Top Photo Books of 2021

So many fantastic photo books were published in last year. OD is always on the look out for books that inspire or books we feel are important additions to the gallery collection. Here are some of our favourites from 2021.

(Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch
Self published by the artist: Sayako Sugwara
34 pages | 24 cm x 34 cm x 1cm
Edition of 15

A photocopied book in a slipcase including a card with signature and edition number
Printed, bound and signed by the artist.

This beautiful first publication by OD artist Sayako Sugawara is a brilliant example of the creative freedom at artist can have when they are able to publish work themselves. Taking care over the papers used and the overall finish and quality. With only 15 copies made by the artist we were lucky to pick up a copy before they sold out.

(Copy) 80. The Schwarze Mönch is a journey that began with an encounter with some glass plates from the late 1880’s, which were left, forgotten, wrapped in newspaper in a cardboard box in a school’s darkroom… READ MORE

Artist: Vasantha Yogananthan
Published by Chose Commune
24.5 x 30 cm | 168 pages
Softcover with flaps
60 photographs tipped-in by hand
80-90 €, shipping worldwide

Amma is the final chapter of Vasantha’s stunning project A Myth of Two Souls (2016-2021). This epic project depicts the classic Indian tale of the Ramayana. A love story that took Vasantha across the length and breadth of India and is the result of many trips over a five to six year period. Shooting large format film and using a variety of techniques to marry the story to the artworks he produced. Amma is centered around the princess Sita and deals with the concept of ‘purity’. By no means a happy ending, the finale of The Ramayana forces us to question Rama’s behaviour and his obedience to rules set by a patriarchal society.

Reaching for Dawn
Artist: Elliott Verdier
Published by Dunes Editions
152 pages | 24 x 31 cm
First edition, 750 copies
Hard back
66 photographs (36 b&w – 30 colour)

This was one of the books of the year for me. Beautiful story telling immaculately presented in book form. Essentially the book covers the fall out from the war in Liberia which decimated the country but remains untold. By both the civilian population and by the world at large. The images were made over the entire country, from the diamond mines of Gbarpolu to the fishing harbours of Harper and through the immense slum of Westpoint. Like Vasantha Yogananthan in the previous book, Elliott travelled extensively in the country taking pictures on large format. This time choosing to shoot slowly and methodically. The images in this book offer two interwoven narratives, one in black & white and the other in colour… READ MORE

Primal Sight
Artists: 146 artists featured
Curator: Efrem Zelony-Mindell
Published by Gnomic Books
Essays by David Campany and Gregory Eddi Jones
186 Pages | 21.6 x 28 cm
147 images
First edition, 850 copies
Hard back
58$, shipping worldwide

I think this was amongst the most important books of the year. If you don’t own a copy of this and you are into black and white photography, then definitely consider this one. A brilliant survey of black and white photography today featuring some incredible artists, emerging and established, that are stretching the medium in cool new directions. I still treat this book as a kind of bible. A touchstone for where photography is today. As the curator Efrem Zelony-Mindell says, the book “includes the works of intergenerational, interdisciplinary, and intersectional artists, each questioning the perceived order of things. These interrogations center on issues of race, gender, philosophy, and praxis, subverting traditional notions of black-and-white imagery into something feral and queered, possessed of previously unimagined possibilities.” Each artist gets one image featured. But how Efrem’s clarity of thought and vision brings them all together is incredible. As a whole the book makes me hugely enthusiastic about the future of the photographic medium.

Artist: Denisse Ariana Pérez
Published by Guest Editions
176 Pages | 142 images
20.6 x 27.5 cm
First edition
Hard back

At Night Gardens Grow
Artist: Paul Guilmoth
Published by Stanley Barker
142 Pages | 25 x22 cm
Hard Back | Tip on | Silk screen
First edition
£45, shipping worldwide

Artist: Robin Friend
Published by Loose Joints
132 Pages | 25 × 25 cm
60 images
Hard Back, First edition
£40, shipping worldwide

Robin Friend’s second book Apiary continues to explore the surreal and sinister haunting of the British landscape he first depicted in Bastard Countryside with an apocalyptic, nocturnal series flirting with notions of democracy and resistance.

Apiary uses a cinematic lens to uncover the dark underbelly of Lewes, a town in South East England renowned for its wild, bacchanalian, festivities around Guy Fawkes’ Night, the uniquely British festivity celebrating the failure of an attempted act of extreme political terrorism. Apiary is a shadow space, reflecting a contemporary moment where ideas of democracy, identity and cohesion feel stretched to breaking point. Friend uses the night as a metaphor to consider the rippling reflections of unrest, inequality and instability lapping the British Isles.

4 a.m.
Artist: Paul Cupido
Self Published
198 pages | 21 x 14 cm
Soft Back
First edition, 500 copies

“Moon woke me up
nine times
— still just 4 a.m.”

This famous haiku from Bashō forms the pivotal theme of Paul Cupido’s latest book.

The influence of Japanese art and philosophical principles – especially that of ‘mu’ permeates Paul Cupido’s creative practice. An important concept in Zen tradition and Buddhist teaching, the term ‘mu’ in Japanese translates loosely as “have not” or “without”. Advocates propose it as a way of breaking through the ‘conceptual fog’ that can get in the way of true experience or enlightenment, suggesting that we equally consider what isn’t seen/obvious, with what is. This invitation to look beyond the visible, to consider the ‘negative’ space, the ‘shadowlands’ feels a core part of the experience of engaging with Cupido’s economy of form and lyrical compositions. There’s always more than meets the eye.

Where the Rain Clouds Gather
Artist: Kit Young
Published by OD Books
20 x 15 cm / 90 pages
Soft cover, fabric tape bound
44 Images, Metallic on 135gsm black paper throughout
First edition, 400 copies
Just the last special edition print copies available

Last year we released our first title under the OD Books name. The regular edition copies of the book sold out within months and we are so grateful to all who bought copies. We look forward to more releases this year.

Where the Rain Clouds Gather is a visceral memory of a trip taken under more certain skies. Following characters as they wait with anticipation for their journey to begin in quaint coastal bus shelters and steam plumed train stations seemingly from another time. Out and into elements. Flashes of the sea flicker through windows as we wind along glistening pathways. Stopping only to soak up the epic vistas under blackened and tumultuous skies. Those characters have become silhouetted ants now. Visible in the distance. Almost indistinguishable from the rich veil of grain that adorns each scene.

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