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Best Photo Books of 2021

Posted on December 01, 2021 - By Sandrine Hermand-Grisel
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Best Photo Books of 2021
Best Photo Books of 2021
Following last year's boom, the industry continues to thrive and the Photobooks market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.7% between 2021 and 2027. Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continued to cause major disruptions in our daily lives in 2021 books and photo books in particular - for all the photography lovers that we are! - played an important part in our continued willingness to stay connected to the art world. Publishers and worldwide photographers have risen to the challenge and continued creating amazing books for us to discover.

Unfortunately we were not able to discover them all as there are so many, but we have chosen a few photo books that, in our opinion, should be in your library! It is of course a very subjective choice and if we could, we would have chosen at least 50 of them. We hope this collection will help you draft your 'wish list' or find the perfect gift for someone who enjoys photography.

We wish you Happy Holidays but stay safe!


Best Photo Book of 2021

Matt Black: American Geography
Published by Thames & Hudson
Award-winning photographer Matt Black traveled over 100,000 miles to chronicle the reality of today's unseen and forgotten America. When Magnum photographer Matt Black began exploring his hometown in California's rural Central Valley-dubbed the other California, where one-third of the population lives in poverty-he knew what his next project had to be. Black was inspired to create a vivid portrait of an unknown America, to photograph some of the poorest communities across the US. Traveling across forty-six states and Puerto Rico, Black visited designated poverty areas, places with a poverty rate above 20 percent, and found that poverty areas are so numerous that they're never more than a two-hour's drive apart, woven through the fabric of the country but cut off from the land of opportunity. American Geography is a visual record of this five-year, 100,000-mile road trip, which chronicles the vulnerable conditions faced by America's poor. This compelling compilation of black-and-white photographs is accompanied by Black's own travelogue-a collection of observations, overheard conversations in cafe´s and public transportation, diner menus, bus timetables, historical facts, and snippets from daily news reports. A future classic of photography, this monograph is supported by an international touring exhibition and is a must-have for anyone with an interest in witnessing the reality of an America that's been excluded from the American Dream.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Mona Kuhn: Works
Published by Thames & Hudson
Mona Kuhn is one of the most respected contemporary photographers of her time, best known for her large-scale photographs of the human form. Throughout a career spanning more than twenty years, the underlying theme of her work is her reflection on humanity's longing for spiritual connection and solidarity. As she solidified her photographic style, Kuhn created a notable approach to the nude by developing friendships with her subjects, and employing a range of playful visual strategies that use natural light and bucolic settings to evoke a sublime sense of comfort between the human figure and its environment. Her work is natural, restful, and a reinterpretation of the nude in the canon of contemporary art.
Kuhn's distinct aesthetic has propelled her as one of the most collectible contemporary art photographers―her work is in private and public collections worldwide and she is represented by galleries across the United States. Mona Kuhn: Works, the artist's first retrospective, features images from throughout her career, accompanied by insightful texts by Rebecca Morse, Simon Baker, Chris Littlewood, and Darius Himes. An interview with Elizabeth Avedon provides insights into Kuhn's creative process and the ways in which she works with her subjects and locations, and achieves the visual signature of her imagery. Published to coincide with a traveling international exhibition, opening at Fotografiska in New York, this book introduces Kuhn's distinct aesthetic to a wide popular audience., It is an essential volume for anyone with an interest in the human form in contemporary art.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Sophie Calle: The Hotel
Published by Siglio
In 1981 Sophie Calle took a job as a chambermaid for the Hotel C in Venice, Italy. Stashing her camera and tape recorder in her mop bucket, she not only cleans and tidies, but sorts through the evidence of the hotel guests' lives. Assigned 12 rooms on the fourth floor, she surveys the state of the guests' bedding, their books, newspapers and postcards, perfumes and cologne, traveling clothes and costumes for Carnival. She methodically photographs the contents of closets and suitcases, examining the detritus in the rubbish bin and the toiletries arranged on the washbasin. She discovers their birth dates and blood types, diary entries, letters from and photographs of lovers and family. She eavesdrops on arguments and love-making. She retrieves a pair of shoes from the wastebasket and takes two chocolates from a neglected box of sweets, while leaving behind stashes of money, pills and jewelry. Her thievery is the eye of the camera, observing the details that were not meant for her, or us, to see. The Hotel now manifests as a book for the first time in English (it was previously included in the book Double Game). Collaborating with the artist on a new design that features enhanced and larger photographs, and pays specific attention to the beauty of the book as an object, Siglio is releasing its third book authored by Calle, after The Address Book (2012) and Suite Vénitienne (2015).
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Best Photo Book of 2021

John Alinder: Portraits 1910-32
Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing
John Alinder, son of a farmer, was born in 1878 in the village of Sävasta, Altuna parish, in Uppland, a province in eastern central Sweden. Alinder remained in the village all his life. He chose not to take over his parents' farm and instead became a self-taught photographer and jack of all trades. He was a music lover, holder of the Swedish agency for the British record label and gramophone brand His Master's Voice. For a time he ran a rural shop from his home, and he even operated an illicit bar for a while. From the 1910s to the 1930s he portrayed the local people, the landscape around them and their way of life. He often photographed them in their homes and gardens, using the technology of the time, glass plates. These he developed in a small darkroom he had built and then made the prints in the sunlight.
The Alinder collection was discovered in the 1980s when a curator found over 8,000 glass plates stacked away in a library basement. Children placed on chairs, people perched in trees, labourers, confirmation candidates and old ladies; often depicted against a background of foliage and sprawling greenery penetrated by sunlight. Alinder's portraiture allows for the magic of chance, both liberating and defining the subjects. Often they are looking straight into the camera. As if they can see us. As if their gaze can travel the hundred years or so that lie between their time and ours. As if they were saying, You are alive now, but we were once alive.
This book shows Alinder's portraits for the first time. Published in collaboration with Upplandsmuseet and Landskrona Foto, Sweden, it coincides with the launch of the first major exhibition of his work. He is a unique portrait photographer whose work can match other acknowledged photographers from the same period, such as Gertrude Käsebier, Mike Disfarmer or August Sander, and whilst he worked within the confines of his own small village, it is clear that such an original and skilled photographer deserves to be showcased to a broader, world-wide audience.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Richard Sharum: Campesino Cuba
Published by GOST Books
Photographer Richard Sharum travelled across Cuba to document the lives of isolated farmers, or 'Campesinos,' and their wider communities at a time of national transition. The histories of these communities have formed the backbone of Cuba, and yet they are rarely depicted in photographic representations of the country. Sharum began researching Campesino communities in late 2015 and his resulting black and white photographs depict the intertwined relationship of people and the land they depend on. During the course of several journeys between January 2016 and November 2019, Sharum travelled from the northern to the southern shorelines, across to the western provinces, and to the eastern villages deep in the Sierra Maestra region of Cuba to complete his project. Over one hundred photographs from Sharum's trips will be published in his first monograph, Campesino Cuba (Gost, Fall 2021).
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Ed Kashi: Abandoned Moments
Published by Kehrer Verlag
If Cartier-Bresson's decisive moment reflects a situation perfectly in tune with the photographer’s intuition, flawlessly combining the elements of composition and timing, then Ed Kashi's abandoned moment is the result of an imprecise instant of surrender. This collection of photographs, made over a 40-year period, reveals imprecise glimpses of transitory events filled with frenetic energy – the chaos of everyday life. Embodying photography's intrinsic power, they preserve moments that can never occur again in exactly the same time and space. When geometry, mood, and possibility unite to unintentionally create something new, the magical and fictional qualities of still photography capture the unplanned essence of existence. In contrast to my journalistic approach of deep personal connection and keen observation, this work is about capturing the untamed energy of a moment with abandon.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Ron Cooper: Celebrating Humanity
Published by Photiq
Ron Cooper, a Colorado-based photographer, has partnered with British publisher Photiq to produce Celebrating Humanity: Faces from Five Continents, a fine-art book of Cooper's travel portrait photography. The photographs in the book portray people in all walks of life, young and old, at home where they live and work. Cooper photographed the people over a ten-year period through 2019. The subjects range from cowboys in the Southwestern United States to indigenous people in West Papua, Indonesia; from nomadic tribal people in Namibia to a professional clown in Havana, Cuba; from Quechua weavers in the Peruvian Andes to a Vietnamese boatman.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Sebastião Salgado: Amazônia
Published by Taschen
Sebastião Salgado traveled the Brazilian Amazon and photographed the unparalleled beauty of this extraordinary region for six years: the forest, the rivers, the mountains, the people who live there - an irreplaceable treasure of humanity. In the book's foreword Salgado writes: For me, it is the last frontier, a mysterious universe of its own, where the immense power of nature can be felt as nowhere else on earth. Here is a forest stretching to infinity that contains one-tenth of all living plant and animal species, the world's largest single natural laboratory. Salgado visited a dozen indigenous tribes that exist in small communities scattered across the largest tropical rainforest in the world. He documented the daily life of the Yanomami, the Asháninka, the Yawanawá, the Suruwahá, the Zo'é, the Kuikuro, the Waurá, the Kamayurá, the Korubo, the Marubo, the Awá, and the Macuxi - their warm family bonds, their hunting and fishing, the manner in which they prepare and share meals, their marvelous talent for painting their faces and bodies, the significance of their shamans, and their dances and rituals. Sebastião Salgado has dedicated this book to the indigenous peoples of Brazil's Amazon region: My wish, with all my heart, with all my energy, with all the passion I possess, is that in 50 years' time this book will not resemble a record of a lost world. Amazônia must live on. Soon available in a Collector's Edition including a bookstand designed by Renzo Piano and four Art Editions, each including the Renzo Piano bookstand and a signed print.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Agence France Presse: The Year That Changed Our World
Published by Thames & Hudson
A definitive photographic history of the world under Covid-19., this book reveals in pictures the story of humankind's resilience, resourcefulness, and sense of purpose in the face of a global Pandemics documented by the photographers of Agence France Presse. The Year That Changed Our World is a definitive, visual history of the Covid-19 Pandemic. With more than 450 photographs, this ambitious publication traces the arc of the Pandemic from early 2020 through to the vaccine breakthroughs of Spring 2021. Here, the talented photographers of Agence France Presse document the deep, human stories of the Pandemic. Active in more than 150 countries, these capture all sides of the Covid-19 story as experienced by people throughout the globe. Organized into six chronological parts, and braided together with thematic breakout sections, including topics such as protests, sports, and politics, The Year That Changed Our World is a comprehensive time capsule. These images show the extraordinary efforts to understand, control, and cope with a previously unknown virus alongside the human stories of our lives at home: playing, caring, watching, and sharing, both together and at a distance. Edited by Marielle Eudes, Director of Photography at Agence France Presse, and featuring, texts, quotes and insights from a range of contributors and public figures, The Year That Changed Our World is a photographic testament to humankind's resilience in the face of the pandemic. The book's arresting imagery provides a visual record for us and for future generations to better understand the world during the time of Covid-19.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Helmut Newton: Legacy
Published by Taschen
Virtually unparalleled in scope and spanning more than five decades, the photography of visionary Helmut Newton (1920-2004) reached millions through publication in magazines like Vogue and Elle. His oeuvre transcended genres, bringing elegance, style, and voyeurism to fashion, portrait, and glamour photography through a body of work that remains as inimitable as it is unrivaled. Having mastered the art of fashion photography early in his career, Newton's shoots invariably went beyond standard practice, blurring the lines between reality and illusion. Newton's clear aesthetic pervades all areas of his work, particularly fashion, portraiture, and nude photography. Women take center stage - with subjects such as Catherine Deneuve, Liz Taylor, and Charlotte Rampling. Moving beyond traditional narrative approaches, Newton's fashion photography is imbued not only with luxurious elegance and subtle seduction, but also cultural references and a surprising sense of humor. During the 1990s, Newton shot for the German, American, Italian, French, and Russian editions of Vogue, primarily in and around Monte Carlo where he was living from 1981 onwards. Transforming locations like his own garage into starkly contrasting or particularly minimalist theatrical stages, Newton would often portray the eccentric lives of the beautiful and rich, full of eroticism and elegance, in unconventional scenarios. He made use of and simultaneously questioned visual clichés, at times tinged with self-irony or mockery, but always full of empathy. Helmut Newton. Legacy, which accompanies an international exhibition tour of Newton's work, showcases highlights from one of the most published bodies of work in photography, including numerous rediscovered images. A prolific image maker and genuine visionary, this book celebrates Newton's lasting influence on modern photography and visual art to this day.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Ragnar Axelsson: Where the World is Melting
Published by Kehrer Verlag
The first retrospective by Ragnar Axelsson includes among others the well-known series Faces of the North, Glacier, Last Days of the Arctic, and Arctic Heroes. The eminent Icelandic photographer's themes are the changes in the physical and traditional realities of the North. From the introduction by Isabell Siben, Director Kunstfoyer, Versicherungskammer Kulturstiftung Munich: Icelander Ragnar Axelsson, one of the North's most in-demand photographers, has long been observing climate change with the greatest concern. For more than 40 years, he has been documenting the dramatic changes to landscapes and habitats on the margins of the inhabitable world, travelling to the most remote and isolated regions of the Arctic, to Inuit hunters in Northern Canada and Greenland, to farmersand fishermen on Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and to the Indigenous population in Northern Scandinavia and Siberia.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

George Tice: Lifework (Photographs 1953-2013)
Published by Veritas Edition
To capture and distill into book form the sweeping achievement of an artist whose award-winning work spans scope, subject, and decades is no easy feat. And to do so in a way that reflects this unique breadth is even harder still. Lifework provides a substantial look at Tice's work, exhibition history, and significant life events. His 25th book to date, the quadtone-printed book features many of Tice's well-known images, as well as some that appear in published form for the first time. The Photobook is presented as a cloth-bound hardcover with dust jacket, off- printed in quadtone on Japanese fine art paper. In its 384 pages included are 318 of Tice's signature black and white images, all created with a large format camera and his master printing darkroom process. The patience, technique, and craft that this requires translates directly to the visual depth and richness that the images resonate. In his essay for the book, Tice provides anecdotes and perspectives on his life that enrich and add depth of context to the image viewing experience.  The Limited Edition is presented in a custom cloth clamshell case and offers the choice of one of two different Gelatin Silver prints handmade by Tice in his New Jersey home darkroom.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

What They Saw: Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843 – 1999
Published by 10x10 Photobooks
What They Saw: Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843 – 1999, 10×10's most recent “book-on-photobooks” anthology in its ongoing examination of photobook history, explores photobooks created by women from photography's beginnings to the dawn of the 21st century. Presenting a diverse geographic and ethnic selection, the anthology interprets historical photobooks by women in the broadest sense possible: classic bound books, portfolios, personal albums, unpublished books, zines and scrapbooks. Some of the books documented are well-known publications such as Anna Atkins' Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843-1853), Germaine Krull's Métal (1928) and Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (1972), while other books may be relatively unknown, such as Alice Seeley Harris' The Camera and the Congo Crime (c. 1906), Varvara Stepanova's Groznyi smekh. Okna Rosta (1932), Eslanda Cardozo Goode Robeson's African Journey (1945), Fina Gómez Revenga's Fotografías de Fina Gómez Revenga (1954), Eiko Yamazawa's Far and Near (1962) and Gretta Alegre Sarfaty's Auto-photos: Série transformações-1976: Diário de Uma Mulher-1977 (1978). Also addressed in the publication are the glaring gaps and omissions in current photobook history-in particular, the lack of access, support and funding for photobooks by non-Western women and women of color. Aperture PhotoBook Awards: Winner of Photography Catalogue of the Year 2021
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Gilles Peress: Whatever You Say, Say Nothing
Published by Steidl
A long-awaited, multivolume "documentary fiction" of photographs and documents portraying the Northern Ireland conflict In 1972, at the age of 26, Gilles Peress (born 1946) photographed the British Army's massacre of Irish civilians on Bloody Sunday. In the 1980s he returned to the North of Ireland, intent on testing the limits of visual language and perception to understand the intractable conflict. Whatever You Say, Say Nothing, a work of "documentary fiction," organizes a decade of photographs across 22 fictional "days" to articulate the helical structure of history during a conflict that seemed like it would never end―days of violence, of marching, of riots, of unemployment, of mourning. Accompanying each copy is Annals of the North, a text-and-image almanac to Whatever You Say, Say Nothing, also published separately by Steidl this season; the books are housed together in a tote bag. Held back for 30 years and now eagerly anticipated, Whatever You Say, Say Nothing takes the language of documentary photography to its extremes.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Nick Brandt: The Day May Break
Published by Hatje Cantz
Photographed in Zimbabwe and Kenya in late 2020, The Day May Break is the first part of a global series by acclaimed photographer Nick Brandt, portraying people and animals that have been impacted by environmental degradation and destruction. The people in these photographs were all affected by climate change, displaced by cyclones and years-long droughts. Photographed at five sanctuaries, the animals were rescues that can never be rewilded. As a result, it was safe for human strangers to be close to them, photographed so close to them, within the same frame. The fog on location is the unifying visual motif, conveying the sense of an ever-increasing limbo, a once-recognizable world now fading from view. However, despite their respective losses, these people and animals have survived, and therein lies possibility and hope.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Anne Berry: Behind Glass
Published by Shock Design Books
Behind Glass is a series of portraits of primates made over the course of ten years in small zoos throughout Europe. Alone, patient and silent, in these monkey houses Anne Berry establishes a more than passing connection with her subjects. She captures the unique personality of each of these animals; it is clear that they are posing for her and that there exists a human-primate bond. Berry's goal is to motivate people to feel compassion for primates and an obligation to protect them. Most of the primates she photographs qualify as endangered, and all of them are facing stress from loss of habitat and human activity. The plight of primates on earth is urgent; our indifference will condemn them to extinction, and we will follow.
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Best Photo Book of 2021

Cig Harvey: Blue Violet
Published by The Monacelli Press
Blue Violet is a vibrant meditation on the procession of seasons, sensory abundance, and the magic in everyday life. Part art book, botanical guide, historical encyclopedia, and poetry collection, Blue Violet is a compendium of beauty, color, and the senses. Plants, flowers, and our experience of the natural world are the threads that tie this unique book together. Exploring the five senses, Blue Violet takes the reader on a personal journey through nature and the range of human emotions. As with her previous three titles--You Look At Me Like An Emergency, Gardening at Night, and You an Orchestra You a Bomb--this book invites the reader to pause, laugh, cry, create, and become more aware of the natural world. Images and text in a variety of forms (prose poetry, recipes, lists, research pieces, diagrams) focus on immediate experience to understand the vibrancy of the senses on memory and feelings.
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