The Photography Books I Own, Want And Desperately Need

I have an Amazon wish-list of books that is becoming so vast, I have come to the conclusion that the only way I’ll ever be able to afford them all is to become rich, and the only way I’ll have enough space to store them all is if I become even richer and buy one of those red brick houses in Kensington with a room dedicated to being a messy library. Okay, maybe the Kensington house isn’t a necessity, maybe I’ve just driven through London one too many times in the back of a taxi in the rain and romanticised living there, but wanting more money just to buy more books is normal, I think. I’m not saying my Amazon wish-list is my sole drive to become successful but…that’s exactly what I’m saying. Currently, my book list that was once littered with fiction is weighed down with thick photography books I am yearning for. For me, there’s no better feeling than evaporating a dried up period of creativity by hauling out a handful of really great “coffee-table” books and going through them slowly on the bedroom floor. I’m not a huge fan of Kindle books, like many people, I prefer to read off paper and have a book I can hold and smell instead of spending more time looking into a headache-inducing, glowing screen. The same goes for photography books, sure you can scroll through a photographer’s website and see a portfolio of images, but it feels so fleeting, so temporary. A new tab and a new topic of fascination is only a click away. Photography books have so much more weight to them, in the physical sense as well as the metaphorical sense. They suck you into a world of that photographer’s work, and you can feel like you own a little bit of it, that it’s yours to keep. Maybe that’s just me. Who knows. I decided to compile a list of photography books that I desperately need as well as I few I already have and highly recommend.

Alex Webb – The Suffering of LightAlex Webb is undoubtedly one of my favourite photographers. His images are instantly recognizable for their intricate composition, his expert knowledge of lighting and his ability to make any photograph, even the ones that fit into the “street photography” genre, look like a beautiful (almost renaissance) painting. His work is extensive and in my opinion, every photograph is a masterpiece, as well as a masterclass for budding photographers. There’s a lot to learn from him. The Suffering Of Light contains some of Alex Webb’s most iconic photographs from his 30-year career.

Matt Lambert – KeimI bought Keim about two years ago after intently following Matt Lambert’s work for a while. Lambert has the ability to perfectly distil the essence of masculinity into every photograph he takes. Keim is made up of portraits of his lovers, muses, friends and his husband, often naked, and always exquisite. I regularly refer to Keim as my “dick book” for example “Hey Harvey, have you seen my dick book” so if you’re not a fan of art in the form of full-frontal male nudity, maybe steer clear of this book. Otherwise, pour over it with your eager eyes.

David LaChapelle – Heaven To HellThis is the third volume of David LaChapelle’s trilogy, consisting of LaChapelle Land and Hotel LaChapelle. While I intend to collect all of his books, I was instantly drawn to the cover depicting Courtney Love as The Virgin Mary and a Kurt Cobain look-alike as Jesus in her arms. LaChapelle’s work is hypnotising, it makes you think, it throws religion alongside pornography and sexuality into a hurricane. His imagination is a force to be reckoned with and I can’t wait to own this book so I can go through it repeatedly, savouring every detail in my mind.

Toilet Paper Volume IIA good friend of mine bought this for my birthday last year and it is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever owned. Anyone familiar with Toilet Paper magazine will know well the distinct style of the images; garishly vibrant depictions of often uncomfortable scenes. The art direction is so strong and so iconic, it’s gross and it’s wonderful: a woman producing an egg from between her legs, a man reclining on a leather sofa wearing a suit and covered in spaghetti, a woman pulling the sides of her mouth open with coat hangers, it’s all flowing through the pages, repulsing you and fascinating you all at the same time. Taste-wise, I think people either love or hate the style of photography in Toilet Paper. It isn’t subtle, it’s in your face, and if you do love it, it’s so worth buying it.

Visual FeastThe same friend that gave me Toilet Paper Volume II also gave me this book for my birthday this year. You could say he knows my tastes incredibly well. I love this book partly because I have a full-blown food obsession, not so much the eating of it (although that part is pretty great) but more the creativity of it – writing about it, styling it, photographing it etc. This book is an absolute must for anyone interested in food photography. It showcases the different styles and art direction of multiple different photographers and stylists, showing the weird, wonderful, decadent way in which food and art come together.

Babe is a book I have now had for a couple of years that has helped me out of more than one creative rut. Curated by Petra Collins, it contains the work of over thirty artists who together form part of the online collective The Ardorous, as well as including a foreword by Rookie editor Tavi Gevinson. Amongst the baby-pink pages are some favourites of mine, including Arvida Byström, Petra Collins (of course), Maisie Cousins, Dafy Hagai, Sandy Kim and Harley Weir all of whom are incredibly talented photographers and well known amongst the Instagram community. Babe is must for any young, female photographer living in the digital age.

Todd Hido – Intimate Distance Todd Hido is all about solitary people and empty-feeling places, capturing them with a moody elegance and veiling them in mystery. Intimate Distance is a collection of his most iconic photographs from his 25-year career, as well as some unpublished photographs. I’m not a huge fan of landscape photography but there is something about the way he captures the emotion of a place that stirs something deep inside of me.

Petra Collins – Coming Of Age Coming Of Age is at the top of my current “books to buy” list. I have been in awe of her hazy, dream-like photographs for as long as I can remember, with the satisfying coloured lights and the way she manages to capture raw girlhood like no other. Coming Of Age is a retrospective book spanning ten years of Collins’s life and the work that has skyrocketed her career into international success. Anyone familiar with her work will be able to see a picture and instantly know that it’s hers. There’s the tell-tale grain of a film photograph, the soft but vibrant colours and the glitter of girls looking bored and growing up in front of our eyes.

Fred Herzog – Modern Colour Fred Herzog was a pioneer in the field of colour photography, which, during the 50’s and 60’s was obviously incredibly unusual, so his use of colour greatly sets him apart from many of his contemporaries at the time. All of his photographs are striking, the colours so beautifully saturated and full of wonder in a world that was almost strictly black and white.

Nan Goldin – The Ballad Of Sexual Dependency I’m really fighting the urge to say every photographer on this list has such a distinct and memorable style, but they really do. Nan Goldin is no exception. There is a sadness and loneliness to her gritty depictions of people living their lives, including her own delicately captured in her self-portraits. I can’t speak about this book at length because I don’t own it yet, but I just know that it’s going to have me mesmerized.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia – Hustlers I want this book so badly. I want it so badly not just because of the images in it, but the story behind it. Hustlers is, like all of his series, heavily staged and thoroughly thought out. His subjects are all male prostitutes that he street-casted and after posing for him, were paid the amount that they would usually charge for their typical services. Each prostitute was paid using government funds which sparked a controversy over misuse of government money. The images are chilling, snapshots of stories that are both real and fiction, blurring the lines between dream and reality.

Martin Parr – The Last Resort Martin Parr is a documentary photographer who regularly chronicles the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of British culture. Using a camera in lieu of a magnifying glass, he caused waves and divided critics by giving an up-close and personal insight into New Brighton, a deteriorating holiday destination for British holidaymakers, showing normal people doing normal things and in a weird way glorifying it as well showing it to be, well, a bit shit. I love his balance of photographing “mundane” things but making them so interesting.

William Eggleston – Portraits The candid nature of William Eggleston’s portraits is what gets me. Speaking of his work, he has said ‘I want to make a picture that could stand on its own, regardless of what it was a picture of. I’ve never been a bit interested in the fact that this was a picture of a blues musician or a street corner or something.’ This is another book that I think is perfect for any photographer, regardless of their speciality, because it shows you the fundamentals of photography; how to capture someone and convey exactly how they are feeling, setting the tone of the photograph. His work speaks volumes that are impossible not to hear.

Gregory Crewdson – Beneath The RosesI recently wrote about Gregory Crewdson’s work in a blog post so naturally, I want to get my greedy book-loving mitts on one of his books. He has published multiple books, all displaying his haunting photographs in crystal clear clarity. Beneath The Roses is a series he created between 2003-2007 that, like all of his photographs, have been planned and executed with painstaking attention to detail. This book also contains an insight into his process in the form of source materials, production photographs, lighting charts, sketches and architectural plans for anyone interested in the way he creates his magical photographs.

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