Sean O'Hagan's Best of 2016 and 2017

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1. Gregory Halpern’s ZZYZX, published by Mack
A book that merges documentary, portraiture and a strange heightened sense of mystery that keeps you guessing about what it is he is evoking. I think it’s a work of the imagination as much as anything: a California of the mind that carries an undercurrent of anxiety and unreality.
2. Diane Arbus: In the Beginning at The Met Breuer, 12 July-27 November
Wonderfully-curated show about Diane Arbus before she became the Diane Arbus we know. Grainy photographs from the NY demimonde of Times Square peep shows and Coney Island freak shows, but also some moments of dark melancholy. You sensed very strongly from this show that she was always a loner with a camera, searching for other outsiders to connect with however fleetingly.
3. Provoke: Between Protest and Performance at Le Bal, Paris from 14 September-11 December
An intriguing look at the 1960s Provoke generation that placed them in the social and political context of the time, but also within the tradition of Japanese photography and the influences they absorbed from America, William Klein in particular. Great catalogue, too.

Accident © Daido Moriyama, collection of Shadai Gallery, Tokyo Polytechnic University. From the exhibition Provoke: Between Protest and Perfomance, on show at Le Bal from 14 September-11 December 2016
4. Instagram
Instagram can be a place of interaction and exchange – it was good to see how artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans and Adam Broomberg were responding to our tumultuous time through online activism. These are tough times and about to get a whole lot tougher. Process for its own sake is not enough. Protest!
5. In-conversation with William Eggleston at the NPG, 29 September
My personal highlight was hosting the In-conversation with William Eggleston at the NPG alongside Phillip Prodger, the curator of William Eggleston: Portraits (on show at London’s National Portrait Gallery from 21 July-23 October)A tightrope walk, but a rewarding one. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous before an event, but we came through. I was sad that the year ended with the death of his friend, William Christenberry, who he talked about with such respect and affection.
In 2017 I’m looking forward to:
1. Mimi Mollica’s Terra Nostra, published by Dewi Lewis
Sicily and its discontents though the eyes of a native and exile. Understated and quietly powerful.
2. The Ed van der Elsken retrospective at the Stedelijk, Amsterdam in February
3. Magdalena Switek
I’m choosing Magdalena Switek as the photographer to watch in 2017 for her dark, dreamlike, haunting monochrome landscapes, strangely beautiful portraits of her daughter and night-scapes that seem like noir film stills. She has an eye for the unreal and an instinctive understanding of narrative and atmosphere. Check out her work on Instagram at MAGDALENA_WYROT and on