The Luupe Highlights photography books by women and non-binary artists this year.
These photobooks kept us calm, gave us pause and moments of peace, hope, and solace. We encourage you to buy them, read them, support them, and share them with friends, students, and anyone who may be moved by their power.
By Marcy Palmer
Publisher: Yoffy Press
You Are Eternity, You Are the Mirror uses beauty to counter personal and political crises. Inspired by Anna Atkins and other early botanical artists, Palmer photographs plants and flowers, then prints them on vellum. She hand-applies 24k gold leaf, varnish, and wax, creating magical images that transport viewers, momentarily to a safe and beautiful place. The book itself is smaller than most, which adds to its intimacy. At roughly 5×7,” it’s a gem of a publication to experience and hold in your hands.
Ming Smith’s images are icons of twentieth-century African American life. Smith moved to New York City in the 1970s and began to make images heavy with beauty and spirituality. Her monograph connects four decades of work, including street scenes, silhouettes, and deep devotion to music, theater, poetry, and dance.
Edited with Text by Andrea Nelson. Foreword by Kaywin Feldman
Publisher: The National Gallery of Art
Featuring work by 120 photographers, The New Woman Behind The Camera takes a deep look at women’s profound impact on photography during its pivotal years from the 1920s to the 1950s. It explores their force and influence and implementation of their own perspectives in artistic experimentation and across genres. These include studio portraiture, fashion and advertising work as well as photojournalism, editorial, and street photography.
By Christine Chitnis
Publisher: Penguin/ Random House
For over a decade, photographer Christine Chitnis has been making regular trips to India to respectfully photograph the region’s people, food, culture, and diversity of daily life. Chitnis organizes the 200+ photographs into chapters that correspond to the region’s five dominant colors: royal blue, sandstone, marigold, ivory, and rose. Paired with eloquent, contextual prose, Patterns of India provides a steady thread exploring the relationship between color and pattern, while paying homage to her husband’s heritage. Check out this conversation with Chitnis on the story behind her work and practice.
By Nadiya Nacorda
Publisher Kris Graves Projects
Nadiya Imani Loyisa Ntlabati Nacorda photographs her family in the United States and abroad, making images that waver between intimacy, love, displacement, secrecy, and generational trauma within the context of Black and POC immigrant-American family life.
By Frances Denny
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America culminates Frances F. Denny’s years travelling across the United States to photograph and interview modern-day witches. Denny emboldens a largely misunderstood and historically castigated group. This includes herbalists, occultists, and Wiccan high priestesses, among others. Maor Arcana ultimately challenges commonly held, sexist stereotypes of the evil, broom-riding “hag.” Read a conversation with Denny about the work HERE.
By Iris Hassid
Publisher: Schilt Publishing
For six years (2014-2020) Tel Aviv-based photographer and artist Iris Hassid followed the day to day life of four young Palestinian women, citizens of Israel. These women are part of a recent surge of the young generation of Arab female students attending Tel Aviv University. Hassid combines intimate, candid portraits, still lifes, and on-the-fly moments to paint a picture of a community of young, self-confident women who are often underrepresented in popular media.
By Endia Beal
Publisher: Minor Matters Books
The first monograph by North Carolina-based artist, educator, and activist Endia Beal brings together videos and photographic series that respond to the realities and challenges many women of color face in the corporate workplace. It’s largely reflective of Beal’s experience working in Yale’s IT department while studying for her MFA. Specifically, the inappropriate and often racist questions her colleagues would pose.
The book includes a foreword by Whitney Richardson, Global Events Manager for The New York Times in London, and contributions by journalists David Walker, Priscilla Frank, and Becky Harlan, who have all written about Beal’s work for national publications.
Publisher: Aperture and Carnegie Museum of Art
On Contested Terrain, the first major published survey of the Vietnamese American photographer. Le’s work for the past three decades draws from and builds on her own experience of the Vietnam War. She’s photographed Vietnam reenactors in the American South, military training exercises, and film sets fabricating war, all to understand the complex theater and motivations behind human conflict.
Publisher: Goff Books
Seleen Saleh’s pre-pandemic street portraits highlight the iconic influence of street fashion on popular culture. The photographer spent more than a decade following and photographing the unique styles that caught her eye. These heroic images, now published in her book Street Culture feel like a time capsule to better, less socially distant days, focusing on people of color while celebrating their influence on global cultural trends. Read more about Saleh’s work HERE.
By Danelle Manthey
Publisher: Somersault Productions
American Christmas examines Christmas displays and the people behind them as symbols of American folk art. Through portraits and interviews, the book features the stories of over 40 families and individuals across 12 states. It includes text by Marlene Friis, a foreword from Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, Founder and Director of the American Visionary Art Museum, and an introduction by Mark Sloan, Curator and Chief Director of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art.
By Hawa Hassana and Julia Turshen with photographs by Khadija M. Farrah and Jennifer May
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Sure, photography is essential to any great cookbook, but we don’t always think of cookbooks as “photobooks.” In Bibi’s Kitchen is an exception. The book compiles recipes from grandmothers in eight eastern African countries who share versatile, flavorful recipes and stories of love, family, tradition, and of course, delicious meals, all balanced by glorious travel and food photography.
By Rachelle Mozman
Publisher: Kris Graves Projects
Colonial Echo brings together two of Rachelle Mozman’s biographical series: Casa de Mujeres and La Negra. Casa de Mujeres focuses on colonialism in Panama, while La Negra looks at the time when her family migrated to the American South, and then to New York City in the mid-1960s. In staged, often-theatrical images, Mozman examines how culture, class, and assimilation can shape and transform identity.
Edited by Odette England
Publisher: Schilt Publishing
Artist, writer and curator, Odette England asked more than 200 photographers, artists, and writers to respond to Winter Garden Photograph, the mythical, author-unknown image of philosopher Roland Barthes’ mother at age five. It was an image Barthes wrote extensively about shortly after her death in his book Camera Lucida but refused to reproduce, expanding on its memory and mythology. England’s curated collection of photographs and essays is one of the smartest reinterpretations of photo-history, theory. Keeper of the Hearth is a refreshing meditation on death and remembrance.
Various photographers and writers
Publisher: Radius Books
THREE is Radius Books’ third in an ongoing series of limited edition photography projects. It combines signed photos with writing that responds to the unifying theme of “Voice.” The publishers describe it as a “sketchbook or collection of thoughts on a chosen topic: an opportunity to pair a single image with a short text, to inspire something new.”
These women-prominent, photographer-writer pairings include Zanele Muholi | Ashley Coleman Taylor, Dannielle Bowman | Evie Shockley, Deborah Roberts | Carolyn Jean Martin, Kyle Meyer | Jarrett Earnest, Sanlé Sory | Teju Cole, Wendy Red Star | Eileen Myles, Lauren Noelle Oliver | Julia de Burgos, Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa | Makeda Best
By Alina Van Ryzin
Published by Kris Graves Projects
Of all the historic Seven Sister Colleges, only five, including Bryn Mawr, remain single-sex. The school is primarily known for its historic legacy of high society alums—mainly white wealthy women who attended at a time when single-sex colleges were the only ones admitting women. Because women are no longer excluded from higher education, modern women’s colleges occupy a liminal position—their single-sex structures seem outmoded, yet they do not to assimilate.
Van Ryzin’s photographs from her time attending Bryn Mawr, which include a mix of staged scenarios, portraits, and candid scenes, paint a picture of the school as a place where the photographer discovered her gender and sexual identity as a genderfluid artist.
By Justine Kurland
From 1997 to 2002, Justine Kurland reimagined the North American Frontier – a place historically tied to hyper-masculine mythologies – in a series of photographs of teenage girls in the American wilderness. For Kurland, these widely acclaimed photographs resist and reject patriarchal ideals, presenting these young women as fearless and free.
By Alessandra Sanguinetti
Publisher: Mack Books
This book continues Alessandra Sanguinetti’s ongoing series of images of Belinda and Guillermina, two cousins in rural Argentina. Sanguinetti follows Guillermina and Belinda from ages 14 to 24 as they move through adolescence and young adulthood, and chronicles the two cousins’ everyday lives as they experience love, pregnancy, and motherhood.
Edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham
Publisher: Penguin/ Random House
We should note that this isn’t solely photography-focused, but photography plays an important role in this book’s power. Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham bring together a collection of photographs, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and other creative media to celebrate some of today’s most exciting and inspiring Black creators. Consequently, in spite of centuries of reckoning with systemic racism, Black Futures, asks “What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?” It’s a bright breath of hope and joy.
By Jenny Riffle and Molly Landreth
Publisher: Minor Matters Books
Co-authored book by Jenny Riffle and Molly Landreth, It’s Raining…I Love You illustrates the photographers’ evolving relationship from first love to lifelong friends. The book pairs Landreth and Riffle’s long-distance college love letters with photographs of everyday moments, ephemera, and self-portraits. It’s a tender collection that shows how love, life, and enduring friendship have shaped the two professional photographers’ visions today.
By Ohemaa Dixon
Publisher: Self Published
Tanpa Izin is a series of fleeting, meditative images of Indonesia, photographed from the back of a motorbike. The book’s title, roughly translating in Bahasa Indonesia to “without permission,” builds on Dixon’s flip of the western lens. A lens often used to document and objectify people of other cultures in popular travel photography. Dixon, a Black woman often on the other side of “otherness”, sought to make photos with nuance, documenting a place that was not her own, appreciating its beauty in a quiet tone.
By Elizabeth Renstrom and Zoe Ligon
Carnal Knowledge is the sex education many missed in high school. It updates and normalizes a topic still sensitive in 21st century America. Ligon’s text pairs with Renstrom’s bright, bold colors to create a fun and informative curriculum that’s vital to health and happiness.