The Ten Most Visually Arresting Photo Books of 2020

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Ariish, Finchley, North London
Ariish Wol, Finchley, North LondonPhotography by Nadia Lee Cohen. Courtesy of IDEA

Gay love, Black utopia, and the trauma of modern life: we round up the most captivating monographs of the last 12 months

Women by Nadia Lee Cohen, published by IDEA

Nadia Lee Cohen captures the women of America – nude, defiant and unflinching – in this powerful new book. Six years in the making, Women is a celebration of femininity in all its ages, shapes and sizes. “These [subjects] are not weak,” the LA-based photographer told AnOther last week, “they feel empowered and, in turn, empower.”

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, published by Aperture

Over the course of his nearly two-decade career, Paul Mpagi Sepuya has been deconstructing the limits of traditional portraiture. The LA photographer has been shooting his friends, artists and collaborators – as well as himself – in his studio, adding distinct visual twists, like layering and collage, to each image. This self-titled monograph from Aperture is the first, widely-released retrospective of his work.

Lovers: Ten Years On by Sunil Gupta, published by Stanley/Barker

Sunil Gupta’s portraits of gay love, taken in London during the 1980s, document a critical moment in LGBT history. The pictures were taken in the height of the Aids crisis, as a proud, positive rebuttal to the era’s fearmongering, homophobic headlines. Gupta, who joined the photographer Nick Sethi for a conversation for AnOther, captures the couples at home, trying to “live some kind of normality ... when everything was against them”.

Song Flowers by Jack Davison, published by Loose Joints

The Miao communities of south-east China are known for their intricate artisanal work, creating embroidery, lace and weaving that is rich in both history and tradition. Their storied craftsmanship drew the eye of Marni’s Francesco Risso last year, with the creative director inviting British artist Jack Davison to document it for a new collaborative project. The result was Song Flowers, a book of photography dedicated to the Miao’s transfixing landscapes, people and techniques.

Field Test by Jackie Nickerson, published by Kerber

British artist Jackie Nickerson explores the collective trauma of modern living – an apt subject for 2020 – in her latest book. Field Test is filled with uncanny sculpted photography that explores the psychological effects of 21st-century life, including environmental pollution, commercialisation, fake news and pandemics. “In a way, it’s about the mundane things and hidden forces in your life, which you don’t have any knowledge or control over,” Nickerson told AnOther.

I Can Make You Feel Good by Tyler Mitchell, published by Prestel

Tyler Mitchell released his long-awaited debut monograph, I Can Make You Feel Good, earlier this year, and it didn’t disappoint. The book is a hazy, intimate vision of Black utopia, soaked with sunshine, hope and optimism. “I’ve always I focused on the mundane images of Black folks,” the photographer said, in a conversation with Ryan McGinley for AnOther in July. “How can I conflate those feelings into a work? That’s what I hope to make the book about.”

PRADA 96-98 by GLEN LUCHFORD, published by IDEA

Hailed by IDEA as “one of the greatest fashion photography books ever made”, PRADA 96-98 is a cinematic study of a significant industry turning point. Glen Luchford’s 90s Prada campaigns shook up fashion advertising, inspiring a new wave of bolder concepts and bigger budgets. The book contains all these sumptuous shoots – with images of Joaquin Phoenix, Amber Valetta and Willem Dafoe – as well as an in-depth interview with Luchford himself.

Karlheinz Weinberger: Photographs: Together & Alone, published by The Song Cave

Karlheinz Weinberger spent much of his career capturing outsiders. The photographer shot people – mostly men – who were rarely documented or celebrated by the media mainstream, including Swiss gang members, construction workers and street vendors. Featuring an introduction by the artist Collier Schorr, this book brings together 200 of his photographic prints, all taken between the late 1950s and mid-1970s.

La Vérité Pour Adama by Ilyes Griyeb

Ilyes Griyeb released his first photo book Morocco – a vivid document of North African youth culture – earlier this year. However, the French-Moroccan photographer also worked on another, more urgent project in the summer, sharing portraits of young Parisians on the frontlines of the Black Lives Matter protests. Although not strictly a photo book, the resulting prints were put on sale to raise money for the committee seeking justice for Adama Traoré, a Black man who died in police custody over four years ago.

My Photo Books by Lina Scheynius, published by JBE Books

Since her work first began appearing on Tumblr in the mid-2000s, Lina Scheynius has established herself as one of the more intimate and profound photographers of contemporary womanhood. Her work is bold, sensual and messy, capturing the complexity of femininity without sacrificing any of its beauty. “The people I’ve photographed have been generous,” Scheynius told AnOther, speaking on her latest publication. “Nobody ever told me to take anything down, even after relationships ended.”