2010 Golden Iris Nominees: Photography Book of the Year

By: Michael Matson

As expected, the final nominees in this category changed more than any other since July's Midterms. The main reason being that the majority of photography books are released in the fall. Additionally, the Midterms winner was disqualified after the fact. Seems we didn't thoroughly vet that title, which was a 2010 reissue of a 2008 release.

Still, there's been so many phenomenal photography books published since then, it became more difficult to narrow down the nominees to just five in this category than for any other. Tony Duran's breathtaking Dieux du Stade: Gods of the Stadium is the only title that remains from the Midterms. And he faces stronger competition than before, with recent releases by  Richard Phibbs (Chasing Beauty), Paul Freeman (Outback Brumby), and Rick Day (Pioneers) all receiving nominations.

In an unexpected twist, Herb Ritts—the late photography legend, received a nomination via Charles Churchward's excellent October release, Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour. Even a near-legend like Duran will have a tough time going eye to eye with Ritts. 

Go below for profiles and photos of the 2010 nominees.

Photos (clockwise from top left): © Herb Ritts Foundation, Rick Day, Richard Phibbs, Tony Duran, Paul Freeman


PhibbsMain copy

Chasing Beauty by Richard Phibbs

On the inside dust jacket of his long overdue first photography book, Richard Phibbs wrote, "It's a constant search—chasing beauty, chasing hope. I'm not interested in the dark." These words, along with the intro by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham, set the tone for a ravishing collection of images from 1997-2010. The book is all about beauty in its more familiar forms (the human body, flowers) and not so familiar (teepees, fencing masks). Since his early days of shooting celebrity covers for Paper magazine, Phibbs has displayed a unique talent for presenting beauty in rich and unexpected ways. But what has always made him stand out as a visual artist is his lighting. Phibbs has mastered a method of photographing light as a tangible substance, making it seem almost as if it has physical weight or could be held in one's hand. And Chasing Beauty is worthy of a Golden Iris Award nomination not so much for what Phibbs pursues, but for what he's captured. 


Dieux du Stade: Gods of the Stadium by Tony Duran

It's hard to believe that Dieux du Stade: Gods of the Stadium is celebrity and fashion photographer Tony Duran's first book, given the iconic images he's created of everyone from Tom Cruise to Chace Crawford. And while it's uncertain why he chose this collection of images—from sessions for the annual rugby team calendar of the same name—as his first coffee table treat, we're very glad he did. Duran has an ability to draw raw sexuality out of his subjects that's unrivaled by his peers. But Duran's photos are not just erotic, they're also expertly lit with the same dramatic flair as early 20th century masters like Cecil Beaton, George Hurrell, and Edward Weston. And though his more complex compositions reference the same classicism as Herb Ritts, Duran's images are never any less cohesive. Viewers of the book may find themselves gasping out loud as they turn the pages, encountering one remarkable image after another, while coming to realize they are experiencing the work of a man certain to become a photography legend. 


Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour by Charles Churchward

Vogue and Vanity Fair art director Charles Churchward spent five years interviewing Herb Ritts' family, friends, colleagues, and photographic subjects (including Madonna) for this intimate and revealing look at the late photographer/director's life and work. Filled with never before seen photos from Ritts' personal archive, as well as, some of his most iconic images, Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour is so much more than a photography book: It's a glimpse into the creative mind and how it contributes to shaping popular culture. And Churchward provides a great service in having chosen a household name like Ritts as his subject (making more than just photography buffs likely to pick it up), because there was a time in America when Picasso and Dali were profiled in magazine cover stories. In today's Real Housewives/Jersey Shores obsessed culture, it's refreshing to see someone with an actual skill get examined, even if that person is no longer with us. The Golden Hour is good enough to inspire someone to make art, which would benefit the world so much more than another interview with The Situation. (Photos: © Herb Ritts Foundation from Herb Ritts: The Golden Hour by Charles Churchward, Rizzoli 2010)


Outback Brumby by Paul Freeman

This is Paul Freeman's second consecutive Golden Iris Award nomination for Photography Book of the Year. In 2009, he received a nomination for Outback Currawong Creek. At the time, we wrote that Freeman "may very well be the Australian Bruce Weber." That statement still holds true. But while Weber gravitates towards bright-eyed college jocks, Freeman photographs a beefier, hairier, and more seasoned stock of manhood. Weber's models seem like they would smell of soap and pond water, while the Outback guys are presented as having the sweet, musky odor a man emanates after a committed day of farm work under the Australian sun. Outback Brumby is meant to arouse on a primal level, but it's also a tribute to the beauty of masculinity. And as much as he may remind us of Weber, Freeman's vision is distinctly and organically his own.  


Pioneers by Rick Day

Rick Day's sexy shots of fashion and physique models, posed enticingly in monochromatic urban environments, have made him the most popular contemporary photographer in the gay blogosphere. Every gay man between the ages of 18 and 80 has certainly savored one of the Manhattan lensman's images, even if they weren't aware of who shot it. The reason for Day's success is that he strikes just the right balance between artistry and titillation. But he's also an accomplished outdoor photographer, as his second book showcases. Shot primarily in the American Southwest on assignment for Rufskin, Pioneers is him in a looser, more spontaneous mode. And while the book is full of classic Day imagery, it's heavier on expansive skies and lighter on formal poses. If Day's most famous photographs are an energetic day in the city, Pioneers is a relaxing weekend in the country, both of which are essential to one's well-being.

The Golden Iris Award for Photography Book of the Year will be announced on December 22nd.

Tomorrow: Fashion Model of the Year nominees.

Click here for complete Golden Iris Award coverage.