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Our 33 Favorite Photobooks by Women and Non-binary Photographers in 2021
Our 33 Favorite Photobooks by Women and Non-binary Photographers in 2021
by The Luupe
The Luupe's annual year-end list highlights a compelling mix of art photography, documentary and commercial photobooks.
These photobooks cover a range of genres and even include children's books to get little ones thinking about photography early on. Most remarkable are titles that give light to underrepresented voices in photo history. We encourage you to buy these books, read them, support them, and share with friends, students, and anyone who may be moved by their power.
By Gillian Laub
Family Matters collects Gillian Laub’s photographs of her family from the past twenty years, looking at them as an example of how Donald Trump’s seeds of division have impacted communities, individuals, and households across the United States. “I began to unpack my relationship to my relatives,” Laub tells her publisher, Aperture, “—which turned out to be much more indicative of my relationship to the outside world than I had ever thought, and the key to exploring questions I had about the effects of wealth, vanity, childhood, aging, fragility, political conflict, religious traditions, and mortality.”
By Kreshonna Keane
Kreshonna Keane : The Art Of Reflection
Kreshonna Keane is a self-taught photographer from The Bronx, New York. In The Art of Reflection, using elements of fashion, fine art and documentary portraiture, self-taught photographer Kreshonna Keane transforms everyday New Yorkers into triumphant, fantasy-like characters, seeing pieces of herself reflected in everyone she photographs. "There are pieces of my experiences," she writes, "my observations, my beliefs, my struggles, my strengths, and my weaknesses in every story."
By Laurence Philomene
Publisher: Yoffy Press
Puberty is a series of intimate self-portraits that visualize Laurence Philomene’s process and experience of self-care as a non-binary transgender person undergoing hormonal replacement therapy (HRT). Photographed over a period of two years, the artist balances surreal colors and everyday environments to document and normalize the slow, subtle physical changes occurring during Philomene's transition. Puberty challenges viewers to see HRT as a process without a fixed end goal.
By Nydia Blas
Publisher: Kris Graves Projects
Nydia Blas addresses sexuality, intimacy, and her experience as a girl, woman, and mother. She weaves stories about circumstance, value, and power and uses her work to create a “physical and allegorical space” through a Black female lens. For Blas, this relies on the belief that resiliency depends on a magical outlook. Props become extensions of the human body, costumes become markers of identity, and gestures/actions reveal the performance, celebration, discovery and confrontation involved in reclaiming one's body for their own exploration, discovery and understanding.
By Maureen R. Drennan
Publisher: Ain’t Bad
For nine years, Maureen Drennan made this intimate series around the life and her friendship with reclusive marijuana grower in California during a time when the laws and stigma around marijuana cultivation changed radically. Drennan’s portraiture and subdued, often foggy environmental landscape hover between documentary and something more deeply personal.
Publisher: 10x10 Photobooks
Possibly one of the most important women-amplifying photobooks of our time and the first of its kind, What they Saw presents a diverse and thoughtfully researched anthology of historical photobooks by women. Going beyond simple “coffee-table” books, it includes classic bound books, portfolios, personal albums, unpublished books, zines and scrapbooks.
These include well-known publications such as Anna Atkins’ Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843-1853), Germaine Krull’s Métal (1928) and Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (1972), as well as lesser-known books like Alice Seeley Harris’ The Camera and the Congo Crime (c. 1906), Varvara Stepanova’s Groznyi smekh. Okna Rosta (1932), Eslanda Cardozo Goode Robeson’s African Journey (1945), Fina Gómez Revenga’s Fotografías de Fina Gómez Revenga (1954). The authors also acknowledge major gaps and omissions in current photobook history— most concerning – the support and funding for photobooks by non-Western women and women of color.
Edited by Emma Lewis
Publisher: Chronicle Books
This book puts women and non-binary photographers at the forefront of photographic history through ten chronological sections paired with short essays on 75 different artists. From late 19th Century studio portraiture to the early 20th century photojournalism of Dorothea Lange and Lee Miller, and second-wave feminist critiques of gender roles to contemporary selfies and social media personae—this crucial book covers a range of styles and approaches from photography's inception to the present.
by Elizabeth Ferrer
Publisher: University of Washington Press
This comprehensive, thoroughly researched survey of Latinx American photography looks at family, identity, protest, borders, and other themes, including the experiences of immigration and marginalization common to many of their communities. Ferrer beautifully and illustrates this often overlooked history through individual profiles of more than eighty photographers from the early history of the photographic medium to the present, covering a range of genres from documentary photography to conceptual art.
By Anjelica Dass
Our photobook list would not be complete without a book made for kids. The colors We Share, geared towards readers age six and up features portraits that celebrate the diverse beauty of human skin – portraits of people from all over the world set against a background that beautifully matches their skin tone. Building off of Dass’s famous TED talk, the photographer shows us the many colors and possibilities for thinking about race, culture and humanity.
By Susan Meiseles
Another children's photography book, Susan Meiseles’ Eyes Open: 23 Photography Ideas for Curious Kids, is an engaging collection of 23 projects to inspire kids to use photography to tell stories. The book also includes photographs by young people from around the world and professional artists to show the accessibility and possibility of images and ideas.
By Rinko Kawauchi
We debated including this title on our list since it's technically a "re-release" of a book originally published a decade ago, but it's so good we couldn't pass it up. Originally published in 2011, Aperture retains Rinko Kawauchi’s original sequence and mix of acute observations, everyday details and attention to subtle colors. This expanded edition includes additional texts by curator David Chandler; philosopher Masatake Shinohara; and Aperture’s creative director, Lesley A. Martin, giving an expanded context and perspective to Kawauchi’s influential work.
By Sara Cwynar
Predictably, lots of Aperture titles have made it to our list this year, and Glass Life, is another gem. The book brings together Sara Cwynar’s multilayered portraits and stills from the films Soft Film (2016), Rose Gold (2017), and Red Film (2018) to dig into, and pull apart the ways color, image and design drives consumer culture.
Cwynar’s work takes a highly researched look into how beauty standards and consumer objects are highly idealized. Cwynar often creates studio “portraits” of images from eBay purchases, turning their flat, digital existence into something new and strangely tangible. It’s truly wild work that will resonate equally with photo and art history nerds as it will with those drawn to design and branding.
By Stacy Mehrfar
Publisher: Gost Books
The Moon Belongs to Everyone takes a non-linear approach to storytelling, using dark, murky portraits and landscapes to reflect the contemporary experience of migration and the search for placing roots in a diasporic world. It’s about the experience of feeling out of place and wanting to belong and connect yet mourning the loss of one’s heritage and connection to personal history.
By Jasmin Hernandez with photos by Jasmin Durhal and Sunny Leerasanthanah Publisher: Abrams Books
In 2012, Jasmin Hernandez launched Gallery Gurls to amplify and center BIPOC voices in the art world. This year, she turned that into We Are Here... profiling some of the most dynamic and influential BIPOC artists and curators working today. It focuses on queer, trans, and nonbinary artists, photographed by Sunny Leerasanthanah and Luupe photographer Jasmine Durhal, with an introductory essay by the legendary Swizz Beatz. Hernandez focuses on a diverse group of artists, collectors, curators, and fashion icons who are making an ongoing impact on art and pop culture. Read a conversation with Hernandez HERE.
By Lucy Schaeffer
Publisher: Running Press
In 2016, Schaeffer, agonizing over her own kids lunchboxes while fascinated by the school lunch patterns of previous generations, began a journey to photograph the wide experiences around preparing and packing lunch.The New York City-based Luupe photographer began interviewing her friends, family, Lyft drivers, celebrity chefs…anyone who would give her some time, about their experiences. The photographer enlisted food stylist Chris Basrsh and prop stylist Martha Bernabe to help her recreate the meals while scouring the internet for vintage props, lunchboxes and other ephemera to match the food and stories. Four years later, her collection of experiences culminates in a heartwarming and diverse book that the photographer says, “makes me feel a bit better about humanity.” Read The Luupe's conversation with the author here.
By Chow and Lin
Publisher: Lars Müller Publishers
To illustrate what it means to live at the poverty line, photographer-research duo Huiyi Lin and Stefen Chow visited thirty-six cities on six continents to take a hard look at poverty through a lens of food. They visited local markets and bought vegetables, fruits, cereal products, proteins and snacks – the amount of food they could afford per day based on the respective poverty line definition set by each government. They photographed each pile of food, placed on a page of a local newspaper from that day, taking a typological and research-based approach to draw clear comparisons and show the gravity of poverty around the world.
By Michelle Dunn Marsh
Publisher: Minor Matters Books
For more than 20 years, Michelle Dunn Marsh has been one of the greatest champions of photographers and photography in general. From designing widely popular books for Aperture to leading the photography platform at Photographic Center Northwest and launching her own imprint Minor Matters Books, she’s had a fascinating career, which she chronicles in this memoir. Read an extended conversation with Marsh here.
By Colleen Mullins, Nicole White, Jenny Sampson and Christy McDonald Publisher: R&T Press
Responding to the shortage of toilet paper in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis, The “Rolls and Tubes Collective” - 4 photographers working out of the Bay Area began recreating historical photographs using, you guessed it, toilet paper rolls and tubes. The result is a brilliant and hilarious sandwich of history and crisis, respectfully using levity to respond to a difficult moment in time. And from what we’ve learned, they mindfully avoided creating waste by using only a single square in a shoot, and never throwing anything away.
By Farrah Al Qasimi.
Hello Future brings together Farrah Al Qasimi’s splashy, florid photography, film and performance art, with a heavy focus on surface and texture. Her work looks at postcolonial structures of power, gender and aesthetics in the Persian Gulf states and migration at-large. Published as the winner of the annual Capricious Photo Award, Al Qasimi’s work was selected by a prestigious jury including Sophie Mörner, Anika Sabin, Kim Bourus, Sam Contis, John Edmonds, Sunil Gupta, Amanda Hajjar, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Ka-Man Tse.
By Cig Harvey
Publisher: Monacelli Press
Blue Violet, a vibrant collection of deeply saturated blues, pinks, reds and greens, celebrates the natural world in all its vibrance and magic. These are photos you want to live with, consume, soak up, sit and stare into for days, weeks, even longer. Using references to the five senses, Blue Violet takes the reader on a personal journey through nature, human emotion, memory and most importantly, the feels.
By Rania Matar
Publisher: Radius Books.
Lebanese-born American artist and mother Rania Matar’s cross-cultural experiences inform her art, with a specific focus on middle eastern women. Her new book focuses on young women in the United States and The Middle east in their late teens and early twenties as they leave home and enter adulthood. Each woman is an active participant in the photographic process, making the environment where they are photographed their own.
Edited by Gulnara Samoylova
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Street Photography, like most photographic genres, has been traditionally male-dominated. In recent years, however, more women are claiming space and offering a dynamic lens. Gulnara Samoilova’s new anthology presents a collection of international approaches from women of all ages, races, ethnicities, creeds, and sexualities. The book is an extension of Samoilova’s @womenstreetphotographers, which took Instagram by storm in 2017 and quickly grew to over 100,000 followers, becoming one of the most influential Instagram feeds.
The work ranges from the Nina Welch-King and Birka Wiedmaier’s classic “decisive moment” influenced work, to Luupe photographer Michelle Groskopf’s flash-blasted slices of everyday life. It even includes fashion-treading images like the cover photo by B Jane Levine. Women Street Photographers’ energy and diversity of style pushes the genre to not only be more inclusive but to shift and shatter the many visual clichés holding it back. Read an in-depth conversation with the book's editor HERE.
By Pam Connolly
This artist's book gathers photographs of Connoly’s three daughters in their home, made over the past eight years. The images touch on the last days of childhood and motherhood from the vantage of the emptying nest. What’s so impactful about this book is that its eight chapters are designed into in a handcrafted cloth-bound clamshell box, with each chapter folding out into an 8-panel, accordion-fold structure. This unique design allows readers to create different image relationships and bring together many different stories and connections.
Publisher: MIT Press
This collection of Essays and interviews explore the work of Carrie Mae Weems - one of the most important and influential photographers and conceptual artists of our time. The book looks at her invention and originality, the formal dimensions of her practice, and her importance to the history of photography and contemporary art, most importantly how she has challenged the status of the Black female body and its representation within American society.
By Irina Rozovsky
Publisher: Mack Books
In Plain Air is a poetic portrait of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park as seen through Rozovsky’s studies of its visitors, each seeking escape from the din of the city beyond. Candid images of friends, lovers, families and people of all ethnicities and cultures lyrically come together within the backdrop of city and nature give us hope about the human experience.
By Deanna Templeton
Publisher: Mack Books
Taking its title from its title from a song by The Smiths, What She Said combines portraits of women and girls Templeton made over the past twenty years with diary entries the photographer made growing up in the 80s. She photographed women who spoke to her own experience growing up, and the resulting images can in many ways be seen as a series of self-portraits - there is a piece of Templeton in every one of them. Women in their adolescence: punks and outcasts whose ripped jeans and tights, tattoos, and hairstyles stand as testament to this transitional moment in their lives as they navigate the intensity of teenage life. Photographed across Europe and the United States, they are a testament to the varied, yet shared experiences of female adolescence.
By Joanna Griffiths and Domino Kirke-Badgley
Publisher: Rizzoli Press
Life After Birth changes the narrative about postpartum life, days, weeks and years later, exploring transition to motherhood with accounts of strength and resilience. Life After Birth reflects on the many physical and emotional changes brought on by this transformation and the bonds that new life brings.
Edited by Sydney Ellison and Jay Simple
Modeled after The Negro Motorist Greenbook, a list of safe havens for Black travelers between 1933 and 1966, The Photographers Greenbook is an archive and guidebook for BIPOC photographers navigating issues in today’s photo world. It explores the themes of history, community, and process in photography alongside a substantial list of references to help readers further engage with these concepts.
By Tarrah Krajnak
Publisher: Dais Books
Named after a Borges story by the same title, El Jardín de Senderos Que Se Bifurcan uses a mix of found images, images taken from 1979 Peruvian political magazines, original photographs and writing to trace Krajnak’s origins amidst contradictory familial narratives. Indigenous to Peru and orphaned as an infant Krajnak was adopted into a working class transracial family from the American coal country and raised as a twin to her African American brother. This early experience of racial and cultural difference established her ongoing preoccupation with belonging, orphanhood, ancestral exile, origins, and the way these constructs are written on the body and in the archive. In this project, Krajnak set out to build a psychic history, to imagine lineages, to invent mothers, and to resurrect ancestors in an effort to understand her place within the larger political, social, and historical narratives of her birth place – Lima, Peru circa 1979.
By Brea Souders
Publisher: Saint Lucy Books
Brea Souders: eleven years, is the first monograph by the Brooklyn-based photographic artist. Featuring a range of projects from 2010-2021, Souders shifts her tools, processes and strategies to re-imagine how we understand what a photograph can be - its purpose, function, and how we experience it. We see this in her sculptural works created with static electricity and film cut-ups, paintings on film emulsion, and hand-colored photographs of disembodied human shadows imprinted upon the Western landscape. It’s glorious and eye-opening.
By Namsa Leuba: Crossed Looks
Crossed Looks includes over 90 photographs that question the representation of African identity and the cultural Other in the Western imagination. Inspired by the visual culture and ceremonies of West Africa, contemporary fashion and design, and the history of photography and its colonizing gaze, Leuba’s unique perspective straddles reality and fantasy.
By Cammie Toloui
Publisher: Void Photo
In the early 90s when Cammie Toloui was working as a stripper at the Lusty Lady Theater in San Francisco to fund her photojournalism degree at San Francisco State University, she began giving customers discounted rates to photograph them as they paid to view her naked body. The resulting series of black and white photographs, in their dramatic lighting, have a deep sense of curiosity and understanding, with each photograph revealing a broad spectrum of sexuality, fetishes, power, and often-private aspects of masculinity.
By Carmen Chan
Carmen Chan was born in Las Vegas to 1st Generation immigrants from Hong Kong, who owned and operated a Cantonese restaurant for the first 8 years of her life. When the family wasn’t spending time at their restaurant, they would often visit other Asian restaurants. Inspired and shaped by this experience, Chan began photographing Chinese restaurants along the coast of California that reminded her of her experience growing up and, “tap into those nostalgic memories, recreating familiar moments that most immigrant children and patrons of businesses like my father’s will recognize.” Chan’s photos of food, spaces, and objects, reflect and celebrate a warm sense of community, belonging, and tenacity among Chinese-American immigrants and their children.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Luupe is a one-stop production company that is raising the bar for professional brand imagery on a global scale. With a highly curated and diverse network of professional women and non-binary photo and video creators across 80+ countries around the world, we are reinventing how brands produce original, local, and authentic visual stories that connect with a global audience. Our mission is to champion and amplify diverse perspectives from around the world — in front of and behind the lens.