Aaron Stern’s Favorite Book from 2019

Animals by Sage Sohier.   Published by Stanley/Barker.

I bought Animals after attending a slide show and talk that Sage gave at Le Bal during Paris Photo. To me, the book is more than just pictures of people with their pets. She captured these intimate moments of people and their animals at a time before cell phones, Internet, social media. I thought, as a dog owner myself, that the animals, while incredibly adorable, beautifully shot and so animated, were just the hook to this great book. The pictures show people at their best and at times, vulnerable. It struck me how intimate these moments were — to me they gave an impression of how life seemed much simpler then.

I often find that photographers and critics seem to be at war with nostalgia and the past. It's trendy to say we should only be looking forward or be in the present. While looking forward and being present are positive notions, we can learn just as much by looking back. I enjoyed hearing about Sage Sohier's process of finding her subjects — calling people who had placed ads in local newspapers, attending dog shows and fairs and asking to photograph these willing participants in their homes.

Aaron Stern is an artist and author living in New York. His photographs, books, poetry and curatorial projects have appeared in publications and institutions such as Paris Photo, Photo Saint Germain, Los Angeles Art Book Fair, International Center for Photography, Vogue, The Paris Review and The New York Times.