Here is a selection of photo books that, in my opinion, should be in your library! It is of course a very subjective choice and if I could, I would have chosen at least 50 of them. This collection will help you to draft your 'wish list' or to find the perfect gift for someone who enjoys photography. Happy Holidays!
By Baldwin Lee, Barney Kulok, Jessica Bell Brown
Published by Hunters Point Press
In 1983, Baldwin Lee (born 1951) left his home in Knoxville, Tennessee, with his 4 × 5 view camera and set out on the first of a series of road trips to photograph the American South. The subject of his pictures was Black Americans: at home, at work and at play, in the street and in nature. This project would consume Lee―a first-generation Chinese American―for the remainder of that decade, and it would forever transform his perception of his country, its people and himself.
The resulting archive from this seven-year period contains nearly 10,000 black-and-white negatives. This monograph, Baldwin Lee, presents a selection of 88 images edited by the photographer Barney Kulok, accompanied by an interview with Lee by the curator Jessica Bell Brown and an essay by the writer Casey Gerald. Arriving almost four decades after Lee began his journey, this publication reveals the artist’s unique commitment to picturing life in America.
Haight-Ashbury: Portraits 1967-1968
By Elaine Mayes, Kevin Moore
Everyday life on the Haight: previously unseen portraits from the hippie epicenter by the acclaimed documentarian.
Elaine Mayes (born 1936) was a young photographer living in San Francisco’s lively Haight-Ashbury District during the 1960s. She had photographed the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and, later that year, during the waning days of the Summer of Love, embarked on a set of portraits of youth culture in her neighborhood. By that time, the hippie movement had turned from euphoria to harder drugs, and the Haight had become less of a blissed-out haven for young people seeking a better way of life than a halfway house for runaway teens.
Realizing the gravity of the cultural moment, Mayes shifted from the photojournalistic approach she had applied to musicians and concert-goers in Monterey to making formal portraits of people she met on the street. Choosing casual, familiar settings such as stoops, doorways, parks and interiors, Mayes instructed her subjects to look into her square-format camera, to concentrate and be still: she made her exposures as they exhaled. Mayes’ familiarity with her subjects helped her to evade mediatized stereotypes of hippies, presenting instead an understated and unsentimental group portrait of the individual inventors of a fleeting cultural moment.
Elaine Mayes: The Haight-Ashbury Portraits 1967–1968 is the first monograph on one of the decade’s most important bodies of work, presenting more than 40 images from Mayes’ series. An essay by art historian Kevin Moore elaborates an important chapter in the history of West Coast photography.
By Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen
Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing
Byker is an intimate portrait of a community faced with redevelopment.
When Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen came to the North East of England in 1969 as a founder member of Amber, she set up home in Byker, a working class part of Newcastle upon Tyne. As she began to document the terraced community, she became aware of the plans for its demolition, to make way for the building of the Byker Wall, designed by architect Ralph Erskine.
This lent urgency to her work, which continued over until the early 1980s and the completion of the new estate.
In 1981 Amber began work on the film. Drawing on Sirkka’s images and interviews, on documentary footage and dramatisation, it evokes an entire era in British working class life.
Some Say Ice
By Alessandra Sanguinetti
Published by MACK BOOKS
"Since 2014, Alessandra Sanguinetti has been returning to the small town of Black River Falls in Wisconsin, creating the photographs that would come to form the stark and elliptical series Some Say Ice. The same town is the subject of Wisconsin Death Trip, a book of photographs taken by Charles Van Schaick in the late 1800s documenting the bleak hardships of the lives and deaths of its inhabitants. Sanguinetti first came across this book as a child, and the experience is engraved into her memory as her first reckoning with mortality. This encounter eventually led her to explore the strange relationship of photography and death, and ultimately to make her own visits to Black River Falls. The austere, sculptural scenes and ambiguous, uneasy portraits that make up Some Say Ice depict a place almost outside of time. Presented unadorned by text or explication, the photographs are touched with the spirit of the gothic as well as the unmistakable tenderness familiar from Sanguinetti’s series The Adventures of Guille and Belinda. By bringing undercurrents of doubt and darkness to the surface of her images, Sanguinetti alludes to things absent or invisible, playing on atmospheres both real and imagined, as well as the ghostly possibility of undoing death through the act of photography. With its title inspired by Robert Frost’s famous poem equivocating on how best one’s inevitable death might be met, Some Say Ice is a humane look at the melancholic realities underpinning our lives, seen with glacial clarity by one of the world’s foremost photographers."
Coney Island People: 50 Years, 1970-2020
By Harvey Stein
Published by Schiffer
Coney Island is an American icon celebrated worldwide, a fantasyland of the past with an evolving present and an irrepressible optimism about its future. It is a democratic entertainment where people of all walks of life and places are brought together.
There isn’t anywhere else like it, and that is much of its appeal. Here 170 evocative black-and-white images taken by eminent photographer Harvey Stein from 1970 through 2020 simultaneously look back in time while giving a current view to the people and activities of this “poor man’s Riviera.” The images capture the wonder and intimacy of Coney Island. There is no photo book that has been published that documents a 50-year time period of a famous location taken by one photographer. Being in Coney Island is like stepping into another society, rather than just experiencing a day’s entertainment.
Kitchen Table Series
By Carrie Mae Weems
Publisher: Damiani/Matsumoto Editions
Kitchen Table Series is the first publication dedicated solely to this early and important body of work by the American artist Carrie Mae Weems. The 20 photographs and 14 text panels that make up Kitchen Table Series tell a story of one woman’s life, as conducted in the intimate setting of her kitchen. The kitchen, one of the primary spaces of domesticity and the traditional domain of women, frames her story, revealing to us her relationships―with lovers, children, friends―and her own sense of self, in her varying projections of strength, vulnerability, aloofness, tenderness and solitude.
As Weems describes it, this work of art depicts "the battle around the family ... monogamy ... and between the sexes." Weems herself is the protagonist of the series, though the woman she depicts is an archetype. Kitchen Table Series seeks to reposition and reimagine the possibility of women and the possibility of people of color, and has to do with, in the artist’s words, "unrequited love."
By Julie Blackmon
Publisher: Radius Books
A photographic fever dream of America’s Midwest, from the author of Homegrown and Domestic Vacations.
For her third monograph, Midwest Materials, Julie Blackmon has created a new body of work that sparkles with the wit, dark humor and irony for which the photographer has gained such renown. Finding insight and inspiration in the seeming monotony of her “generic American hometown” of Springfield, Missouri, Blackmon constructs a captivating, fictitious world that is both playful and menacing. “I think of myself as a visual artist working in the medium of photography,” Blackmon notes, “and my assignment is to chart the fever dreams of American life.” Midwest Materials follows Domestic Vacations (Radius Books, 2008) and Homegrown (Radius Books, 2014).
By Jessica Todd Harper
Published by Damiani
Like 17th-century Dutch painters who made otherwise ordinary interior scenes appear charged with meaning, Pennsylvania-based photographer Jessica Todd Harper (born 1975) looks for the value in everyday moments. The characters in her imagery are the people around her―friends, herself, family―but it is not so much they who are important as the way in which they are organized and lit by Harper. A woman helping her child practice the piano is not a particularly sacred moment, but as in a Vermeer painting, the way the composition and lighting influence the content suggests that perhaps it is. This collection of photographs presented in Harper's third monograph makes use of what is right in front of the artist, what is here, a place that many of us came to contemplate especially during the pandemic. Beauty, goodness and truth can reveal themselves in daily life, as in the Dutch paintings of everyday domestic scenes that are somehow lit up with mysterious import. Harper shows how our unexamined or even seemingly dull surroundings can sometimes be illuminating.
By Harry Gruyaert
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
This book from award-winning Magnum photographer Harry Gruyaert collects his most cinematic images to date.
A master of color-saturated atmospheres, Harry Gruyaert has roamed the world searching for the perfect light for more than forty years. His intuitive and physical relationship to places immerses the spectator in a world that borrows from the cinematic universe and from that of the painter. “A good photo is a photo that says a lot of things about the place and the moment it was taken,” says Gruyaert. Space―its complexity, the perception that we have of it, its plasticity―is a major component of Gruyaert’s images, as if the duality between color and spatiality was dissolving in order to create a work where the only thing that matters is the pleasure of immersion.
Harry Gruyaert: Between Worlds dissolves the boundaries between exterior and interior spaces, a closed world and one that is open to elsewhere. From shops, cafés, subway platforms, and hotel roomsin Europe, the Middle East, the United States, and Africa from the1970s to today, Gruyaert deploys the very essence of visual writing:a luminous alchemy suspended in time. A collection of seventy-five images that connect one realm with the next, this volume shows that beyond the marvelous colorist that he is, Gruyaert’s images also depict a photographer’s vision of the world.
Ballenesque Roger Ballen: A Retrospective
By Roger Ballen
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Separated into four parts, Ballenesque takes readers on a visual, chronological journey through Roger Ballen’s entire oeuvre, including both iconic images and previously unpublished photographs. Part I explores his formative artistic influences and his later rediscovery of boyhood through photography, culminating in his first published monograph, Boyhood, in 1979. Part II then charts the period between 1980 and 2000, during which time his deeper search for the elemental self found its way into the ‘Dorps’, or small towns, of South Africa and concluding with the release of his seminal monograph Outland. Part III covers the years 2000–2013, when Ballen achieved global recogition with Shadow Chamber and Boarding House and his work began to veer away from portraiture altogether. Finally, in Part IV, Ballen reflects upon his career in its entirety.
With over 300 photographs and an introduction by eminent academic Robert J. C. Young, this book provides both an entirely new way of seeing Ballen’s work for those who already follow his career and a comprehensive introduction for those encountering his photographs for the first time.