The best photography books of 2017
Everything can be a tabletop book if you place it on your coffee table, but a good photography book can be a tabletop book that reads like a novel. Unlike art forms like painting or sculpture, the book is often the ideal form for photography, highlighting the medium’s potential as a storytelling tool. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are two: Good gifts! Below, Vulture picks out 20 of the best photography books of 2017 and tells you who to buy them from for this holiday season.
The powerful but graceful photo on the cover of Billie Holiday’s 1958 album The blues is brewed, although uncredited, was shot by Jerry Dantzic. This book represents the week of photographs that surrounded this image. Taken during a week of performances in Newark, New Jersey, at Sugar Hill in April 1957, the result is an unusually intimate portrayal of an artist. (Holiday would die just two years later.) Holiday smiles as her dog licks her face, grins as she puts on makeup before a show, closes her eyes as her godson kisses her on the cheek. You feel lucky to spend so much time with her.
Based on a highly regarded exhibition at the Met, Centenary features over 300 of Irving Penn’s beautifully detailed and composed photographs – some never before published – focusing on his studio work and still life. Penn was known as a fashion photographer, studio maestro, master of still life and, quite simply, one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. For any historian of photography, this book is a must.
Years ago Joel Meyerowitz found himself in Paul CÃ©zanne’s studio and something clicked. He saw how Cezanne hand painted the wall dark gray so as to flatten the space when objects were placed in front of it. Meyerowitz then had the idea of ââcapturing this phenomenon, with a series of photos of objects placed in front of this wall. The result may seem simple, but when all of these images are presented together, it offers a unique glimpse into the brain of post-impressionist genius.
Harry Gruyaert isn’t the only color photographer on the list, but his work does the most to present photography as a medium to celebrate color. It presents unusual settings – whether Moscow in 1989 (the titular East) or Los Angeles and Las Vegas (the West) in 1981 – with an extraordinary range of colors. It’s not just dynamism: Gruyaert, who draws more inspiration from painters and directors than his fellow photojournalists, creates compositions with a complex combination of pure colors.
As a press photographer who captured New York’s difficult times from 1929 to 1946, Weegee defined what it meant to have a photograph as a title, instead of just accompanying a title. This collection, which includes recently discovered images of the master, shows how Weegee influences both the photography and the narration of real crimes.
With legions of smartphone owners snapping more pictures of soups and piles of lettuce than anyone could have imagined, it’s time to examine the place of food in photography. It is important to distinguish this from âfood photographyâ, where the goal is to make food look beautiful and appetizing; this book focuses on photographers who use food as a graphic vehicle. The food might look gross, but the pictures are stunning.
Sometimes you look at the work of a photographer and you can’t believe they inhabit the same planet as the rest of us. Rinko Kawauchi’s Land looks like ours – there are trees, birds and snowflakes – it’s just more airy, more hushed. Many of her books focus on specific topics, but this book sees her combine four different subjects – a European bird migration, a Chinese lantern festival, a Japanese religious festival, a star – to create an overall sense of serenity.
You might cry a little, but then it’ll be all smiles. Former White House chief photographer cut Instagram shaded poster Pete Souza used his formidable access to capture the sheer complexity of the US president’s life. Unlike a book by a certain current president, which would only be pictures of him watching television.
In 1977, color photography game changer William Eggleston, released a very limited series of his first and most extensive book, The day before the elections. It was finally reprinted, 30 years later, giving a wide audience its first glimpse of the masterpiece. Shot the month before Jimmy Carter’s election, it captures Eggleston’s journey from Memphis to Plains, Carter’s hometown, Georgia. The book captures America on the eve of an election, as the title promises, without showing anything of the election itself. As a result, the tone is complex – calm but worried, hopeful but lonely. It’s quite a book!
By literally looking through the lens of 40 international female photographers, Girl on girl is a refreshing glimpse from the female perspective. That, of course, doesn’t mean just one thing, as the book offers an array of artistic perspectives, from Petra Collins’ intimate photographs of youth culture, to the playful youthful fantasy of Maya Fuhr, by the way. by the photograph of the black lesbian of Zanele Muholi. and the trans community in South Africa, at the work of Juno Calypso traveling across the United States to love hotels.
The flowers are very pretty, but they break down the sex organs quite slowly. This book by Tanya and Zhenya Posternak for New York designer Mansur Gavriel perfectly captures this dichotomy, through a whirlwind and brutal visit to the Los Angeles Flower Market.
Magnum Manifesto is a celebration of 70 years of Magnum, the first photography agency. The manifesto is divided into three parts: Part I (1947-1968), which focuses on post-war ideals, Part II (1968-1989), which highlights the division in the world, and the part III (1990-2017), which presents a world in danger. The result reads like a visual story of the heartbreak, tragedy and beauty of the past 70 years.
Inspired by the history of art, Erik Madigan Heck became a sought-after fashion photographer by blending the traditions of painting and photography, blending the two with a mastery of light and color. All of his work is done behind closed doors, without Photoshop, elevating the magic of images to the digital age. (Additionally, some of the images in the book were taken for new York Magazine, so we might be a bit biased.)
People have been photographing parties for decades, long before the world’s cobra snakes began to shine their flash on the kids in coked clubs. One such pioneer is street photography legend Lee Friedlander, whose party photography history has been collected in this edition of Human clay series. Being a famous photographer has its advantages, in terms of subject matter: beyond being able to fend for yourself graphically, there is the added advantage of seeing what Ingrid Bergman, Robert Kennedy, Robert Rauschenberg and Angela Lansbury looked like in town.
The celebrity portrait can often be a tedious exercise – impartial, impersonal and generic. This book shows why Duane Michals is one of the big exceptions. From Johnny Cash to Sting, Tilda Swinton to Gilda Radner, Liza Minnelli to Warren Beatty, Michals creates interesting compositions that reveal never-before-seen details about the stars.
It is precarious to designate anything as meaningful for a generation of artists, especially when asked to define an entire continent. Fortunately, Recent stories does not make such high claims. Instead, it features 14 African lens-based artists born after 1970 and lets themes emerge organically, through imagery and an array of essays and critical conversations. The result is a rich text that is less an overview than a starting point.
What a great concept for a book! Fifteen fans of pioneering color photographer Stephen Shore were invited to choose ten never-before-seen images from when Shore was filming what would become the all-time classic. Uncommon places. The result is an interesting look at both the work of a legend and those who chose the images. For example, Wes Anderson begins the book with ten images very similar to those of Wes Anderson. (Oh, you know they all have the subject in the center!)
Since its first impression, Sleep on the banks of the Mississippi has become one of the most sought after photography books of the 21st century. Now in its fourth pressing, Soth’s portrayal of the overlooked parts of the South and Midwest still resonates as much now as it did 13 years ago when it was first released. The vibrant color of Soth’s large-format images contrasts with what is a deeply sad and lonely book, shaping a complex and rich look at neglected regions of this land.
Japan’s enormous contribution to photography as an art is finally getting the definitive text it deserves. Japanese photo book captures the evolution of the form in Japan, using the photos themselves to tell the story. Images from 400 photographic publications – with a strong emphasis, unsurprisingly, on the post-war era and the revolution To provoke 70s and 80s style – offers a look at some of the most important and often the rarest photo books ever made.
Helen Levitt, one of America’s great street photographers, began taking photos on the subway in the 1930s with her friend and collaborator Walker Evans, then stopped to return 40 years later. Now, 40 years later, with the subway in a state of emergency, this book draws you in, connecting generations of New Yorkers. The subway, when New Yorkers relinquish control of their forward momentum, proves to be an ideal setting for Levitt’s sensitive portrayal.
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