We all love our photo books, so here are four great titles on sale at Waterstones right now.
If photography is, at least in part, about capturing a moment in time – an action, emotion, event or shade – where better to look for inspiration that on the streets and pavements, subways and cafes of our modern cities? The ambitious Street Photography Now, aims to explain, define and promote the genre to a new generation in the same way perhaps as Bystander: A History of Street Photography did back in the early 90s. Short essays introduce each of the five sections, which are not only enlightening but a great way to place the 300 or so individual images from over 40 different photographers into both a social and artistic context. The vibrancy of city living is captured in all its occasionally grotesque glory and you’re never more than another page turn away from a surreal, shocking or stunning image. This will no doubt be seen as a fantastic coffee table book by some, and an incredible useful and inspiring jumping off point by others. Here’s to as many of the latter as possible. Get off the sofa, grab your camera and head for the streets!
Sophie Howarth, Stephen McLaren
Thames & Hudson
How could a literal portrait of the sprawling French capital ever be possible? This truly epic tome sets out to do the next best thing – to show how photographers have captured the city and its inhabitants since 1830. All human life is here, the opulence of palaces to the dead in coffins and the horrors of the slums; from the dance halls and decadence of the red light districts, to cathedrals, chapels and devotees. Black and white fades and gives way to colour just in time to startle with the blood red flags of the occupying Nazis, which fly so incidentally in some photographs as to be alarmingly forgettable. It’s a vast undertaking and a very brave one to tell this story with such little writing – placing the emphasis solely on the photography. But it is perhaps this decision which makes it all work so well. This is Paris as told by the Parisians; and who is anyone else to disagree with them or say it was otherwise? And, if you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll know that’s not a fight you’d want to pick…
Annie Leibovitz is known as the foremost portrait photographer and photo-journalist of modern times. Her work for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair has seen her create some of the most instantly recognisable, iconic and well-loved images of the past 40 years. She’s captured on film everyone from presidents to rock stars, and always with a ready sincerity as well as incredible style and wit. Leibovitz claims she has “always been more interested in what (people) do than who they are” and It is this sentiment that underlies much of Pilgrimage. Though no sitters are present, these are still very much portraits. Sigmund Freud’s analysis couch, a specimen collected by Charles Darwin, little Annie Oakley’s gun-practice target, Henry David Thoreau’s bed, or even an exterior night time shot of Graceland with the light on in Elvis’ room – these snapshots are about what these people did. The whole collection of beautifully intriguing photographs is tied together by a gentle narrative of her journey written by Leibovitz herself. A must for fans but also a thrilling diversion for anyone with a sense of adventure or inquisitive mind.
Fred Herzog’s trademark Kodachrome photography may not have been to his contemporaries’ taste, or that of some still today, but there’s no denying his mastery of composition, his eye for the visual story and his effervescent sense of fun. The images of Vancouver collected within this title at times feel a little like tourist snaps – pictures taken to amuse with an accompanying anecdote at a later date. Perhaps it was the fact that Herzog was not a Canadian native but rather a German émigré that provided him with such a curious eye; readily noticing and revelling in the differences in this, initially, foreign culture. Season by season, year by year, the same places pop up in his shots – perhaps even some of the same faces. The result is a grand portrait, not only of a city and its inhabitants, but of a period in Herzog’s life as he gradually became more accustomed to his new home. There are a number of interesting introductions but it is the final one, by Canadian author Douglas Coupland, which provides a real relevance to Herzog’s work today: “Herzog’s photos brim with a nascent sense of ecological anger and an alert social conscience…”