Just in time for the holiday season — here are some of our favorite photobooks from female and non-binary artists in 2017!
MFON -- WOMEN PHOTOGRAPHERS OF THE AFRICAN DIASPORA
In 1985, Arthur Ashe’s widow, the photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, published a historical survey that she called Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers. Viewfinders chronicled the work of the (largely disregarded) black female photographers that Moutoussamy-Ashe had meticulously unearthed, dating back to 1866. Now, 30 years after Moutoussamy-Ashe’s book, two Brooklyn-born photographers are picking up where she left off, with Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, an anthology featuring the work of more than 100 female photographers of African descent from around the world.
The idea took root over a decade ago on a spring day in 2006, as a pair of best friends sat on the living room floor of an apartment in Crown Heights, flipping through Viewfinders. “Imagine if we had a book of all female black photographers. Imagine that,” Adama Delphine Fawundu recalled musing aloud to Laylah Amatullah Barryn.
Fawundu and Barryn fell in love with Viewfinders early in their careers. They regarded it as a bible of sorts, and treasured how it cataloged and highlighted the work of women artists whom they admired. But they also chafed at its singular existence. “A Forgotten Group of photographers Is Revealed in Black and White,” read one 1986 review of the book. “Forgotten” was an descriptor Barryn and Fawundu were determined to avoid.
PRE-ORDER: MFON Website
FIRECRACKERS -- FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHERS NOW
“Firecracker has provided me with a creative outlet for the extraordinary women I’ve met throughout my career, but photography is an industry that is undeniably crowded by(white) men. It’s by no means the only industry in which this happens, of course. Life imitates art and vice versa. With so few women represented at the highest levels in contemporary art, politics and the media, it’s no wonder there is a lack of diversity in photography – and it’s not just a gender issue either (but that’s another story, and indeed another book).
Of course, you cannot build an initiative about women without attracting comments about its exclusivity, or sexism, or encountering its reductive nature, and I’m often at odds with the contradictory nature of it all. Essentially, I’d like Firecracker to be a means of celebration. A celebration of photography, a celebration of game-changers, a celebration of women and, above all, a celebration of great work now. This book has become the vehicle for this celebration at this very moment, and maybe there will be others. I hope that within the final selection you too will delight in the diverse range of practices, from the abstract to the journalistic, from the deeply personal to the clinically scientific, and everything in between. I also hope that it may ‘spark’ some debate in the continuous dialogue about gender imbalance and female representation. That Firecracker pun was most definitely intended.”
-- Fiona Rogers
PURCHASE: Thames & Hudson | Amazon
DAYANITA SINGH -- MUSEUM BHAVAN
In Museum Bhavan Dayanita Singh creates a new space between publishing and the museum, an experience where books have the same if not greater artistic value than prints hanging on a gallery wall. Consisting of nine individual “museums” in book form, Museum Bhavan is a miniature version of Singh’s traveling exhibition of the same name whose prints are placed in folding expanding wooden structures (her “photo-architecture”), which she likes to interchange at will.
The images in Museum Bhavan—old and new, intriguingly literal and suggestive—have been intuitively grouped into lyrical chapters in a visual story such as “Little Ladies Museum” and “Ongoing Museum,” as well as more specific series like “Museum of Machines.” Following her Sent a Letter (2008), the starting point for this project, the books are housed in a handmade box and fold out into accordion-like strips which Singh encourages viewers to install and curate as they wish in their own homes. The exhibition thus becomes a book, and the book becomes an exhibition.
PURCHASE: Steidl | Amazon
NINA BERMAN -- AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS WISH
Nina Berman first encountered Kim Stevens – then known as Cathy Wish – in 1990, while walking through the streets of London. At the time, Stevens was sleeping rough in the capital. She had been involved with child pornography while growing up, survived years of sex trafficking, and was struggling with trauma-induced drug addiction. Despite meeting randomly, American documentary photographer Berman was immediately drawn to her.
“Three years later, she landed on my doorstep in New York City, having fled London on the advice of Scotland Yard,” Berman explains. “I have been her friend, frequent caregiver, and personal documentarian ever since.”
In her latest book, An Autobiography of Miss Wish, Berman tries to share Stevens’ story. Using photographs, drawings, videos, texts and documents, she pieces together her life in the most sensitive way possible. The result is a haunting, dark and original collaboration, with the pair working back and forth across both New York and England between 1990-2016.
-- HUCK Magazine
PURCHASE: Nina's Site | Kehrer Verlag | Amazon
LATOYA RUBY FRAZIER -- AND FROM THE COALTIPS A TREE WILL RISE
In her acclaimed 2014 book The Notion of Family, LaToya Ruby Frazier portrayed members of her African-American family in moving, classic documentary photographs that viewed their complicated and intertwined relationships to the dying steel mills in Braddock, Pennsylvania, through the lens of environmental and economic racism. What had developed in personal and organic ways translates just as movingly outside her own family and country, too: Recently, Frazier adopted a similar approach in Borinage, a formerly prosperous Belgian mining region that saw its last mine close in 1976. Told in photographs and testimonies Frazier gathered from the former miners and their families, her new book And from the Coaltips a Tree Will Rise is an extensive and trenchant collection of portraits, landscapes, and still lifes.
PURCHASE: Amazon | ArtBook
KATHY SHORR -- SHOT: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence in America
Photographer Kathy Shorr’s daughter was 16 months old when they were robbed at gunpoint in Shorr’s New York City apartment. The robbers stole cash and personal items; Shorr and her daughter weren’t injured. But it was an experience Shorr would not easily forget.
“Once you have a gun pointed at you and you see that the person pointing the gun controls your life — and [the life of] whoever is with you, the person you love the most — it stays with you and does not go away,” she said.
Now, several decades after that robbery, as gun violence dominates headlines — just yesterday, a school shooting in California left two dead — Shorr has photographed 101 survivors of gun violence across America, many in the locations where they were shot.
Her project, made into the book "SHOT: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence in America," includes survivors from across a wide range of races, ages and locations, highlighting how ubiquitous gun violence has become.
-- PBS News Hour
PURCHASE: Amazon | PowerHouse Books
MANDY BARKER -- BEYOND DRIFTING
Inspired by the research memoirs of naturalist John Vaughan Thomas on plankton in Ireland during the 1820s, Mandy Barker produced her photobook Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals as a scientific study of aquatic life. However, the specimens she’s photographing aren’t exactly sea creatures – they’re plastic.
In Barker’s latest effort to raise awareness about the pervasive problem of plastics in our oceans, she again uses an artistic interpretation of the issue to command attention. Each ‘microscopic specimen’, labelled with a name or a number, and the location of its source, is made mysterious and abstract by her means of photography. However, a section of plates at the back, quarantined by a sticker that seals it shut, reveals the objects more accurately: plastic bottle parts, limbs of dolls, a coat hanger, and bags, among others.
-- GUP Magazine
PURCHASE: Overlapse | Amazon
DEBI CORNWALL -- WELCOME TO CAMP AMERICA
“When I first arrived, my military escort said, ‘Gitmo: the best posting a soldier can have. There’s so much fun here!’,” recalls US photographer Debi Cornwall. “So I said, ‘Show me the fun!’”
She had just touched down at Guantánamo Bay naval base, home to the infamous detention centre established in 2002 by US president George W Bush for the interrogation of suspected terrorists, enemy combatants and “extremely dangerous individuals” – “the worst of the worst, they call them” – following the 9/11 attacks. Since then, it has forged a reputation as hell on earth, where men are held for years without charge or legal process, and are often tortured. With 12 years’ experience of working as a wrongful-conviction lawyer, Cornwall began to enquire.
It took nine months, a background check and her signature on a 12-page list of rules before she was granted access. On arrival, she was escorted on a media tour of the empty premises and reminded that any photographs taken would be reviewed “directly from memory cards” and, most importantly, could not show any faces, even partial profiles. “My strategy to photograph this place was to look at only what I was being asked to see,” she says. Her photographs of memorabilia from the gift shop and the recreational areas for the guards’ families could well appear in a Guantánamo-esque summer camp brochure.
-- British Journal of Photography
PURCHASE: Radius Books | Amazon
MAYUMI SUZUKI -- THE RESTORATION WILL
My parents, who a owned photo studio, went missing after the 2011 tsunami. Our house was destroyed. It was a place for working, but also for living. I grew up there. After the disaster, I found my father’s lens, portfolio, and our family album buried in the mud and the rubble.
One day, I tried to take a landscape photo with my father’s muddy lens. The image came out dark and blurry, like a view of the deceased. Through taking it, I felt I could connect this world with that world. I felt like I could have a conversation with my parents, though in fact that is impossible.
The family snapshots I found were washed white, the images disappearing. The portraits taken by my father were stained, discolored. These scars are similar to the damage seen in my town, similar to my memories which I am slowly losing.
I hope to retain my memory and my family history through this book. By arranging these photos, I have attempted to reproduce it.
NANCY BOROWICK -- THE FAMILY IMPRINT
Nancy Borowick’s mother Laurel and father Howie were both diagnosed with stage-four cancer when she was in her twenties. As a nearly involuntary response, she took out her camera. The New York native documented it all: hospital visits, chemotherapy, family dinners, phone calls from doctors, and her parents attending her own wedding despite being in treatment. Borowick was acting in the way she knew how—as a photojournalist—but she was also a daughter struggling with her parents’ imminent mortality. The resulting photographs form Cancer Family, a series that’s less about illness than it is the story of a family’s strength and perseverance; during the one year that Howie and Laurel Borowick’s diseases overlapped (they passed away a year apart from one another in 2013 and 2014), they insisted on making each other laugh and held onto their spirit, as cliché as that may seem.
Borowick, now 31, has traveled to France, Malaysia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Germany, and Holland to share Cancer Family and will continue to exhibit it in 2017 throughout the United States and Europe. While in the past she has separated the body of work into three chapters—”Together,” “Without Him,” and “Losing Her”—her new Kickstarter-funded book titled The Family Imprint (Hatje Cantz) emphasizes her parents’ entire life experience. “They were so many more things than cancer patients,” says Borowick. “I felt like I could emphasize that by including the old photographs.” The Family Imprint, which will be released June 1, features found family photos, notes, holiday cards, and letters that her parents shared in addition to images from Cancer Family. It’s an act of remembrance as well as a signpost for Borowick, who will move forward to new bodies of work while carrying this one with her.
-- Interview Magazine
PURCHASE: Hatje Cantz | Amazon
LAURA EL-TANTAWY -- BEYOND HERE IS NOTHING
Beyond Here Is Nothing (2017) is a new body of work by Laura El-Tantawy that explores the notion of home – or more specifically her struggle to find a sense of home.
In 2016 El-Tantawy was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize for In The Shadow of The Pyramids (2015), a self-published photobook that evocatively captured the confusion, violence and devastating impacts of events during the Egyptian Revolution. The project began as an exploration of the country and city she knew growing up – but became a documentation of Egypt as it struggled to redefine itself. Beyond Here is Nothing shares a similar aesthetic to her previous work – blurred, snatched moments verging towards the abstract – yet rather than record historic events, they attempt to capture bittersweet moments experienced living between places.
El-Tantawy’s photographs offer ambiguous glimpses, shifting on the edge of articulation: a condensation-fogged window obscures most of a skeletal plane tree; a palm silhouetted against an orange sky is seen through a dirt-flecked window. Although the locations are unnamed, subtle atmospheres and qualities of light indicate the shift between the West and the Middle East.
VICTORIA WILL -- BORNE BACK
Borne Back is the debut book from photographer Victoria Will, featuring her tintype photographs of actors and directors at the Sundance Film Festival.
While planning an assignment at the Sundance Film Festival, Will decided that the vintage look achieved with a large-format camera and the wet-plate process would serve to bring a different light to the faces that we see photographed so often. At the shoot, she set up a mobile darkroom, and developed each plate as it was taken. Many of the photographs featured in the book were the one and only photograph taken in the sitting.
The publication of this book marks the first time Will’s work has been published in book form, and a marker of her incredible work bridging the gap between commercial photography and fine art. Consisting of 38 images, Borne Back gives us the blue-eyed, chiseled youth of Robert Redford hiding just underneath the lines etched in to his face. The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s bassist, Flea, appears to us from the past, seemingly incinerated in chemical flames, and Anne Hathaway channels the ghost of a young Judy Garland. The book features a foreword from actor Jason Momoa, known for his work on Game of Thrones, and starring in the upcoming feature, Aquaman.
PURCHASE: Peanut Press
LAURA LARSON -- HIDDEN MOTHER
Trying to get a baby or a fussy toddler to sit still for a photograph can feel like a herculean task. Luckily, it only takes a second to get the shot. In the nineteenth century, however, it was a different story—particularly when it came to tintype portraits, which required a long exposure.
Photographer Laura Larson’s series, Hidden Mother, presents a survey of nineteenth-century tintype portraits in which the mother of the child was included in the photograph, but obscured. In some instances, the mother would hold her child, with a cloth or props hiding her from the lens. Or, she would be painted over by the photographer after the image had been taken. In other examples, the mother is entirely absent from the frame, save for an arm, holding the child in place. The results are both funny and slightly disturbing. “The mother appears as an uncanny presence,” Larson writes in a statement. “Often, she is swathed in fabric, like a ghost.”
Larson first learned about “hidden mother” portraits through a collector friend, and began collecting them several years ago, at a time when she was waiting to adopt a little girl, amassing about 35 works. “The hidden mother speaks to the fragile balance a mother must maintain in raising a child—cultivating both attachment and autonomy,” she wrote.
-- The New Republic
PURCHASE: St. Lucy Books
CAROLYN DRAKE -- INTERNAT
More than a decade ago, on a Fulbright fellowship in Ukraine, the artist Carolyn Drake found herself outside Ternopil, a small city on the banks of the Seret River. Her hosts led her to a forest on the edge of a suburb, where a large, half-century-old building stood bearing a small nondescript sign, which translated to “Petrykhiv Children’s Home,” orInternat, the title of her just-published photo book. Away from society at large, among a staff of women and one male director, the orphaned girls who lived there formed their own community, an all-female family engaged in the routine of daily life and chores, and an instinctive, if naive, curiosity about the outside world.
In the intervening decade, Drake traveled to Central Asia for her project Two Rivers, and to the western frontier of China to make the photographs, drawings, and embroidery that comprise Wild Pigeons. When she returned to Ukraine, in 2014, she expected that the girls she had met would have left the orphanage. But they were still there, suddenly grown up.
“They were little bouncy energetic girls and then they were private, snarky, opinionated, complicated adults. I started thinking a lot about change,” Drake told me recently. “I was interested in how girls develop in an environment void of men, especially in Ukraine, where women seemed to me a lot of times to be defined either as objects of the male gaze or through their purity.” Over a series of visits from 2014 to 2016, she took photographs with the Internat residents that compose a subversive fairy tale—a story of modern cloistering, of isolation and escapism, and an evocative reimagining of what it means to be female.
-- The Paris Review
PURCHASE: Photobookstore | Amazon
JUANITA ESCOBAR -- LLANO
The life of a Llanero – or Colombian Cowboy – is tough. The six-month winters that plague the dramatic plains means rain almost every day; the hardy men must ride their horses through overflowing rivers, teeming with insects and fish, away from the floods to dry land. Summers bring a feverous, muggy heat, unbearable for the average human or pedestrian horse. But the Llanero’s arduous, semi-nomadic existence is rooted in five centuries of wisdom and succeeds because of a deep respect for the land they have conquered.
It was this soulful stoicism that first caught the imagination of photographer Juanita Escobar. She travelled to the region aged 19 to document the spectacular mix of wildlife, flora and fauna for the Natural Reserve Palmarito in the Casanare State. But during her work, a chance encounter would change her path and purpose.
Escobar met a 65-year-old Llanero, named Ricardo Daza, who invited her to join him and document the Llanero way of life; unique to that region and unfamiliar to the average Colombian. “He was so excited because I was a photographer and he wanted to show me his culture,” Escobar tells TIME.
She joined them – caught up in the heady romance of life on the theatrical landscape – and didn’t leave for seven years. Not only did she document daily life, she lived and breathed it. In that expanse of time, friends died, babies were born, hearts were broken; she was there and their stories became her own. The Llanero, so-called after the Llano, which describes the grasslands occupying western Venezuela and eastern Colombia, became her photographic focus and her spiritual purpose.
BIEKE DEPOORTER -- AS IT MAY BE
Magnum photographer Bieke Depoorter has traveled to Egypt regularly since the beginning of the revolution in 2011, making intimate pictures of Egyptian families in their homes. In 2017, she revisited the country with the first draft of this book, inviting those who appear in the images, as well as others, to write comments directly onto the photographs. Contrasting views on country, religion, society and photography arise between people who would otherwise never cross paths. The included booklet features all of the handwritten notes in the original Arabic as well as the English translations. As it may be depicts a population in transition with integrity, commitment, and respect.
PURCHASE: Bieke's Site | Amazon
ANGELA JIMENEZ -- RACING AGE
Racing Age is a book of documentary photographs and essays about competitive masters track & field athletes aged sixty and over. These athletes, who are part of a global trend of greater longevity, are continually breaking age group records for running, jumping, and throwing that would have seemed impossible even a few decades ago. They are literally redefining the limits of the aging human body.
Photojournalist Angela Jimenez, who is a former collegiate track & field multi-event athlete, documented these athletes in competition over the course of nine years. Racing Age is a collection of stunning black & white medium-format film photographs of masters athletes made at competitions in the United States and Europe. Ten accompanying essays explore the fascinating life stories of a diverse group of athletes who have found meaning in their masters athletic careers.
Because they defy visual stereotypes, these athletes surprise us. They are not weak, or vulnerable, or just cute: they are fierce and competitive. It is inspiring and brave, but can also be scary to see. The athletes of Racing Age challenge us to expand our expectations of the aging human body and offer us a hopeful version of our future.
PURCHASE: Angela's Site | Amazon
WE ARE STILL HERE -- DEVYN GALINDO
Though Devyn Galindo has lived all over the United States — "Missouri, Illinois, New York; I went to high school in Texas," they explain — the photographer will always call California home. Specifically, East Los Angeles, the city's historic Mexican-American hub. It's where, Galindo explains, a particular horn sound instantly signals to an entire block that the corn man is on his way with fresh elote. It's also where urgent underground youth movements are bubbling up, from punk bands like TRAP GIRL to spoken word poets who perform at all-inclusive spaces like La Conxa in Boyle Heights.
Galindo's recently released photobook, We Are Still Here, enshrines both facets of their neighborhood — its firmly rooted cultural traditions and its open-minded youth in flux. Galindo achieves this duality by spotlighting a new generation of Mexican-American women who celebrate their shared history, but seek to broaden contemporary Chicanx identity through creativity and social activism. Galindo connected with punks, poets, skaters, and students in East L.A., capturing them in moments of protest and quiet reflection. Taken together, the book is a document of today's Chicanx youth unlike any other.
PURCHASE: Devyn's Site
MONIQUE JAQUES -- GAZA GIRLS
Gaza is a troubled land, and growing up there isn’t easy. The 45-square-mile district is bordered on one side by the Mediterranean Sea, and by towering concrete blast walls and reams of barbed wire on the other. Its perimeters are continually patrolled by foreign soldiers. They are there to keep you in and to keep the rest of the world out. The never-ending buzz of drones lull you into a light sleep at night. Standing on the beach, you can see lights emanating from Southern Israel — a land that you can always see, but will never be able to touch. Gaza is unlike anywhere else in the world, a mix of traditional conservative Islam and western influence, of Bedouin people and conquering settlers.
When you’re a young girl in Gaza, your existence is defined by its boundaries — literal and metaphorical, defined by both regional and cultural politics. Families are tight-knit and watchful over their daughters. Privacy and mobility are both scarce. Many women say that in a place as small as Gaza, it is impossible to be truly free. Yet, there are moments of joy found in laughs at school, shared secrets with friends and moments alone to dream. Like many peers around the world, these girls are figuring out who they are in a world built by grown-ups. Navigating girlhood is universal, even if the circumstances are not.
“Gaza Girls: Growing Up in the Gaza Strip” is a collection of photographic essays and written accounts of women coming of age in this difficult place. It is intended to highlight the challenges of daily life, as well as moments of joy found in a complicated existence.
PURCHASE: Monique's Site | FotoEvidence
ZOSHIA MINTO -- EVERYDAY AMERICAN MUSLIM [PART OF 10(X)]
Like many other American Muslims, I don't find practicing my faith or holding on to parts of my heritage to be incompatible with American ideals. However, the prevalence of predominantly negative images of Muslims shown on news outlets and social media paints a different picture of Muslims in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Everyday American Muslim project is an effort to address and challenge this one dimensional narrative and share some of what I see and live as an American Muslim by photographing various daily life moments. My hope is that anyone looking at the images can find something to connect with. At the very least the images can offer a more insightful view of the reality of American Muslim life.
LOLA AKINMADE ÅKERSTRÖM -- DUE NORTH
Due North is a collection of travel observations, reflections, and snapshots spanning two decades across colors, cultures, and continents.
These are stories I’ve written in the past and I’ve compiled them into sections called SOUTH, WEST, EAST, and NORTH.
It’s a very open book that lays bare my inner journey – political correctness aside – from when I started traveling solo, trying to make sense of the world as a Nigerian.
OLIVIA LOCHER -- I FOUGHT THE LAW
It’s illegal to store an ice cream cone in your back pocket in the state of Alabama, says photographer Olivia Locher in her debut photography book, I Fought the Law (Chronicle Books). Or is it? The book, out next month, presents 50 (one for each state) pictorial enactments of “laws”—a cherry-picked selection of oddball decrees, some mere hearsay and others unfathomably factual. The result is a surreal compilation of imagery: a man riding a bicycle in a swimming pool, fishing poles baited with sticks of Acme-like dynamite, and a not-so-still life of bouncing pickles.
Referencing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fantastical films of the 1970s and a pastel-heavy Pop Art palette (her appreciation of the Warhol-era runs deep; she describes herself as forever on the hunt for original Halston), Locher’s work makes a blithe and cheery first impression but takes a subversive turn upon closer inspection. Her book tells a precautionary tale, calling attention to the blurred line between actual and believed truths. Locher doesn’t disclose which of the 50 laws are pure myths (“it would suck the fun out of it”), playfully perpetuating the cycle of misinformation or, as of late, alternative facts.
REBECKA UHLIN -- AINA & TAGE
As a child, my grandparents’ home was a favourite place. Here was safety. I loved to dress up and be photographed by my grandfather in his portrait studio. When the roll of film was finished, I asked him to put in a new one. I felt important when I baked with my grandma Aina, as she patiently let me measure ingredient after ingredient. I was their first grandchild and from the way they treated me it was evident that they appreciated this. The older I get, the more curious I have become about their relationship.
How are our feelings affected by the vulnerability of a relationship? Which feelings relate to ourselves and which relate to the person we love? What role do the expectations we think other people have on us play?
My pictures have allowed me to close in on my grandparents’ love relationship. With time, this has given me insights. My questions and thoughts have often been overshadowed by feelings of comfort and humbleness over their affection.
I believe we humans understand and define ourselves in relation to each other and the world around us. The photographs in this book reflect my experience of my grandparents’ relationship. Inevitably, they also reflect my own relationship with them.