Book Review: American Photography 33

Book Review: American Photography 33

giphy (1).gif

By Leah Pfenning

Every year AI-AP opens a call for submissions for their competition for best images from within the past year. The competition, open to photographers, magazines, agencies, publishers and schools is judged by a selected jury of leading industry professionals. American Photography 33 is the concatenation of the tumultuous year of 2016 in 312 images. The photographs of 2016 are nestled astride mirror profiles of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, shot by Will Mebane during the 2016 presidential campaign. And much like the presidential campaign, the images of Trump and Clinton are in a dialogue with one another as they attempt to stake their claim to the cover real estate, leaving an umbrella theme under which the rest of the year subsisted.

Thematically stochastic, the book thwarts us across the world through politics, poverty, celebrities, fashion, landscapes, and everything in between. It is a smartly curated visual nostalgia that will have you on an emotional pendulum refuting the laws of physics. The profundity of American Photography 33, and the whole idea behind the collection, is due in large part to the diversity of contributors.

AI-AP has created a platform for reflection that invites in every perspective, from established photographers to students. The jury, which for this edition consisted of, Kate Bubacz, Jeff Campagna, Bailey Franklin, Amy Kellner, Christopher Martinez, Michele Outland, and Patrick Witty judge all submissions on an equal basis. It is a collection that at once elevates and celebrates the photographers and delivers a well-rounded and striking snapshot of our past year.

The book designed by Michele Outland, the creative director of Gather Journal, is a printed hardcover, jacketed in a red transparent vinyl that creates a visual artifice around Mebane’s presidential election images and incorporates a clever inclusion of Russian characters, implying an on-going collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Design-wise the cover and binding are the only overtly political choice. The selected images in the book are arranged in alphabetical order by the photographer’s last name, which is credited directly below or adjacent to the photographs as they appear. The book also hosts an index that includes full credits and captions for each image, as well as a creative index acknowledging all creative contributors to the production of the published print book.


American Photography 33 and the team at AI-AP have succeeded in creating a collection of work from an inclusive pool of artists that is brilliant in its exclusivity of greatness. Art is inherently exclusive; it is what makes it attractive and vivifying. However, AI-AP’s devotion to producing an equitable space for artists to share their work is the biggest inspiration I took away. 2016 was a wild, turbulent, and provocative year as AI-AP and the contributing photographers have shown us, but somehow this collective of artistry and its continuing platform left an insoluble wake of hope.

 © Sandro. Jan. 1, 2017 Fanta, January 2017, My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom, hairstyles being worn by Black women today. The project reflects on the ornamentation and a medium of artistic self-expression and freedom.

© Sandro. Jan. 1, 2017 Fanta, January 2017, My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom, hairstyles being worn by Black women today. The project reflects on the ornamentation and a medium of artistic self-expression and freedom.

 © Norman Jean Roy. Aug. 8, 2016 Winona Ryder, actress of Netflix's 2016 Stranger Things. August 2016. Design Director: Thomas Alberty Director of Photography: Jody Quon Photo Editor: Roxanne Behr Publication: New York

© Norman Jean Roy. Aug. 8, 2016 Winona Ryder, actress of Netflix's 2016 Stranger Things. August 2016. Design Director: Thomas Alberty Director of Photography: Jody Quon Photo Editor: Roxanne Behr Publication: New York

 © Andrea Star Reese. March 21, 2016 Galuh Rehabilitation Center, Bekasi, Indonesia, Thousands of Mentally Ill Indonesians Are Imprisoned in Shackles, March 2016. From Disorder, 2011--2016, an ongoing documentary photo-reportage concerning abuse against people with psychosocial disabilities in Indonesia. Publication: TIME

© Andrea Star Reese. March 21, 2016 Galuh Rehabilitation Center, Bekasi, Indonesia, Thousands of Mentally Ill Indonesians Are Imprisoned in Shackles, March 2016. From Disorder, 2011--2016, an ongoing documentary photo-reportage concerning abuse against people with psychosocial disabilities in Indonesia. Publication: TIME

 © Mark Peterson / Art by Barbara Kruger. Oct. 31, 2016 Loser. Cover, October 2016. Art by Barbara Kruger made with a photograph of Donald Trump by Mark Peterson on the 2016 campaign trail. Design Director: Thomas Alberty Photo Director: Jody Quon Publication: New York

© Mark Peterson / Art by Barbara Kruger. Oct. 31, 2016 Loser. Cover, October 2016. Art by Barbara Kruger made with a photograph of Donald Trump by Mark Peterson on the 2016 campaign trail. Design Director: Thomas Alberty Photo Director: Jody Quon Publication: New York

 © Frederic Lagrange. Oct. 1, 2016Alaskan Bush Pilots. October 2016. A portfolio essay shot in the Alaska Range, documenting the essential role played by bush pilots in the vast and otherwise inaccessible wilderness around the Denali National Park. Creative Director: Matt Milley Publication: Avaunt

© Frederic Lagrange. Oct. 1, 2016Alaskan Bush Pilots. October 2016. A portfolio essay shot in the Alaska Range, documenting the essential role played by bush pilots in the vast and otherwise inaccessible wilderness around the Denali National Park. Creative Director: Matt Milley Publication: Avaunt

Film Review: Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Film Review: Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

Musée Magazine to Curate the 2018 Los Angeles Billboard Show

Musée Magazine to Curate the 2018 Los Angeles Billboard Show