Inspiring Photobooks (and Zines) by Black Women You Need to Know
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Inspiring Photobooks (and Zines) by Black Women You Need to Know

Inspiring Photobooks (and Zines) by Black Women You Need to Know

by The Luupe
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Spend some time with these highlights from Black Women Photographers' Black History Month Photobook roundup.

This month, our friends at Black Women Photographers' Polly Irungu (who also leads digital storytelling for The Luupe!) and Jessica Bethel curated a daily giveaway focusing on photobooks by Black artists. It's a visually and conceptually diverse selection, showcasing the rich and wide-ranging approaches to today (and history's) most vibrant emerging and established Black photographers.
While the full list includes photographers of all genders, we put together a "Luupe focus," highlighting some of the women and non-binary image-makers of the list. We encourage you to get familiar with – and support – their work.
By Deb Willis
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, 2009
From the publisher: "As a student in the 1970s, Deborah Willis came to the realization that images of black beauty, female and male, simply did not exist in the larger culture. Determined to redress this imbalance, Willis examined everything from vintage ladies' journals to black newspapers, and started what would become a lifelong quest. With more than two hundred arresting images, many previously unpublished, Posing Beauty recovers a world many never knew existed. Historical subjects such as Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker illuminate the past; Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali take us to the civil rights era; Denzel Washington, Lil' Kim, and Michelle Obama celebrate the present."
By Kahran and Regis Bethencourt
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (October 20, 2020)
From The Publisher: "From the dynamite husband and wife duo behind CreativeSoul Photography comes GLORY, a photography book that shatters the conventional standards of beauty for Black children.With stunning images of natural hair and gorgeous, inventive visual storytelling, GLORY puts Black beauty front and center with more than 100 breathtaking photographs and a collection of powerful essays about the children.
At its heart, it is a recognition and celebration of the versatility and innate beauty of Black hair, and Black beauty. The glorious coffee-table book pays homage to the story of our royal past, celebrates the glory of the here and now, and even dares to forecast the future."
By Ariel Robinson Self-published, 2020
From The Publisher: The Modern Day Black Alphabet is a children's photo book by Arial Robinson. This book started as a simple photo series to keep Arial occupied while being quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic but now has blossomed into a full book. This book explores and reimagines the alphabet through intimate at home black experiences. It serves as a learning tool fo black children and a coffee table book for black adults.
By Nadine Ijewere
Publisher: Prestel, 2021/2022
From the publisher: A celebration of identity and individual human beauty, this vibrant monograph is the first book dedicated to fashion photographer Nadine Ijewere—the first Black woman photographer to land a cover of Vogue in the magazine’s 125-year history. Dazzling color, dreamlike backgrounds, and a fierce gaze are the hallmarks of Ijewere’s work. But most important to the London photographer is subversion of traditional concepts of beauty.
In fashion work, editorials, advertisements, and film stills, Ijewere draws not only on her roots in Nigeria and Jamaica, but also on her own experiences as a young Black woman in South East London whose skin color, hair, and body type were nowhere to be found in the pages of magazines. Ijewere’s vibrantly colored, brilliantly staged pictures often focus on themes of identity and diversity, and feature nontraditional subjects that celebrate the uniqueness of disparate cultures.
By Tina Clampt
Publisher: The MIT Press, 2021
From the publisher: Tina Campt examines Black contemporary artists who are shifting the very nature of our interactions with the visual through their creation and curation of a distinctively Black gaze. Their work—from Deana Lawson's disarmingly intimate portraits to Arthur Jafa's videos of the everyday beauty and grit of the Black experience, from Kahlil Joseph's films and Dawoud Bey's photographs to the embodied and multimedia artistic practice of Okwui Okpokwasili, Simone Leigh, and Luke Willis Thompson—requires viewers to do more than simply look; it solicits visceral responses to the visualization of Black precarity.
Campt shows that this new way of seeing shifts viewers from the passive optics of looking at to the active struggle of looking with, through, and alongside the suffering—and joy—of Black life in the present. The artists whose work Campt explores challenge the fundamental disparity that defines the dominant viewing practice: the notion that Blackness is the elsewhere (or nowhere) of whiteness. These artists create images that flow, that resuscitate and revalue the historical and contemporary archive of Black life in radical ways. Writing with rigor and passion, Campt describes the creativity, ingenuity, cunning, and courage that is the modus operandi of a Black gaze.
By Lorna Simpson
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2018
From the publisher: Using advertising photographs of black women (and men) drawn from vintage issues of Ebony and Jet magazines, the exquisite and thought-provoking collages of world-renowned artist Lorna Simpson explore the richly nuanced language of hair. Surreal coiffures made from colorful ink washes, striking geological formations from old textbooks, and other unexpected forms and objects adorn the models to mesmerizingly beautiful effect.
By Nitashia Johnson
Self published, 2022
From the Publisher: The Self Publication is a creative collection of photography and personal essays designed to uplift and combat the harsh stereotypes associated with men and women in the Black Community. The project also works as traveling exhibit and video series. Volume 3 gives viewers an empathetic perspective of the lives of 14 black male participants. The stories are striking and heartbreaking to read about these moments of trauma early in the lives of these individuals—this 76-paged book which includes beautiful photographs of all participants.
By Deanna Lawson
Publisher: Aperture, 2018
From the publisher: "Deana Lawson is one of the most intriguing photographers of her generation. Over the last ten years, she has created a visionary language to describe identities through intimate portraiture and striking accounts of ceremonies and rituals. Using medium- and large-format cameras, Lawson works with models she meets in the United States and on travels in the Caribbean and Africa to construct arresting, highly structured, and deliberately theatrical scenes animated by an exquisite range of color and attention to surprising details: bedding and furniture in domestic interiors or lush plants in Edenic gardens. Lawson's Monograph features forty beautifully reproduced photographs, an essay by the acclaimed writer Zadie Smith, and an expansive conversation with the filmmaker Arthur Jafa."
by Dana Canedy, Darcy Eveleigh, Damien Cave and Rachel L. Swarns
Publisher: Black Dog and Leventhal, 2017
From the publisher: Hundreds of stunning images from Black history have long been buried in The New York Times archives. None of them were published by The Times.... UNSEEN uncovers these never-before published photographs and tells the stories behind them. It all started with Times photo editor Darcy Eveleigh discovering dozens of these photographs. She and three colleagues, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave and Rachel L. Swarns, began exploring the history behind them, and subsequently chronicling them in a series entitled Unpublished Black History, that ran in print and online editions of The Times in February 2016. It garnered 1.7 million views on The Times website and thousands of comments from readers.
This book includes those photographs and many more, among them: a 27-year-old Jesse Jackson leading an anti-discrimination rally of in Chicago, Rosa Parks arriving at a Montgomery Courthouse in Alabama a candid behind-the-scenes shot of Aretha Franklin backstage at the Apollo Theater, Ralph Ellison on the streets of his Manhattan neighborhood, the firebombed home of Malcolm X, Myrlie Evans and her children at the funeral of her slain husband , Medgar, a wheelchair-bound Roy Campanella at the razing of Ebbets Field.
by Seleen Saleh
Publisher: Goff Books, 2019/ 2020
From the publisher: "Seleen Saleh’s photographs reveal individuality, fearlessness, and creativity in the most vibrant beings who collectively represent street style. The book preserves the integrity of street style and features some of the muses that have been forgotten or were never acknowledged. Seleen combines photographs from her work at Essence Magazine with new images of jaw-dropping, creative and colorful moments. As a lover of fashion, art, and people, Seleen brings out the authentic nature of these known and unknown muses." Read a conversation with Seleen and The Luupe HERE.
By Alyscia Cunningham
Publisher: Self-published, 2018
From the publisher: "Through the eyes and lens of photographer and filmmaker, Alyscia Cunningham, she has the profound ability to capture inner-beauty that captivates both viewers and readers. Cunningham is hoping to use her photographs to celebrate beauty of bald women with her new book, "I Am More Than My Hair", while raising awareness of alopecia (the partial or complete absence of hair; baldness). "I Am More Than My Hair" features 138 portraits of 46 females and the stories of their experience with alopecia as well as females who cut their hair in solidarity of a loved one."
by Mahaneela
Publisher: Self published
From the publisher:“Through My Lens” is a collection of works by Mahaneela, a 26 years old multidisciplinary artist with roots in Ghana, India, Jamaica. Her work explores the themes of diasporic history, music and culture, with a focus on the black experience and emphasis on depicting black and brown people in modes of joy and happiness. In a direct response to the lack of representation in the media, she hopes to provide a new vision of what it is to be black or brown. One that is bright, beautiful, and authentic."
by Latoya Ruby Frasier
Publisher: Aperture, 2016
From the publisher: "LaToya Ruby Frazier’s award-winning first book, The Notion of Family, offers an incisive exploration of the legacy of racism and economic decline in America’s small towns, as embodied by her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. The work also considers the impact of that decline on the community and on her family, creating a statement both personal and truly political—an intervention in the histories and narratives of the region. Frazier has compellingly set her story of three generations—her Grandma Ruby, her mother, and herself—against larger questions of civic belonging and responsibility.
The work documents her own struggles and interactions with family and the expectations of community, and includes the documentation of the demise of Braddock’s only hospital, reinforcing the idea that the history of a place is frequently written on the body as well as the landscape. With The Notion of Family, Frazier knowingly acknowledges and expands upon the traditions of classic black-and-white documentary photography, enlisting the participation of her family, and her mother in particular."
by Lindsay Perryman
Publisher: self-published
Lindsay Perryman’s first zine is a bold arrangement of portraits of African American masculine women in the LGBTQ+ community. The Colors We Don’t See at The End of The Rainbow highlights the importance of African American masculine women (studs). They feature masculine women of color in the purest form imaginable.
Thanks for reading! Looking for more inspiring women and non-binary made photobooks? Check out The Luupe's year-end top-33 list of 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Luupe
The Luupe is a one-stop production platform designed to help brands collaborate with underrepresented photographers across the globe, providing resources and opportunities that boost creator’s impact and income, while streamlining traditional workflows to create high quality, diverse content, at scale. Our brand purpose is to help underrepresented photographers and creators further their career and generate income with the goal of improving diversity in front of and behind the lens in the commercial photography industry.
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