If you’ve never heard of Spencer Murphy then I challenge you to Google him and not be met with “Oh he took that photo!”. As well as being responsible for some very serene Guardian Weekend, FT and Seven features where he shows off his skill of making contemporary male actors look like James Bond, Spencer also shot ghostly surfboards for the Surfers Against Sewage campaign we featured a few months back. And he’s just been shortlisted for the prestigious Taylor Wessing prize for his Mark Rylance shot for The Telegraph, which is AMAZING.
So what’s on his bookshelf? Well, as you could have probably guessed, some really, really great photography books that will have you rushing to the nearest bookshop immediately. But I think we can all agree the real beauty here lies in his bookshelf: “I love my bookshelf. It was built for me by my good friend, furniture designer, Greg Cox especially to house some of my bigger photobooks.”
Joel Sternfeld – Stranger Passing
This book will always hold a special place in my heart. I was travelling through America in 2001 and after landing in LA on September the 10th and witnessing the Twin Towers come down alone in a hotel room, I had spent a very strange and lonely few weeks travelling up the west coast. I had just brought myself my first medium format camera and was wondering the streets of San Francisco. One day I happened upon the Stranger Passing exhibition at San Francisco MoMA and tagged myself onto the back of a guided tour. The discovery of this work really changed my perceptions of what contemporary photography was and had the potential to be. Coming back and going into the third year of my degree I brought the book and it led me to discover other American greats like Larry Sultan, Richard Misrach, Philip Lorca dicorcia, who together really inspired my photography.
Joel Sternfeld: Stranger Passing
Alec Soth – Sleeping By The Mississippi
One of my all-time favourite photobooks – once again the discovery of this book really changed my perceptions. For me it is as close to poetry as photography ever comes, the rhythm and pace of each image (portraits, landscapes and still life) flowing seamlessly into one another. There were other photographers that used a journey as their theme before Alec Soth but nobody quite like this and he has inspired so many since.
Alec Soth: Sleeping by the Mississippi
Dan Eldon – The Journey Is The Destination/The Art Of Life
The tragic life story and beautiful journals of photographer Dan Eldon, who was killed whilst covering the civil war in Somalia at the age of 22. Produced with the help of his family, I defy anyone not to shed a tear after finishing The Art Of Life .
Dan Eldon: The Journey is the Destination
Cormac McCarthy – The Road
Cormac McCarthy has fast become one of my favourite writers. The Road was the first book of his I read and it blew me away. I read and re-read paragraphs and sentences that are just pure poetry. The Road like many of my favourite books is about apocalyptic desolation and survival in an empty world.
Cormac McCarthy: The Road
Shaun Tan – The Arrival
I struggled to pick my last book, so many to choose from (Slaughterhouse 5, An Empty World, Bukowski, Camus, Carver, Donna Tartt…) then this one jumped out at me. The Arrival is a sort of silent graphic novel that tells the story of every displaced person and what it must be like to be alone in a strange place where people speak in foreign tongues. Told through beautifully surreal sepia-toned illustrations.
Shaun Tan: The Arrival