The best photography books for your coffee table

Flick through, mull over and deep-dive into the best photography books on the market, from our shelves to you this Christmas 2022

Talia Chetrit, ‘Align, 2019.’, from JOKE (MACK, 2022)
Talia Chetrit, ‘Align, 2019.’, from JOKE (MACK, 2022)
(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist and MACK)

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 your coffee table. 

And as we well know, they also make for ideal art gifts ahead of the festive season. 

Whatever you’re after: a collectable object, an art gift, or an education, we have you covered, from cover to cover. Alongside the best art books, these are the most intriguing, engaging and unexpected photography books on the market. 

The best photography books 2022: a curated guide

Bedfellow, by Caroline Tompkins

Leech, 2022, Image from Bedfellow, published by Palm Studios and designed by Jamie Allan Shaw

Leech, 2022, Image from Bedfellow, published by Palm Studios and designed by Jamie Allan Shaw

(Image credit: Caroline Tompkins)

There is a cloudy divide between fear and desire; a crossing between the personal and political, the pleasurable and painful. In Caroline Tompkin’s book Bedfellow,’ which had its Paris debut at Polycopies earlier this year, she shares these contradictory truths with us through images that pulse with attraction and apprehension. While a leach feeds on a bare male torso, Caroline Tompkins kisses a man, a caravan implodes in flames, a nudist returns our gaze, and then the sun sets.  As talented a writer as she is a photographer, the book begins with a sharp essay, creating a charged context for Tompkins’ imagery. (opens in new tab)

The Four Pillars, by Eli Durst  

The Four Pillars, by Eli Durst photography book Ellie Durst

Spread from The Four Pillars, by Eli Durst 

(Image credit: © Eli Durst 2022 courtesy Loose Joints)

Staging perturbing yet familiar scenes, Eli Durst’s The Four Pillars delves into American aspirations of happiness, self-improvement and individuality. Over several years, Durst built a relationship with a faith-based self-help group, formed of middle-class suburbanites who despite their relative comfort were seeking meaning amidst unending pressures for success. This dynamic seeded Durst’s unnerving reconstruction of family portraits, team bonding exercises, pregnancy groups, and amateur theatre. As a series of images in monochromatic dialogue with one another, a tense yet comic atmosphere builds in reflection of a society’s values. (opens in new tab)

Joke, by Talia Chetrit 

Talia Chetrit, ‘Untitled (Family #1), 2021.’, from JOKE (MACK, 2022)

Talia Chetrit, ‘Untitled (Family #1), 2021.’, from JOKE (MACK, 2022)

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist and MACK.)

Working like a composer, Artist Talia Chetrit draws upon a breadth of visual languages and characters for Joke, her latest book, published with MACK.  Bringing together family photos, street photography, still lifes, the artist’s teenage archive, and expressive self-portraits; Chetrit inverts and oscillates between reality and performance, tradition and controversy. There’s carnage and carnality in these contrasts, as her partner is depicted in high-end fetishwear while feeding their son, and a nude Chetrit photographs herself in transparent trousers. These form a controversial chorus, amidst verses of sullen teenage portraits and designer shoes in domestic still lives. (opens in new tab)

Body Double, by Thomas Abdorf 

courtesy Same Paper, Body Double by Thomas Albdorf

(Image credit: courtesy Same Paper, Body Double by Thomas Albdorf)

Thomas Alborf skews the reality of the physical world by disrupting our expectations of space and light - ‘Nothing here is what it seems to be - clouds can be petrified, water can become dust,’ he says. In Body Double, published with Same Paper, Albdorf connects his recognisable process to the constructed magic of Los Angeles and its film industry. Just as that world is all a mirage, Alborf’s images are never what they appear to be; each object is doesn’t quite feel right, tet the allure of cinematic entertainment is there, keeping his audience enthralled. (opens in new tab)

Flechazo, by Pia Riverola 

Flechazo, by Pia Riverola best art books

Flechazo, by Pia Riverola

(Image credit: courtesy of Homecoming Gallery)

Translating as love at first sight Flechazo is photographer Pia Riverola’s ode to the culture, people and spirit of Mexico. Riverola explains ‘Mexico became my motherland instantly, my guide and my inspiration. Its people and nature took care of me in a defining moment in my life where it nourished me to become my own self - both personally and professionally. I felt part of it from the first moment I arrived, but it also challenged me to fight passionately for myself and my beliefs, which marked a path of growth for me in every aspect of life. Flechazo is my tribute.’ To view Riverola’s work is to be absorbed within a luscious palate filled with touching moments, fittingly, a poetic intermezzo by her partner and father to their firstborn John Reagan is included. Flechazo also marks a foray into publishing for Homecoming Gallery. (opens in new tab)

Chaos, by Valeria Herklotz

Chaos by Valeria Herklotz, with Oui Non Editions

Chaos by Valeria Herklotz, with Oui Non Editions

(Image credit: Valeria Herklotz)

We’re always interested in those who push the envelope in how photography can be presented, ‘Chaos’ by German photographer Valeria Herklotz is a dynamic example. Displayed in a series of five leporellos, images of young women in rapturous fervour as they dance. Since we can’t hear the beat inspiring their movements, a curious contradictory space opens up in which we are intimate voyeurs of these liberating scenes yet have no context to the rhythm they’re following. (opens in new tab)

Title: Zora J Murff: True Colors (or, Affirmations in a Crisis)

Open book with man wearing a mask on the right page.

From True Colors (or, Affirmations in a Crisis) (Aperture, 2021)© Zora J Murff, courtesy the artist and Webber Gallery, London

(Image credit: Zora J Murff/Webber Gallery, London)

With the autobiographical monograph True Colors (or, Affirmations in a Crisis), artist and educator Zora J Murff produces a nuanced commentary on race, power, privilege and violence. Described as ‘part manual, part autobiography, and part visual remix’, Murff grapples personally and politically with America’s violent past and present. Photography’s divisive role is acknowledged as Murff merges the role of archiver and participant. With a background in psychology and social work, Murff identifies within his practice ‘the duality of Black patriotism and the challenges of finding belonging in places not made for me—of creating an affirmation in a moment of crisis as I learn to remake myself in my own image.’ (opens in new tab)

The Model Family, by Tealia Ellis Ritter

Open book with snake on left page and woman leaning against a wall on the right page.

© Tealia Ellis Ritter 2021 courtesy Loose Joints 

(Image credit: Loose Joints)

In The Model Family, Tealia Ellis Ritter pulls together a visual journey through raw love and loss. The book induces a flinching fascination in the viewer, leaving them unable to ignore their own familial past and present. Published by Loose Joints, the accompanying text by renowned writer Lisa Taddeo builds on the pushing and pulling of relationships that Ellis Ritter so adeptly captures. Fittingly, the two are family friends. Sleeping, bathing, laughing, kissing, hunting, crying, loving and dying; these acts are collected into something very different than a family album. Instead, this is both a painful and joyful ode to those closest to us. (opens in new tab)

A Pound of Pictures by Alec Soth

Open book with a picture of a cars steering wheel with post-it notes on.

Spread from A Pound of Pictures, by Alec Soth, published by MACK January 2022

(Image credit: Alec Soth)

Everything from Buddhist statues and birdwatchers to sun-seekers and busts of Abe Lincoln appears in Alec Soth’s A Pound of Pictures; the acclaimed artist’s latest book published by Mack. Described as a stream-of-consciousness, the collected works take us on a journey through the desire to record and collect. ‘If the pictures in this book are about anything other than their shimmering surfaces,’ Soth writes in the afterword, ‘they are about the process of their own making. They are about going into the ecstatically specific world and creating a connection between the ephemeral (light, time) and the physical (eyeballs, film).’ Coinciding the publication are solo exhibitions at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, Weinstein Hammons Gallery, Minneapolis, and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. (opens in new tab)

Promise Land by Gregory Eddi Jones

Open book with pastel coloured paintings on both pages.

Spread from Promise Land by Gregory Eddi Jones, published by SPBH

(Image credit: Gregory Eddi Jones)

Taking a cue from T.S. Eliot’s 1922 poem The Waste Land, Gregory Eddi Jones has formed an articulate photographic critique of the medium itself. For Jones, our current commonplace images are hollow illusions of meaning; picking up where Elliot’s poem left off a hundred years earlier, the artist imagines another life for photography in which it’s untethered from its historic badge of truth-telling. The title Promise Land is a testament to this projected ideal. Through physical and digital manipulations, Jones’ boundaryless abstractions form a cacophony of potential new interpretations in our ‘post-truth’ world. (opens in new tab)

Foto/Industria 2021: Food

Open book with Goolge Earth type view of Herington Air Base.

Feedlots, Black Diamond Feeders, Herington Air Base, Kansas, 2013 © Mishka Henner. Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Bianconi, Milano 

(Image credit: Mishka Henner/Galleria Bianconi, Milano )

Merging photography book and cookbook, Foto-Industria 2021’s biennial was accompanied by a rather unusual publication titled FOOD, created by chef and writer Tommaso Melilli. ‘The ways in which food is produced, distributed, sold, bought and consumed are constantly changing, yet they always encapsulate certain distinctive features of any era, historical period, or cultural and social milieu. Like photography, food is a language that incorporates and disseminates messages’. The Biennial’s artistic director and curator Francesco Zanot explains. Featuring work from the likes of Herbert List, Takashi Homma, Lorenzo Vitturi and more, this is a treat for both the eyes and palate. (opens in new tab)

A Spell Too Far by David Brandon Geeting and Lina 

Yellow Balloon shaped like a flower with black balloons shaped like ants on it.

A Spell Too Far, by David Brandon Geeting and Lina Sun Park. Published by Same Paper

(Image credit: David Brandon Geeting/Lina Sun Park)

A Spell Too Far is the magical meeting of the minds of David Brandon Geeting and Lina Sun Park. Using some banal and some surprising household items, the artist couple has created wondrous scenes that read like a peculiar dream. A lilac toilet paper sculpture, a flowery maze of leg hair, a table setting of fruit and vegetable furniture come together to form a fantasy. Geeting, Sun Park, and their cat, all feature in the photography book too, with the same playful humour as characters are invented. Instructions with pink origami paper to make flowers are also included, allowing the reader to join Geeting and Sun Park in their joyful creations. (opens in new tab)

Title: Périphérique by Mohamed Bourouissa Publisher: Loose Joints Price: £40 Availability: out now

Open book with picture of young men standing inside a post office over both pages.

© Mohamed Bourouissa 2021. Courtesy Loose Joints

(Image credit: Mohamed Bourouissa)

In Périphérique, Deutsche Börse award-winner Mohamed Bourouissa takes on visual codes of historic paintings with staged scenes of high drama in Paris’s banlieues; giving presence in history to its often stereotyped inhabitants. The acclaimed work was created amid great unrest in the banlieues with riots against France’s social and economic inequalities. Complex scenes run counter to the reductive representations Bourouissa is responding to in mainstream culture. Published with Loose Joints, the photography book includes unseen preparatory photographs evidencing the collaborative process between the Algerian-French artist with his friends and acquaintances in creating this profound look at inequality and representation. (opens in new tab)

Title: Venus & Mercury, by Viviane Sassen Publisher: Aperture Price: $150 Availability: out now

Open book with Venus & Mercury paintings on the pages.

Product image/photograph of Viviane Sassen: Venus & Mercury (Aperture, 2021)

(Image credit: Viviane Sassen)

Given free reign over France’s Palace of Versailles, Viviane Sassen created Venus & Mercury, a limited-edition art book published with Aperture. For Sassen, the palace’s many marble statues were the inspiration for creating a multitude of surreal forms. Also explored were the ostentatious gardens, gilded baroque interiors, and even Marie Antoinette’s private correspondence. Together with poems from Marjolijn van Heemstra that allude to court societies of past eras, Sassen's contemporary visions of this past palace form a vivid art object. Sassen has even individually painted each box encasing the book, which was conceived and designed by renowned bookmaker Irma Boom. (opens in new tab)

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

Open photo book with African woman standing in underwear on left page and two African men without shirts on sitting on a couch on the right page.

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

(Image credit: Deana Lawson/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. (opens in new tab)

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

A photo of a woman's back wearing a veil with a view of the mountains in front of her. Photo of two men standing inside the curtains.

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

(Image credit: 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. (opens in new tab)

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

Magnum Dogs book cover with picture of Dalmatian sitting at owners feet on the beach.

Magnum Dogs, publshed by Thames & Hudson

(Image credit: 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. (opens in new tab)

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

Open book with photo of head shot of teenage girl looking to the left on the right page.

© Jet Swan 2021. Courtesy Loose Joints 

(Image credit: Jet Swan)

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 (opens in new tab)

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

Sculpture of arm and head coming out of a wall made out of a shiny type of rock.

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

(Image credit: Penguin Books)

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 (opens in new tab)

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

Match Point book cover with man playing tennis and behind view of crowd watching.

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

(Image credit: Martin Parr/Phaidon)

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

A Large Pickle on a white plate.

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

(Image credit: 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

A Feminist History book cover. Photo of an African couple sleeping together on the grass.

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

(Image credit: Emma Lewis)

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. (opens in new tab)

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

Face Time. Portrait of a boy and a girl wearing white robes.

(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

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

For Cats Only book cover. With upside cat in a cat jungle gym.

(Image credit: Pascale Weber)

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 book cover. Green with gold text.

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

(Image credit: Jamie Hawkesworth/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. (opens in new tab)

Sophie is currently Photography Editor at Wallpaper*. Sophie joined the team following the completion of her photography degree in 2018, and works with Photography Director Holly Hay, where she shoots, commissions, produces, and writes on photography. Alongside this, she continues her art practice as a photographer, for which she was recently nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award. And in recognition of her work to date, Sophie was nominated by the British Journal of Photography for the Futures photography platform in 2021.

With contributions from