Photography is a portal, and photography books can offer a closer look at subjects we often overlook – a lens onto a world unseen, a tool to probe for the truth of our times, or irresistible visual fodder for our coffee table. 

Whatever you’re after: a collectable object, a gift, or a hit of wit, an education, or a tome devoted to the leading voices in visual culture, we have you covered, from cover to cover. These are the most intriguing, engaging and unexpected photography books on the market. 

Photography books: a curated guide

Title: Deana Lawson
Publisher: MACK
Price: £35
Availability: out now

Deana Lawson best photography books
Image of the book ‘Deana Lawson,’ ed. By Peter Eleey and Eva Respini (MACK, 2021). Image details: Deana Lawson, Eternity, 2017 (left) and Nation, 2018 (right), courtesy the artist and MACK

Surveying fifteen years of Deana Lawson’s practice, the self-titled publication is an arresting deep-dive into Lawson’s broad photographic language. Collaboration with the subjects runs throughout; as their eyes lock with the viewer, the voyeuristic medium of photography suddenly looks both ways. Lawson’s family photographs and archives of vernacular images are included to reveal some of the influences behind the artists challenging exploration of representations of Black identities in African American and African diaspora communities. Cohesively, the scholarly publication is a powerful reflection on personal and social histories of Black life, love, sexuality, family, and spiritual beliefs. 

Title: The Truth is in the Soil, by Ioanna Sakellaraki
Publisher: GOST
Price: £45 - £250
Availability: March 2022

The Truth is in the Soil by Ioanna Sakellaraki Best photography books
Spread from The Truth is in the Soil, by Ioanna Sakellaraki

Since being featured as one of our 21 talents of 2021, Ioanna Sakellaraki has gone on to create a book of her acclaimed project The Truth is in the Soil. Following the death of her father five years ago, Sakellaraki returned to her homeland of Greece. As part of her grieving, she explored her mother’s grief about their country’s social and religious norms before expanding her research to traditional mourning rites. Sakellaraki explains how she was ‘inspired by the last communities of mourners on the Mani Peninsula of Greece as the doyennes of a dying tradition, the work incorporates a new kind of subjectivity, intimacy, and criticism, exploring mortuary rituals as a way of humans adapting to death.’ Now, in collaboration with GOST Books, Sakellaraki has created a Kickstarter for the forthcoming book where supporters can get their hands on exclusive prints ahead of its publication next year.

Title: Magnum Dogs
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Price: £16.99
Availability: out now

Magnum Dogs, publshed by Thames & Hudson

Earlier this year, Magnum unleashed the ultimate dog-lover photography collection from its archive. From mutts oozing mischief to perfectly coiffed canines and pooches born to perform, this book brings together the wittiest, snappiest best of dog photography from Magnum’s top-tier roster including Eve Arnold and Martin Parr. Magnum Books is arranged into five thematic chapters: Streetwise, Best in Show, It’s a Dog Life, At the Beach and Behind the Scenes; If you weren’t already a dog person, you probably are now. 

Title: Material, by Jet Swan 
Publisher: Loose Joints 
Price: £36
Availability: out now

Material, by Jet Swan part of the best photography books
© Jet Swan 2021. Courtesy Loose Joints 

Yorkshire-born Jet Swan’s perspective appears suspended in an alternate dusky dimension, yet also reminiscent of a quintessentially British form of documentary making. For her debut book, Material, Swan drew from the last three years of her engagement with the public through pop-up studio spaces, such as an empty shop front inside a mall in Scarborough, and a repurposed community hall in Ramsgate. The result is a palpable aesthetic reflective of inner worlds; pubic hair spikes through flesh-coloured tights, a scab heals, pores glisten and a newborn stares into the camera. Published by Loose Joints, Material is accompanied by text by acclaimed poet Rachael Allen. 

Writer: Sophie Gladstone

Title: Chatsworth, Arcadia, Now
Publisher: Penguin
Price: £50
Availability: out now

Chatsworth, Arcadia, Now: Seven Scenes from the Life of a House

Illustrated with photographs by Victoria Hely-Hutchinson and authored by Tate curator John-Paul Stonard, Chatsworth, Arcadia, Now: Seven Scenes from the Life of a House is deep-dive into one of England’s grandest country homes. While the house and grounds have a fascinating history as residence to the Cavendish family dynasty for sixteen generations, its works of art also capture the eye. From Nicolas Poussin’s The Arcadian Shepherds and Antonio Canova’s Endymion to great contemporary paintings by Lucian Freud and David Hockney. With a foreword by The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and structured in reverse chronological order, readers peel back layers of history as they turn pages. Chatsworth, Arcadia, Now is published by Penguin Books. 

Writer: Sophie Gladstone

Title: Match Point: Tennis with Martin Parr, by Martin Parr
Publisher: Phaidon
Price: £39.95 
Availability: out now

 Tennis with Martin Parr, by Martin Parr is published by Phaidon on 9 September, £39.95
Match Point: Tennis with Martin Parr, by Martin Parr is published by Phaidon on 9 September, £39.95

This book is bound to make a racquet in the court of photography opinion. In Match Point: Tennis by Martin Parr, the British photographer demonstrates his ace command of social commentary. Parr was offered exclusive access to the most prestigious Grand Slam tennis tournaments, from the Australian and French Opens to Wimbledon and the US Open. There, he captured vivid shots – sometimes poignant, often hilarious – and offered an alternative view of life on and off the court. In this photography book, Parr is serving up his best cultural shots: witty jibes at consumerism, cultural identity, Britishness and its rain-soaked irony and human competitiveness. Advantage Parr. 

Title: Photo No-Nos: Meditations on What Not to Photograph, by Jason Fulford
Publisher: Aperture
Price: $24.95
Availability: out now

 Meditations on What Not to Photograph, part of our guide on the best photography books
Above: Duane Michals, A Gursky Gherkin Is Just a Very Large Pickle, 2001; from Photo No-Nos: Meditations on What Not to Photograph (Aperture, 2021). © Duane Michals

There are unwritten rules in photography: steer clear of clichés, exploitation, derivative ideas and easy metaphors. But how straightforward is this in practice, in a field as subjective as it is varied? With as much value in humour as education, Photo No-Nos: Meditations on What Not to Photograph by Jason Fulford has cemented some of these ‘rules’ in print. This is not a strict guide, but a journey through ideas, stories, and anecdotes from many of the world’s most prominent photographers, alongside a list of more than a thousand ‘taboo’ subjects. From sunsets and roses to issues of colonialism and stereotypes, this is both a light-hearted look at what’s considered to be a ‘bad picture’ and a serious examination of what may or may not be ‘off-limits’ as societies reckon with the heavy social responsibilities of visual communication. 

Title: Photography – A Feminist History, by Emma Lewis
Publisher: Ilex Press
Price: £40
Publication date: out now

Photography – A Feminist History by Emma Lewis is published by Ilex Press on 7 September 2021, £40.00

The history of photography is short, as is the list of female photographers who have received due recognition during its lifespan. Whether working in the studio or on the front line of war, women have contributed to every aspect of photography’s evolution. In this authoritative, comprehensive and international book, author Emma Lewis delves into a photographic landscape of shifting gender rights and roles through the work of over 140 photographers, with ten thematic essays and extended profiles on 75 key practitioners. For some, gender plays a central role; for others, it’s incidental. All have been affected by the power structures seen through – and behind – their camera lenses. 

Title: Face Time – A History of the Photographic Portrait, by Phillip Prodger
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Price: $45.00
Publication date: November 2021

Photographic portraiture has always served different purposes: from practical identification to storytelling. In Face Time, readers will come face-to-face with the history, cultural resonance and evolution of portrait photography. Exploring the many faces of portraiture – from fine art photography to cinema, news-hour mugshots to glossy fashion photographs – curator and photography historian Phillip Prodger captures more than 150 years of the medium through some of the most recognisable portraits ever made, and those that probably should be. Expect to see familiar faces including Queen Elizabeth II, Barack Obama, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, and deep-dives into the work of legendary photographers including nineteenth-century pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot, modernist icon Lee Miller and contemporary groundbreaker Zanele Muholi. 

Title: For Cats Only, by Pascale Weber
Publisher: Hatje Cantz
Price: € 18.00
Publication date: out now

Pascale Weber’s For Cats Only captures an endearing array of house-proud felines at leisure. The Swiss photographer travelled through Switzerland, armed with her portable studio to photograph cats in and on their kitty domiciles. Here, the cat tree sets the stage for an extraordinary piece of domestic theatre, as each subject attempts to keep their paws on their nine lives. Set against boldly coloured backgrounds, the inhabited structures and stretching posts become almost architectural, sophisticated and stylish. It’s a niche, certainly, but Weber and her precise lens are proving that even the most practical of pet accessories can have aesthetic – and comic – value. If you weren’t already a cat person, you will be soon. 

Title: The British Isles, by Jamie Hawkesworth
Publisher: MACK
Price: £50
Publication date: out now

The British Isles (MACK, 2021). Courtesy of the artist and MACK

The British Isles chronicles 13 years of varied life across the United Kingdom, in an era when the country’s identity is evolving to become increasingly complex. Through a diverse sequence of portraits and landscapes, Jamie Hawkesworth charts the characters, moods and moments that make up the rich tapestry of his home country, from schoolchildren and shopworkers, markets to estates, cities to construction sites. There is poignancy in the every day; there are questions left unanswered. The British Isles is a record of this eventful period in British history – one interwoven with outstanding natural beauty, austerity, referenda, celebration, and conflict. §