Photography books: the Wallpaper* art desk edit

Photography books to adorn your coffee table

Flick through, mull over, or deep-dive into the best photography books on the market, from our shelves to you

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 – for every mood, occasion or niche. 

Title: Match Point: Tennis with Martin Parr, by Martin Parr
Publisher: Phaidon
Price: £39.95 
Publication date: 9 September 2021

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. Beyond the game, 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
Publication date: July 2021

Top: cover of Photo No-Nos: Meditations on What Not to Photograph, by Jason Fulford. 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: 7 October 2021

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: February 2021

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: June 2021

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. §

Jamie Hawkesworth. Image from The British Isles (MACK, 2021). Courtesy of the artist and MACK



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