More Than Just Coffee Table Fodder
30 Awe-Inspiring Photography Books
Ask any sensible man with concern for art and he’ll tell you that photography stands alongside painting and sculpture as one of the noblest disciplines. Hand him a beautifully bound book bursting with samples of this art form, however, and he’ll slide it underneath his coffee mug to protect the table from stains.
This list of our favorites represents an attempt, however incomplete, to reseat the photo book in its rightful place alongside the
Scarface posters Warhols lining your walls. We wouldn’t call it a compendium of the greatest photographers or a comprehensive survey of the medium — it’s just a few selections to help broaden your photographic horizons, or at the very least spark some compelling conversation around the coffee table.
Contribution by Jake Orthwein and Jack Seemer.
|Capa in Color
Robert Capa (1913–1954) is foremost remembered as a photographer of war, documenting, among others, the Spanish Civil War, World War II (across both Europe and North Africa), and the First Indochina War, where we was eventually killed. Though commonly linked to black and white photography, Capa was in fact an early advocate of color film. Capa in Color celebrates the lesser-known opus of his color photography with rare photographs of Bogart, Hemingway and Picasso, alongside other notable subjects and friends. $43
Considered by many art historians to be “the father of color photography”, William Eggleston (1939–) is accredited with garnering respect for color photography in the world of high art, a space notoriously biased in favor of black and white photographs. He is admired for both his understated aesthetic and unique use of dye-transfer printing, the same process used in advertising prints to achieve a depth of highly saturated colors. This three-volume set presents Eggleston’s work with color slide film (also called positive film) — Kodachrome and Ektachrome, specifically — over the course of 728 carefully curated pages, filled with photographs taken from the Eggleston Artistic Trust. $995
Julius Schulman (1910—2009) was one of the world’s most renowned photographers of architecture, associated with his prolific documentation of the mid-century design of Southern California. (His most recognized photograph is that of the Stahl House, taken in 1960, overlooking Los Angeles at night.) This colossal collection, exceeding 1,000 pages, not only pays tribute to Shulman’s photography, but also the work of history’s greatest architects — Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry and Le Corbusier, to name just a few. $147
|Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph
Diane Arbus (1923—1971) was known for photographing subjects on the fringes of society: dwarfs, transvestites, circus performers. This collection of 80 black and white photographs, first published in 1972 following Arbus’s death, includes some of her most iconic portraits, including “Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967” (which inspired two notorious characters in Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining). $31
|Paul Strand in Mexico
A contemporary of Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, American photographer Paul Strand (1890—1976) was one of the first ever to garner respect for photography as a medium of art. This collection, comprised of 234 photographs, focuses on a very specific aspect of Strand’s long, dynamic career, chronicling his time spent in Mexico during the early ‘30s, as well as a second voyage there in 1966. $75
From the years 1963 to 1967, American photographer and filmmaker Danny Lyon (1942—) was a member of the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club, a hard-riding gang cruising on the outskirts of the American status quo. He spent that time photographing and interviewing his associates, collecting that material into The Bikeriders, an intimate depiction of a particular subculture that echoes in the spirit of fellow New Journalism writers, such as Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson. $28
|Magnum Contact Sheets
Kristen Lubben (Editor)
Founded in 1947 by a number photographers — including Capa and Bresson — the photographic co-op Magnum Photos has been responsible, collectively, for some of the world’s most iconic images: photos of the Normandy landing during World War II (Robert Capa), the Paris riots of 1968 (Bruno Barbey), Che Guevara smoking a cigar (René Burri), among many others. This book, showcasing the contact sheets of these famous photographs, offers unprecedented context and insight into what other shots were taken on specific rolls of film. $55
New York City is an example of a place that is always changing, driving toward an end at which it will never arrive. Centered around his East Village apartment in the 1980s, photographer Ken Schles documented his personal perspective on this dynamism through nighttime photography, resulting in a grainy, dark, yet captivating portrayal of urban life in flux. Long out of print, this second edition of Invisible City, a cult classic for photography buffs, authentically uses scans from Schles’s original negatives. $30
Contemporary photographer Andrew Bush (1956—) explores the car culture of America through this conceptual series of photographs (first entitled Vector Portraits) taken around Los Angeles. Traveling alongside his subjects, often at speeds up to 60 mph, Bush would photograph unsuspecting drivers, ranging in age and gender. The result is a lucid, and often hilarious, reflection of the tension between alienation and proximity shared on the American highway. $85
Richard Mosse (1980—), a graduate from the Yale School of Art, traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo for Infra, his unique collection of photographs that document the ongoing social and political struggles of the region. Each photograph is taken with the Kodak Aerochrome, a now-discontinued film-stock, originally used for aerial surveillance. The film registers an invisible-to-the-eye spectrum of infrared light that translates green into rich hues of purple and pink for a wholly original representation of landscapes and personal subjects. $525