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The Top 7 Photography Books of the 21st Century (So Far)

Photographs speak all languages at the same time without ever actually speaking a word.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen

There are few things as pleasurable as reading a photography book. Through sequence and design, a story unfolds, a trip into another world where the photographer is our guide. CraveOnline has selected seven of the top photography books of the new millennium, each offering a new way of looking at the world, of understanding its history and traditions, as well as understanding the ability of photographs to take us to places we could not otherwise go.

Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia by Jim Naughten (Merrell Publishers, 2013)

Conflict and Costume The Herero Tribe of NamibiaFashion, portraiture, history, and landscape become one in the photographs of Jim Haughten, which showcase the Herero tribe of Namibia in magnificent traditional costumes that reveal the complex history of colonialism and the fight for independence. Page after page of sartorial splendor and pure, unadulterated pride shine from within, as Naughten’s photographs remind us of the beauty and honor inherent in autonomy and self-determination.

 

 

Guy Bourdin: A Message For You (Steidl, 2006)

Guy Bourdin A Message For YouGuy Bourdin was a mastermind who broke every convention of commercial photography to create some of the most mesmerizing images for fashion clients including Charles Joudan and French Vogue back in the 1970s. The book, originally published as a two-volume set, showcases nearly forgotten images and rarely seen photos of Nicolle Meyer, who appeared in more than 30 series by Bourdin. The second volume presets the pictorial landscape in a collage of images that are as serene as they are surreal, taking us deep inside the world of a master of the enigmatic photograph.

 

The Hyena and Other Men by Pieter Hugo (Prestel, 2008)

The Hyena and Other Men by Pieter HugoOn the peripheries of Nigeria’s cities are the “Hyena Men” who are accompanied by hyenas, rock pythons, and baboons, earning a living performing before crowds and selling traditional medicines. Hugo’s portraits are stunning, powerful images of relationships and incredible displays of dominance and submission. Although only 80 pages in length, with 35 plates, The Hyena and Other Men is one of the most intense photography books ever made.

 

 

Official Portraits by Klaus Zwangsleitner (Trolley Books, 2005)

Official Portraits by Klaus ZwangsleitnerOfficial Portraits is a work of sheer genius: 191 member states of the United Nations were asked to submit an official portrait of their Head of State, creating a surreal gallery of images of authority, leadership, power, and cultural identity that is at once as inspiring as it is absurd. Organized alphabetically by the leader’s name, there is a sense of arbitrariness that makes the entire book feel both heroic, generic, and creepy—all at the same time.

 

 

Piksa Niugini: Portraits and Diaries by Stephen Dupont (Radius Books, 2013)

Piksa Niugini Portraits and Diaries by Stephen DupontPapau New Guinea (PNG) is one of the last wild frontiers left on earth, first inhabited some 50-70,000 years ago. Home to 6.3 million people, PNG is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world with 848 languages on record. Stephen Dupont’s photographs reveal a people and a place on the brink of detribalization, a final glimpse into a way of living that has existed for dozens of millennia and may one day simply disappear.

 

 

The Prison by Koto Bolofo (Steidl, 2014)

The Prison by Koto BolofoKoto Bolofo left South Africa at the age of four as a political refugee. He did not return home again until 1992, two years after Nelson Mandela had been released from prison. Together, he and his wife secured free access to Robben Island, the notorious and by now deserted prison of where Mandela had been held for the majority of the 27 years. Bolofo photographed the prison before It was converted into a museum in 1997, revealing a dark and eerie world of abject cruelty and oppression.

 

 

Sometimes Overwhelming by Arlene Gottfried (powerHouse Books, 2008)

Sometimes Overwhelming by Arlene GottfriedNew York City in the 1970s and ‘80s was a crazy place, a place filled with characters the likes of which the world hasn’t seen—before or since. And at center of the vortex, in the eye of the storm, was Arlene Gottfried with her camera, taking some of the most charming portraits of New York’s true school. Sometimes Overwhelming is exactly as the title proclaims, a love letter to the bold and the beautiful, the wild and the free, the spirited and sensual personalities that give New York it’s timeless edge.

 


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.