic careers of Marshall and Kander. This young man is still on the beginning of his journey. And he is down for the ride. Literally. He mentions hopping in a van with Rae Sremmurd and driving 14 hours from his grandmother’s house in Mississippi down to Miami, then right back again. In 2014, Stahl ran up in the FADER office uninvited, camped out and asked for (humbly demanded) his shot. It’s this boldness and surrender to whatever the moment offers that positions him to work with some of the hottest artists and legends  of our time (The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, Billie Eilish and Ric Flair) and land cover shoots for FADER. This book is a mile marker. “I’m in this for twenty or thirty years. I’m not in it for right now. That doesn’t drive you to become better.”