Photobook culture is surging more than ever before. Perhaps it’s an attempt to hold in our hands and make permanent something that social media and online content have made so fleeting. A means of escaping the algorithms and digital noise that vie for our attention, and instead, spend time with photographs as physical objects.
We compiled seven of our favorite women-made photobooks published over the past few years that made a lasting impact on how we see the world. Whether it’s illuminating the stories of those less represented, humorously illustrating the absurdity of outdated laws or looking at the landscape with a wildly unexpected lens as a metaphor for the immigration crisis, these books will help you pause for a new perspective. We’re featuring a new book each week on our Instagram – join us there if you like what you see.
Olivia Locher: I Fought The Law
Published by Chronicle Books in 2017
Olivia Locher’s I Fought The Law is a collection of sly, poppy photographs depicting some of the strangest laws from each of the 50 United States. From Texas’ law against drinking perfume, to North Dakota’s ban on falling asleep with your shoes on, each image provides a hilariously visual education into historical absurdity in a time when some urgent, pressing rights (like abortion) may be at stake. The cover image, depicting Alamaba’s law against keeping an ice cream cone in your back pocket (maybe it’s for our own good?) might be our favorite.
Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail The Dark Lioness
Published by Aperture Books in 2018
In Zanele Muholi’s first monograph, Ngonyama Hail The Dark Lioness, she uses self-portraits to address the difficult and charged history of how black bodies have been represented in art, media and pop culture. Her approach is refreshingly varied often pulling props – like clothes pins chopsticks and cleaning tools – from her immediate environment to create portraits that nod to images we’ve seen before yet feel urgent and new. “I am producing this photographic document,” Muholi says in her statement, “to encourage individuals in my community to be brave enough to occupy spaces—brave enough to create without fear of being vilified… To teach people about our history, to rethink what history is all about, to reclaim it for ourselves—to encourage people to use artistic tools such as cameras as weapons to fight back.”
Natalie Krick: Natural Deceptions
Published in 2017 by Skylark Editions
Inspired by magazine spreads and celebrity pinups, Natural Deceptions is a shiny, disorienting revision of feminine beauty, glamour, and sexuality. Light from a harsh flash intermingles with contrasty lines and arms and legs jutting in at odd angles that accentuate and poke fun at unrealistic ideas about what makes women beautiful. Krick’s photographs are both hard to look at yet pull you in – seductively glossy, yet garish.
Gabriela Herman: The Kids
Published by New Press in 2017
“I actually got in a fight with a kindergarten substitute teacher who insisted that I must have a dad, because everyone has a dad. We were making Father’s Day cards, and I was adamant that I did not have a dad. She didn’t believe me. ” This quote is from one of many individuals Gabriela Herman photographed for The Kids, a series of warm, intimate photographs of children of LGBTQ parents. Herman’s photographs and testimonials bring humanity and deeply personal narratives to how we understand the evolving nature of family.
KangHee Kim: Golden Hour
Published by Same Paper in 2018
You probably know KangHee Kim by her Instagram handle, TinyCactus which exploded with popularity over the past few years for its intentionally obvious use of Photoshop to create magical rainbow-soaked landscape fantasies. Clouds appear as mirages on drab interior floors, rainbows streak across sandy beaches and traffic lights sit in cotton-candy clouds. Kim, a Korean DACA dreamer made Golden Hour’s collection of intentionally unrealistic images in response to being stuck in the United States due to visa restrictions. These imagined worlds represent the feeling of looking out from a place of entrapment – a fantasy world or heaven waiting on the other side.
Mickalene Thomas: Muse
Published by Aperture in 2015
Photography is a major piece of interdisciplinary artist Mickalene Thomas’s many-layered, often rhinestone-encrusted practice. When still studying at Yale, the artist began photographing herself and her mother – images that eventually became a touchstone to her work. Years into her elaborate and impressive career, Muse compiles a collection of portraits and staged scenes that feature a range of muses including her friends, lovers, and members of her community and assert a powerful and positive proclamation of beauty and inspiration.
Jess T Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre: To Survive on This Shore
Published by Kehrer Verlag in 2018
For more than five years, photographer Jess T. Dugan and writer Vanessa Fabbre traveled throughout the United States photographing transgender individuals whose experiences exist within the wide intersections of gender identity, race, age, ethnicity, geography, and sexuality. Their book, To Survive on This Shore documents the stories of individuals in big cities and small towns, focusing on older adults spanning the last ninety-plus years. It’s an impressive and moving record of those whose experiences, until recently, have been largely unrepresented.