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5 December 2022

Picture books of the year

Love, the glory days of music portraits, and 1970s stock car racing: the best photography publications of 2022.

By Gerry Brakus

This year has been a particularly strong one for photo books. A popular quote I often see shared on social media is “creative people need time to sit around and do nothing”, and I wonder if the enforced lockdowns of the last couple of years have resulted in this outpouring of great photography. While there is a lot of new work, there are also some excellent publications of older work by photographers such as Saul Leiter, Vivian Maier and Chris Killip, all rather beautifully put together by Thames and Hudson. Further to Memoire Temporelle by Kalpesh Lathigra (£28, and Gli Isolani by Alys Tomlinson (£36, Gost Books), which are included in our Books of the Year feature, here are my personal favourites from 2022.

American Polychronic by Roe Ethridge (Mack Books, £50)
The first catalogue of Ethridge’s work is a fantastically colourful and exciting look at life through Roe Ethridge’s eyes, spanning the years 1999 to 2022 and covering more than 450 pages. It brings together editorial, commercial and previously unseen work across fine art, fashion imagery and advertising. It’s a testament to the photographer that any of the images could have been taken for editorial, commercial or gallery wall and are uncategorised, leaving the reader unsure which image falls into which genre. The various styles inform each other and refuse to conform.

Photo by Roe Ethridge

Marion by Christopher Anderson (Stanley Baker, £50)
A highly regarded documentary war photographer, Christopher Anderson began recording the lives of his family with the arrival of his first child. What went on to become a familial trilogy of books is completed with the publication of Marion, a love letter to the photographer’s wife and mother of his two children. The book is filled with depth and feeling; these beautiful shots of family life are an act of devotion. “It was never some sort of creative exercise,” Anderson writes. “The photographs are expressions of love… a record of that expression. They are more than memories.”

Photo by Christopher Anderson

Not Just Pictures by Chris Floyd (Reel Art Press, £50)
A hefty 320-page monograph dedicated to Chris Floyd’s 30-year career, Not Just Pictures celebrates the glory days of editorial, music and portrait photography before social media, when subjects were more open and photographers had the kind of access rarely available today. The book is a brilliant document not just of the photographer’s career, but of familiar faces and times. Featuring wonderfully entertaining stories and behind-the-scenes insights, described by Floyd as “the most interesting, funny, odd, disturbing, confrontational, collaborative and life affirming photographic moments”, it is a treat from beginning to end.

Jarvis Cocker, 1998 by Chris Floyd

A World History of Women Photographers (Thames and Hudson, £60)
In the 19th century it was not uncommon for men to take credit for work done by women, not least in the field of photography. This 500-page celebration shows the stunning achievements of women photographers from all over the world, from the invention of the medium through to the present. It also features contributions from international writers. This beautifully illustrated showcase is an exceptional reference book of photography through the decades.

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Our Lady of the Iguanas by Graciela Iturbide, Mexico, 1979

Flora Photographica (Thames and Hudson, £45)
This visual treat, featuring spectacular images spanning 30 years and 120 photographers, is no typical nature photography book. It includes classical still life photography, botanical studies, flowers incorporated into portraiture and studies of the human body, street photography, collage, paintings and an essay on the meaning of flowers in culture.

Photo by Aimée Hoving

Bank Top by Craig Easton (Gost Books, £45)
A collaboration between the photographer Craig Easton and the writer, poet and social researcher Abdul Aziz Hafiz, Bank Top examines the representation and misrepresentation of northern English communities in the media. Focusing on a small community in Blackburn these mesmerising black and white images document a place described by Panorama as “the most segregated town in Britain”Hafiz explains that the work “is a response to this simplistic representation and the callous use of language by policymakers”. This is an important and beautiful study of a community which appears anything but segregated. As Easton told the Guardian after winning the Sony Photography Award for the work in 2021: “What we found was a place of congregation, and that’s the story I would like to tell.”

Photo by Craig Easton

Modern Alchemy by Viviane Sassen and Emanuele Coccia (JBE Books, €35)
Described as a “philosophical photobook”, Modern Alchemy blends the writing of Emanuele Coccia, a philosopher of aesthetics who focuses on the power of images in fashion and advertising, and the work of Viviane Sassen, a leading fashion and fine art photographer. Together they take on the natural world and a thought-provoking journey ensues. A compelling and gloriously indulgent book of beauty.

Photo by Viviane Sassen

Speedway 1972 by Henry Horenstein (Stanley Baker, £40)
As the niece of a stock car racing obsessive, I was regularly taken to races as a child, so I was thrilled to find that Speedway 1972 perfectly captures the excitement and character of the sport, albeit in small-town New England. Henry Horenstein found these forgotten images in an old box of prints and decided that they deserved to be seen by a wider audience. As well as providing a look at the sport and cars of the era, there are wonderful pictures of spectators and the community who came together to celebrate races.

Photo by Henry Horenstein

The Truth is in the Soil by Ioanna Sakellaraki (Gost, £45)
Prompted by the death of her father, Ionna Sakelleraki began a five-year journey into the culture of grief in her native Greece. Taking in the traditions and rituals of the last remaining female community of mourners in the Mani peninsula, Sakelleraki used her camera to try to make sense of her grief while examining her relationship with both her family and her culture. The book is about more than the photographer’s own personal loss; it highlights broader feelings of grief and absence. “In the wake of witnessing loss globally within our cultures and civilisations, I want to stimulate the viewer to rethink mortality through this imagined path of departure onto a new landscape,” Sakelleraki writes. “The Truth is in the Soil reflects on how my personal story has transformed into a collective narrative of loss aiming at contributing to the collection of tales of human struggle for meaning.”

Aletheia (unconcealment), The Truth is in the Soil, 2020 by Ioanna Sakelleraki

Collage: Women of the Prix Pictet Since 2008 (Gestalten Books, £35)
Collage focuses on new and recent work by 64 contemporary women photographers on the theme of sustainability, all of whom have previously been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet award, for photography that addresses urgent environmental and social problems. The images – by Joana Choumali, Diana Markosian, Alex Prager, Vanessa Winship, Taryn Simon and many others – are enlightening, moving and compelling. Introductory essays by notable photographers such as Sally Mann (winner of the ninth Prix Pictet in 2021) and the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide complete this important publication. As Iturbide writes: “The photographer’s job is to synthesise, to make strong and poetic work from daily life.”

Una Piedra en el Camino, 2021 by Christina De Middel. Courtesy of the artist and Magnum Photos. From Collage published by Prix Pictet/ gestalten 2022

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Explore our other 2022 book round-ups:

Books of the year 2022

The best children’s books of 2022

The best poetry books of 2022

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