The Photographer’s Wish List: Books

Christmas is a good time to indulge in a very expensive photography book — recession be damned! Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites that will undoubtedly give you more lasting pleasure than any three-pack of socks or bathroom scale ever could.

The Valley of the Shadow by Miron Zownir

Until this past  week, I had never heard of Miron Zownir, but I’m glad I discovered his horrifying work. The Valley of the Shadow is jarring, unforgettable and will leave you asking yourself, “What the fuck did I just look at?” One of the more shocking photos within the book shows two men, one of them holding a handgun, standing completely naked in some undisclosed location soaked from head to toe with what looks like blood—an entire body’s worth—and possibly more than that.

After reaching the end of this book you’ll need a gallon of degreaser to scrape the filth from your fingertips. And you will realize that, “Optimism IS due to a lack of information.”

The Fat Baby by Eugene Richards

Along with Mary Ellen Mark, Eugene Richards is the reason why I became a documentary photographer. Which is basically all the information required in order to buy this book for yourself or for that special photog in your life. If you want to become a better photographer and see the world differently, The Fat Baby is the visual epiphany elixir you need to add to your great aunt’s egg nog recipe this Christmas holiday.

Hamburger Eyes: Inside Burgerworld

While flipping through Hamburger Eyes, the book offshoot from the magazine of the same name, it’s very easy to fall into a hallucinatory trance and start hearing the sounds, voices and odors pumping from the 200 pages of kick-ass imagery. Although I’m not a huge fan of the book’s setup that combines multiple photos on a single page, I still think the atypical design undoubtedly adds to the book’s energy and chaotic vibe that spills from its pages. This book will stir jealousy and make you stand in front of the mirror and ask yourself, “Why do I suck as a photographer?” This book belongs on the shelf of any hardcore street photographer.

Street Level by Sue Kwon

Similar to Miron Zownir, I had never heard the name Sue Kwon until I pulled Street Level from one of the many densely packed shelves at Hennessy + Ingalls. But unlike the majority of photography books polluting book stores nowadays, Kwon’s work kept me seated and flipping through the pages ’til the end. Like one of the photos in her book says, “Bullshitting Is Not Allowed In Here.”

Oil by Edward Burtynsky

At the intersection of sharp social commentary and work of art, Oil is the finest, most beautiful, thought-provoking book that I looked through this year. Burtynsky truly is a remarkable talent with a strong social conscience that we should all strive for in our work. Any success that this man achieves in life is well deserved. Oil is one of those books that will last forever and eventually surpass the value of those U.S. Treasury Bonds you keep buying your nieces and nephews every Christmas. If I could ask Santa for anything this year, it would be a signed copy of Oil and a giant Burtynsky print to cover the naked wall in my mediocre and noisy apartment.

The 70s, Photography and Everyday Life by Paul Wombell

The holidays are about the present and the past—just ask Ebenezer Scrooge—but there’s no reason to fear the ghosts from four decades ago that haunt this collective masterpiece. Who can forget David Goldblatt’s image of a lone, desperate man on the edge of the earth, surrounded by the dismembered parts of a horse, as he scavenges for meat while a Greek chorus of overturned junk cars look on watching the massacre? Or Anders Peterson’s work of the inhabitants of a singles bar as they dance, get drunk, and pass out? The 70s is a nostalgic time machine comprised of the work from many great photographers that you’ve never heard of but should know if you plan on being any kind of photographer that is respected. So if you’re tired of hearing the same ol’ haunting stories from your creepy uncle’s past, this is the book you need when you finally decide to escape into your room once all the presents have been unwrapped.

Note: All of these can be found at the very excellent Hennessey + Ingalls bookstore in Hollywood, CA.

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