Winter 2006

Recent Photobooks: a connoisseur’s guide

Martin Munkacsi

By F. C. Gundlach

Steidl, €48. Thames & Hudson, £39.95

In the 1930s Martin Munkácsi, a Hungarian émigré, was the highest paid and most influential photographer of his time. Working with the famous art director Alexey Brodovitch and editor Carmel Snow at Harper’s Bazaar, he liberated fashion photography from the confines of the studio, while his photojournalism was so powerful that an image taken in Liberia sometime around 1930 of three boys almost completely in silhouette, running into the surf with vigour and elation, was to influence a young French art student by the name of Henri Cartier-Bresson to put down his paintbrush and pick up a camera instead.

Today Munkácsi is all but forgotten, overshadowed by fellow countryman Brassaï, André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy and Robert Capa, but his groundbreaking work still forms the basis of much of what we consider to be modern fashion photography.

Life as a Night Porter

By Chris Shaw

Twinpalms, £30

During the ten years that Chris Shaw spent working in London hotels, he relentlessly documented life within their walls, often simply as a way of keeping himself awake during the endless twelve-hour shifts. Be they images of prostitutes waiting for clients, the weary staff and inebriated guests or the faded grandeur of the façades, Shaw’s images combine to create a hotel of his imagination: ‘Heaven and hell are places right here on earth, and you can stay in either one.’

Still Lives at Manzanita

By Robert Adams

Nazraeli Press, £30

Nazraeli Press is one of the photography world’s jewels. With print runs that rarely exceed 1000 (Michael Kenna’s books being a rare exception), editions sell out fast, often before they ever make it to the bookstore. Manzanita is a highly personal book of still lives full of emotion, memories and light, and it serves as a companion to Adams’s previous titles, I Hear the Leaves and Love the Light, and A Portrait in Landscapes. In an edition of 500 it, too, is set to become a collectors’ book like many others from this US publisher.

The Photobook: A History

Volume 2

By Martin Parr and Gerry Badger

Phaidon, £45

The second instalment of what has become essential reference for any serious collector of photography books. [Volume 1 was reviewed in Eye no. 55 vol. 14.] The layout by Hans Dieter Reichart is clean and elegant, although it does suffer in places from many of the reproductions being too small. The good news is that many of the volumes included can still be found in bookstores, rather than through expensive auctions or specialist dealers.


By Michael Kenna

Nazraeli Press, £55

The northern Japanese island of Hokkaido is renowned for its brutally harsh winters that leave much of the island inaccessible during winter months and the Sea of Okhotsk frozen. Michael Kenna has over the past few years been photographing this amazing environment, creating a powerful set of photographs with his distinctive clarity of vision.


By William Eggleston

Twinpalms, £42

William Eggleston almost single-handedly changed the art world’s attitude towards colour photography in the late 1960s. All the images in this new volume were taken in the early 1970s with a large 5x7 camera and strobe lighting. While many are typical of his oeuvre, there are several previously unpublished photographs taken in the juke joints and Memphis clubs he used to frequent.

Francesca Woodman

By Chris Townsend

Phaidon, £45

Francesca Woodman began to take photographs at the age of thirteen, and over the next decade established a reputation as one of America’s most influential artists, drawing comparisons with Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince. Within her often disturbing self-portraits we see her exploring the fragility of her own body as it fades and dissolves into the environment she occupies, and ultimately the exploration of her own body ends with her tragic suicide in 1981.