The best photography of 2012: Sean O'Hagan's choice
From social revolution to Zambia's dash for the cosmos, the year in photography was sharply focused
Two big, ambitious shows stood out: William Klein + Daido Moriyama at Tate Modern and Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s at the Barbican. Everything Was Moving has to be my show of the year. The sheer strength of some of the individual series – Bruce Davidson's civil rights reportage, David Goldblatt and Ernest Cole's images from apartheid-era South Africa, Shomei Tomatsu's singular take on postwar Japan – makes it unmissable.
The much anticipated Klein + Moriyama double bill showed Klein's impact on Japanese photography and on Moriyama in particular, but also illustrated the power of the photobook as a medium – both Klein and Moriyama being masters of the form.
That continuing influence was perhaps best illustrated by the ongoing self-publishing phenomenon, not least the extraordinary success of The Afronauts by Cristina de Middel. Using Zambia's short-lived 1960s space programme as its conceptual peg, it merges fact, fiction and myth to intriguing effect. Published in a limited edition of 1,000 by de Middel, it became the most sought-after photobook of the year, earning the Spanish artist a place on the shortlist for next year's prestigious Deutsche Börse prize.
This year's Deutsche Börse made history of sorts at the newly refurbished Photographers' Gallery in London when it was won by John Stezaker, who doesn't take photographs at all, but makes collages from found photographs. The Prix Pictet prize for photography and sustainability, which tends to reward the big and the bravura over the understated, turned up a more predictable winner in Luc Delahaye.
2012 began on a valedictory note with the passing of the great Eve Arnold, who took some of the most iconic photographs of our time. She was celebrated in a memorial show, All About Eve, at Art Sensus. The year ends with the intriguing Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour at Somerset House, where the work of two great pioneering colourists – Fred Herzog and Ernest Haas – stands out.
It made me wonder when another great woman photographer, the late Helen Levitt, will be granted a British show all to herself.
(In no particular order)
Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70sBarbican
Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour Somerset House
Hisaji Hara Michael Hoppen
Lise Sarfati: She Brancolini Grimaldi
Kohei Yoshiyuki: The Park Open Eye, Liverpool
Light from the Middle East V&A
Klein + Moriyama Tate Modern
Tom Wood: Men and Women Photographers' Gallery
Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present National Gallery
Another London: International Photographers Capture City Life 1930-80 Tate Britain
Out of Focus: Photography Saatchi Gallery
Text courtesy of The Guardian.