Photo finish: the photo books worth a second look

Stoked by the advent of the digital age, the photobook has become increasingly central to artists’ practices – the ‘supreme platform to disseminate work’, notes collector and photographer Martin Parr. As we hurtle into a new decade, the Wallpaper* photography desk picks out its favourite recently published titles for your perusing pleasure.

More Than Our Bellies, by Vivianne Sassen and Phillip Lim

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‘Food is like love to me; the love we dream about, the love we give and the love we receive. Love memories that sustain and nourish more than our bellies,’ muses Phillip Lim in his cookbook, More Than Our Bellies. The fashion designer called on Dutch artist Vivianne Sassen – his friend and a ‘kindred spirit’– to bring to life a collection of 12 deeply personal recipes that hark back to his childhood and memories of his mother’s cooking. Read more here.

More Than Our Bellies, £65, published by published by We Folk. Distributed by Phillip Lim. Printed by Wonderful Books

Pleasing, by Laura Coulson

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Devon-born photographer Laura Coulson contributes to Libraryman’s ongoing Seasons Series – a quarterly book series that takes it lead from Kim Ki-Duk’s seminal film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring in exploring how human passions and spirituality can be perceived differently depending on the season. Drawn to ‘unexpected details’, the London-based artist captures the seemingly ordinary in offhand snapshots – ‘Usually for no reason other than that I found it pleasing.’ Coulson’s series reveals what otherwise might have remained unseen, from discarded objects to backs pressed against the steamy window of a beauty salon.

Pleasing, €35, published by Libraryman

The Image of Whiteness: Contemporary Photography and Racialization

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Writer and educator Daniel C Blight addresses the ‘troubling story’ of whiteness in one of 2019’s most provocative photobooks. The Image of Whiteness both subverts and critiques the continuing impact of society’s division along racial lines through the work of 25 contemporary photographers, among them Michelle Dizon and Viêt Lê, Sophie Gabrielle, Hank Willis Thomas, Broomberg & Chanarin, and Libita Clayton. Powerful stuff.

The Image of Whiteness: Contemporary Photography and Racialization, £25, published by SPBH Editions and Art on the Underground

Iconography: XXV figures of Jeanne Damas, by Vincent Ferrané

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Vincent Ferrané first met model and influencer Jeanne Damas through mutual friends during Les Recontres d’Arles in 2015. The photographer was entranced by the persona he observed her constructing for a virtual audience, so much so that the Parisian It girl is now the subject of Ferrané’s latest book project, a series of intimate portraits and personal curios in a pared-back moodboard of her daily life. ‘Iconography seeks to explain – as much as to question – the elements of a popular representation of feminine beauty,’ adds the photographer. Read more here.

Iconography: XXV figures of Jeanne Damas, €40, published by Libraryman

Hassan Hajjaj

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Renowned for his vibrant portraits that veer between documentary and fashion photography, Hassan Hajjaj also incorporates African prints and fabrics, canned products and manipulated logos into his compositions. Following a retrospective at Paris’ Maison Européenne de la Photographie in September 2019, The Anglo-Moroccan artist released his first major monograph, which also includes Hajjaj’s most celebrated series alongside previously unseen black-and-white work.

Hassan Hajjaj, €35, published by RVB Books

The influence of the humble (and not so humble, on occasion) photography books has been nothing short of monumental.

Grey Cobalt, by Felicia Honkasalo

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Felicia Honkasalo never knew her grandfather. After his death, the artist inherited mementos, documents and photographs that she used to form a narrative of her late relative, compiled in the poignant photobook, Grey Cobalt. ‘Through these objects I rebuilt different images of him, and reconstructed imagined memories of him at work, of his everyday life, and of the wet lunches held at the mining headquarters during Cold War Finland,’ she says. ‘These unusual heirlooms have become, in my eyes, animate characters with independent bodies and powers.’ Read more here.

Grey Cobalt, £25, published by Loose Joints

Hotel Mermaid Club, by Chris Rhodes

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A quiet compilation of the ‘self-made landscapes’ created by absent subjects, Chris Rhodes’ Hotel Mermaid Club is a love letter to the unremarkable. His debut imprint finds romance in mundanity, from a car bonnet to peeling floral wallpaper. The title comes from a building sign in Tokyo, says Rhodes: ‘When I was reviewing the images the bizarre translation felt absurd, almost like a state of being. It became more relevant when I started to sequence the project.’ Read more here.

Hotel Mermaid Club, €38, published by RVB Books

Shirley Baker, edited by Lou Stoppard

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Lou Stoppard pays homage to the late, great Shirley Baker, celebrated for her street photography in working class areas of Manchester, Blackpool and her hometown of Salford. The book presents an eccentric survey of the idiosyncrasies of British identity and post-war life (and, quite uniquely for this subject matter, through the gaze of a female artist). The British photographer, muses writer and curator Stoppard in the introduction, was an ‘image-maker with an analytical eye, someone who caught moments of great coincidence or aesthetic harmony, but who saw through the purely visual into something more human – the great madness and oddness of this life’.

Shirley Baker, £35, published by MACK

Neighbourhood Stroll, by David Brandon Geeting

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Unlike many of his travelling contemporaries, David Brandon Geeting didn’t have to venture far for his latest photobook, instead, turning his lens on his own neighbourhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Designed by Studio Lim, Neighbourhood Stroll marks a departure from Geeting’s predominantly studio-focused practice though his signature use of colour still packs the punch in his captivating take on New York street photography. ‘David can make images in a controlled way, or pull them out of thin air. And for me, both look like they came from the same brain,’ writes Peter Sutherland in the book. ‘It’s not just a style, it’s a vision or a language that runs through all the work that makes it stand out.’

Neighbourhood Stroll, €45, published by Skinnerboox and Same Paper

Tonight Lounge, by Lorena Lohr

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Hardback-bound in pink leatherette, the first complete survey of Lorena Lohr’s still lifes from a decade of travels in the US couldn’t come in a more enticing package. Tonight Lounge spans the desert towns of Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Utah and a new body of work from the American Midwest, as well as Lohr’s photographs of the Texas-Mexican border town of El Paso – a subject that become all the more compelling as political and social anxieties come to a boil during an election year. Actor and musician Kirk Lake has contributed text to the book, alongside an essay by writer and editor Louise Benson, a longtime collaborator of Lohr.

Tonight Lounge, £30, published by Cob Gallery