The Photographer’s Gallery shows us their favourite books

9 December 2015

The Photographer’s Gallery bookshop is a treasure trove of fine-looking art and photography books. As well as the art books we know and love, the shop also sources a range of independent and specialist books from across the world making a beautifully curated selection. The team who runs the shop has over 40 years of experience between them, so we were eager to find out which books they constantly go back to.

Josef Koudelka: Gypsies

This is a classic for me. I love a book with a narrative, steeped in history and I love the legend behind it. Josef Koudelka is also my boyhood photographic hero. When Europe’s landscape and mind were still scarred by the trenches of war and ideology, he stood out; a nomad with a camera. I was always convinced he must have a personal connection to the situation of the Roma. He photographed Roma communities throughout the 1960s in his native Czechoslovakia and other central European countries, but plans to publish the book in 1970 had to be scrapped as Koudelka had to leave Prague and venture towards Western Europe. Apart from an edited issue published by Delpire and Aperture in the 1980s, it took over 40 years from its initial concept to be published in its original form. Every page shows an incredible moment of human theatre, a piece of melancholic commedia dell’ arte, a theatre of light with a lot of shadow. Koudelka started off in Prague as a theatre photographer after all.

– Martin Steininger, deputy bookshop manager

Bertrand Fleuret: Landmasses and Railways

This book seems to be a mystery, yet that’s one of the aspects I love about it. Who is Bertrand Fleuret? I only know of three small books by him and that he’s a French photographer in his 40s. In this book we find two characters that Fleuret links to his work through quotes: Paul Bowles and William Gedney. “All facts lead eventually to mysteries “ says Gedney, and this could work as a strapline for the book. For me, this might also serve as the key to all the photobooks I love. The title is taken from Paul Bowles and it’s perfect. The book vaguely describes a journey, from the centre of our civilisation(s) into the overgrown wilderness, like someone unknown to us roaming through an unknown dystopian world or the post-apocalyptic worlds of the French comic artist Moebius. A true masterclass in editing and sequencing, this book is electric and stays with you.

– Martin Steininger, deputy bookshop manager

Linn Pedersen: Sedimentality

Linn Pedersen’s Sedimentality is a photographic exploration of what’s described in the book as “geological imagination.” Born from the idea that when walking a path it’s not just physical imprints that one leaves behind but emotional traces too, Pedersen presents us with her own Norwegian landscape – played with, adapted, enhanced. The book is a poetic, pastel-hued journey through photographs and site-specific sculptures of rocks piled on top of one another, clay and volcanic stone spray-painted in artificial colours and hillsides swathed in rolling fog. As some of the best photography often does, it invites us to consider our own temporality and to wonder about the traces we leave on the world, and the world on us. It’s a gentle, reflective and quietly moving book that is also beautifully designed. 

– Joanna Cresswell, senior bookshop assistant

Alec Soth: Songbook

Photographer Alec Soth spent the last few years crisscrossing the United States, assuming the role of a local reporter photographing people and telling their stories for his self-published newspaper LBM Dispatch. Songbook distils this work into a series of images without explanation, punctuated by lyrics from great American popular songs. It captures the anxiety of modern America and is a great photographic road trip in the tradition of Robert Frank and William Eggleston.

– John Buckle, bookshop manager

Roger Steffens: The Family Acid

Roger Steffens and his family lived an unorthodox life, which he captured in over 40,000 Kodachrome slides and hundreds and thousands of negatives. Shooting his experiences in a US psychological operations unit in Vietnam, the Californian counter culture of the 1960s and 1970s and his immersion in reggae music. His children Devon and Kate began scanning his slides and posting them on Instagram, which US indie S.U.N. editions published as a book earlier this year. I loved it as soon as I saw it, as it’s funny and surreal, plus it has a bright orange cover. Now sadly out of print, you can check out the Family Acid on Instagram @thefamilyacid.

– John Buckle, bookshop manager

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About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca Fulleylove is a freelance writer and editor specialising in art, design and culture. She is also senior writer at Creative Review, having previously worked at Elephant, Google Arts & Culture, and It’s Nice That.

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