"A bizarre mix of playfulness and seriousness": photographer Daniel Stier's Bookshelf

18 July 2018
Reading Time
4 minute read

We’ve long been fans of photographer Daniel Stier’s work here at It’s Nice That – we first wrote about his intriguing, yet altogether beautiful images of everything we love to hate about the British Isles a whopping six years ago. Since then he’s been producing fascinating series after fascinating series. From the bizarre world of scientific research to auditioning actors at the National Youth Theatre, he’s developed a stark, high-flash style that reveals the absurdities of the world we live in.

Although varying in subject matter, Daniel’s series’ always focus on the niche, on specific pockets of society which are unknown to the masses. Often the result of a commission, this kind of revelatory photography requires a research-led approach and a thorough understanding of your subjects in order to aptly portray them. It’s an approach we’ve even commissioned ourselves, asking Daniel to photograph Fabric’s design legacy inside the club while it was under the threat of closure. “There is a certain way I want images to look and that has got a lot to do with lighting and framing the image. But I will always react to the situation in front of me,” he’s told us in the past.

We got in touch with Daniel to find out which books have helped form the basis of his pointed, at times detached aesthetic over the years. Check out his top picks below.

Tom Tit: La science amusante

Tom Tit is the pen name for Arthur Good, a French engineer, who in the late 19th Century published a series of do-it-yourself experiments in French newspapers as an attempt to educate and introduce basic scientific principles. The whole series was later published as books and reprinted in 130 editions in different languages.

Each experiment can be carried out with everyday household materials and is illustrated with a precise and beautiful etching. What I love about this book is the bizarre mix of playfulness and seriousness. It feels like a mixture of science, party tricks and weird french surrealist sculpture. When you flip through the book, all you want to do is start messing around straight away. It has led to a lot of fun and head-scratching in my own studio.

Bernard Voita: White Garden

Similar to Tom Tit’s book, there is a wonderful playfulness in Bernard Voita’s book White Garden. Voita creates insanely elaborate landscapes from normal stuff that you would find in an artist studio. Each photo is so dense and surprising in its play with space and flatness, it completely distorts your perception. The whole book is created with so little, yet you can spend ages looking at each individual image.

With the reduction of space and material, Voita creates an almost claustrophobic, Gregor Schneider-kind of an atmosphere. It’s as if he’s been locked into his studio for years. Strangely enough, Bernard Voita seems to have been disappeared after this work. Where are you, Bernard? Please make more work.


I’m a big fan of product photography and this book from 1966 is one of a small collection I own about product and industrial photography. This volume from Germany is aimed at the professional photographer explaining, in detail, how to go about shooting factories, cranes, teapots, valves and screws. Beautiful photographs and very inspirational for crossovers between different genres of photography.

Sophie Ristelhuber: Aftermath

A small book which had a lasting effect on me, and I guess many other artists. In the book, Sophie Ristelhuber documents the aftermath of the first Gulf War. Her response to this first modern war, an uneven confrontation between America’s high-tech military coming from the sky against an entrenched Iraqi army, was to take aerial shots of the aftermath, a landscape of strange geometric shapes and patterns.

These abstract, almost beautiful images are then interspersed by photos from the ground which take us back to the harsh reality of war. Ristelhuber’s design of the book is so cool; every image sits full bleed on the entire page and the size of the book makes it feel like a pocket-size traveller’s guide. 
In 1991 this book was an eyeopener to me as to what photography is able to do in terms of documenting a past event, just like Sebald creating a new kind of history.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss: Bilder, Ansichten (Visible World)

It is most helpful as a photographer to look at the work of Fischli and Weiss. They are masters at playing with cliches and icons of the visual language and this book is the best of all.

A series of much-photographed views from around the world, predating the internet, Flickr, Tumblr and all the rest, it is questioning our view of the world and why we take pictures in the first place. For 15 years they travelled the world to take pictures that already exist.

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.


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