‘American Photography 34’

Book Design

Design of the 2018 American Photography annual.

Established in 1985, American Photography is North America’s leading juried annual and advocate of contemporary photography. The institution’s annual competition receives thousands of entries from established masters as well as students and emerging photographers. Each year, a new designer is invited to design the hardcover book showcasing the winning images. These books are themselves objects of art, and previous issues have featured the work of prolific photographers including Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Annie Leibovitz, Martin Parr, and Stephanie Sinclair. For the competition’s 34th year, Pentagram partner Matt Willey was chosen to design the book. 

The AP 34 annual was designed to present the unpredictability of 2018 through photography: the die-cut dust jacket features a photograph of three senators listening to the testimony of Jeff Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee by Stephen Voss. Printed on the hardcover of the book is a photograph by Marcus Yam of the California forest fires. The contrast between the somber photograph of the senators and the blazing orange that peeks through the die-cut holes is bold and striking, but the interior pages of the book are subtler. The 343 featured images are emphasized by rethinking the arrangement of text: image captions are collected together and interspersed throughout the book at the start of a new section on pink cut-short tipped-in pages, and the index is printed on the removable dust jacket. This careful attention to the beauty and detail of each image highlights the visual narratives of the photographs.

New York
Matt Willey
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