Doesn't Everyone Deserve a Wonderful Photo Book or Two (or Twenty…)?

by Rachel on August 31, 2012

There's not much I love more than a gorgeous, stunning, seductive photography book.  These books are created to translate the experience of the photograph and the photographer in a way that differs from viewing images in another context, such as an exhibit in a museum or gallery, or in a digital format.  The photographs are offered in a sequence that creates a narrative for the reader, sculpting and leading the way in which we view the images individually, as well as a complete body of work.

While working at Vroman’s, I often stand in the Photography section, coveting and pouring over book after glorious photo book.  There is something to be said about being able to actually touch the pages and get very close to the image itself; being able to spend as much time with a photorgaph as I could possibly want.  So, I just thought I’d share a few of the books (in no particular order) that I find myself coming back to again and again.

When looking at photographs , especially those that are historical, it's especially helpful to understand the process by which they were made.  This can be difficult at times, since photography has a relatively long and involved history, despite the fact that the permanent image hasn’t even been around for 200 years.  It’s also sometimes hard to grasp concepts without a point of reference, since (unfortunately) the digital realm is quickly over-taking the analog (not if I have anything to do with it!).  Published by Todd Gustavson and the George Eastman House, 500 Cameras offers a collection of cameras from as early as 1820 to the present.  Detective cameras (cameras in watches and lipstick!), toy cameras, press cameras, and the earliest digital cameras are presented in this simple, informative volume.

Sally Mann is well-known for her photographs that somehow manage to be both unsettling and romantic.  Her work speaks of the tenuous relationships between life, death, and family, and what these mean to American culture.  In The Flesh and the Spirit, Mann faces taboo subject matter, not in an exploitative manner, but in a way that confronts fear and answers questions we are all afraid to ask.  Her choice of wet-plate collodion process emphasizes the uncomfortably and grotesquely beautiful.  The tactile and almost tangible quality of her photographs illustrates that something like death, something we want to consider so far away and removed from us, is actually much closer.

Jack London PhotographerWidely-known for his literary work, it  comes as a surprise to most to find that Jack London was actually quite the prolific photographer.  Over his lifetime, he produced thousands of images, focusing on sociological issues in the early 1900's, including homelessness in London,  prisoners of the Russo-Japanese War, and the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. In Jack London Photographer  by Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson, and Philip Adam, London’s collection of photographs are presented in relation to his writings, further illustrating his concern for the welfare of others. In a time when photographs were considered truth and reality, London’s work provided indisputable proof that helped spur social change throughout the world.

On This Earth, A Shadow Falls
is a stunning compilation of images from both of Nick Brandt’s previous books, On This Earth and A Shadow Falls.  With a forward by Alice Sebold, Brandt presents majestic photographs of the endangered species and threatened landscapes of East Africa.  Accompanied by Brandt’s essays, his large format photographs represent his subjects with a gorgeous black and white tonal range. On This Earth, A Shadow Falls is also a testament to the art of flawless bookmaking.  The physical book itself is just spectacular!

So, next time you’re at Vroman’s, head on over to the Photography section. There's definitely something for everyone, and specifically something for everyone to fall in love with.

Be careful though- it’s easy to get lost in those beautiful books.