The Photo Books of 2023: Upcoming Titles You Can’t Miss

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Nick Waplingtom Box 1 -0147 (121)
Safety In Numbers, 1995–96, from Nick Waplington, Comprehensive (Phaidon, 2023)© Nick Waplington. Courtesy of the artist and Phaidon

From Nick Waplington’s sumo-sized survey to the reprint of Anna Atkins’ revolutionary cyanotypes, here are the most hotly-anticipated photo books you need to have on your radar this year

The French poet Stéphane Mallarmé once prophetically claimed: “Everything good will sooner or later end up in a book.” The same can be said for good photographs. Nothing tells 1,000 words better than a photo book, that perfect combination of photography, design and narrative. Readers certainly won’t be left wanting in 2023, with everything from blockbuster retrospectives to vernacular curiosities to add to the to-be-read pile. With the year now underway, here is a selection of the hottest forthcoming photo books you can’t miss.

Comprehensive by Nick Waplington (lead image)

Since Nick Waplington rose to prominence with Living Room (1991), his debut title that focused his new British snapshot aesthetic on two working-class families living in Nottingham council flats, he has produced an immensely diverse and dynamic body of work stretched across both sides of the pond. As Comprehensive, his sumo-sized survey with Phaidon demonstrates, Waplington is an artist working in photography, but not tied to the medium. Every time he turns towards a new subject, he finds a new language – a new way of getting to the heart of the matter. Although minus his celebrated backstage fashion work, Comprehensive is an unprecedented, rip-roaring ride through Waplington’s world, which never ceases to amaze.

A Retrospective by Daido Moriyama

The most definitive publication of Daido Moriyama’s epic oeuvre? Yes please. Prestel’s electrifying, inch-thick stunner dives into each stage of the iconic Japanese photographer’s career, illuminating his extreme dissolutions, evolutions and conceptual contributions to the medium. It is designed with a flair and swagger that is totally befitting of Moriyama, and will long keep him questing on the dark side of life – and on your bookshelves too.

When Black is Burned by Marguerite Bornhauser

No one is conjuring up colours as seductively as Marguerite Bornhauser is right now. In her lovely, languorous new book When Black is Burned, due with the budding publisher Simple Editions, the French artist employs the bold juxtapositions which have become her trademark, revealing the evocative power of surfaces, both synaesthetic and organic. The flirtatious proximity with which Bornhauser pursues forms reveals her innate curiosity for the plasticity of everyday life. It is an everyday life that is experienced introspectively, and hence imbued with Bornhauser’s very particular way of seeing – and writing – the world. Her visual poetry is a reminder that light has always been the language of photography.

Another Love Story by Karla Hiraldo Voleau

Karla Hiraldo Voleau’s engrossing autofiction, entitled Another Love Story, asks: what does it mean to be dispossessed from your own story? Hers is one that begins at the end: a revelatory phone call in which she learns of the duplicitous life of her boyfriend, ‘X’. Hiraldo Voleau subsequently wrests back ownership of a story in which she had none, re-editing the last months she spent with X through a savvy combination of scripts, camera roll pictures and staged recreations. She pulls us in so close that you can feel love’s hot breath, yet she also exposes the performativity and deception inherent in any contemporary love story. Hiraldo Voleau’s radical reconquering of heartbreak has resulted in her strongest and smartest work to date. 

Dream Machine by Ruben Lundgren

Contrary to popular assumptions, automobiles were enthusiastically embraced when they first arrived in China over a century ago. Coupled with the magical possibilities offered by studio photography thereafter, ordinary Chinese folk began fulfilling their futuristic fantasies by posing themselves inside the ‘fart carts’. Bearing as much historical importance as artistic intrigue, Ruben Lundgren’s kitschy album presents an overview of these cheap imitations. After the automobiles, we find citizens starring in helicopters, airplanes, tanks and, finally, television sets. Not only does Dream Machine brilliantly signify China’s continuous craving for the new, but a truth even more transcendental altogether: that seeing is believing, and believing is seeing.

The Yamamotos by Masaki Yamamoto

With his scabrous debut book Guts (2017), Masaki Yamamoto dared to produce the most unconventional family portrait in the history of Japanese photography. He is now back with the highly-anticipated sequel, The Yamamotos, which narrates his family’s relocation from their tiny, one-room apartment to a detached house in Kobe. It might be an upgrade, but the moments Yamaoto casts his eye on bear all the hilarity, harshness and heartbreak of his previous photographs. Yamamoto deserves much praise for his sustained documentation of family life behind closed doors, without the slightest sense of exhibitionism or embarrassment, and with all the love in the world.

Monogusa Shui by Issei Suda

It is impossible to imagine a bad Issei Suda book. Those published since his death in 2019 have treated him with great respect – well deserved, of course. Straight off the back of The Sketch of Kanto Area (2022), Akio Nagasawa has revisited Monogusa Shui, a masterful series made in the 1980s in and around Suda’s Tokyo beat. He snaps side-alleys, passers-by and architecture with both the sharpness of a swordsman and the tender poetry of a flâneur. Once you get past Suda’s compulsions to unlock this other, secret, mysterious world, you find a photographer’s very pure perspective on a hometown that is, despite its gross transformations, utterly adored. Suda’s archive is the gift that keeps on giving, and it is an honour witnessing more and more of it.

Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins

Steidl has literally reinvented the wheel to faithfully reproduce, for the first time ever, the famous Prussian blues of Anna AtkinsPhotographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843). The set of 13 handmade books, which were gifted to Sir John Herschel and subsequently preserved by generations of the Herschel family, have been invoked with great accuracy alongside an astutely researched essay by Joshua Chuang and Larry J Schaaf, both of whom have done much to champion the pioneering work of the Victorian botanist. Her spectral odes – depicting dried algae, fern fronds and flowers suspended in azure abysses – once upon a time showed us an earth worth discovering. Today, they show us one worth saving. This is a stupendous achievement by Steidl, whose star treatment of Atkins is the very least she deserves.

Voyage au Center de la Terre by Tiane Doan na Champassak

This curio is set to become the most ambitious title of master bookmaker Tiane Doan na Champassak. In his trippy, subterranean interpretation, Champassak appropriates the entirety of Jules Verne’s classic sci-fi novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864), illustrating it with his own visual odyssey: corroded photographs taken inside Laos’ Xe Bang Fai, the largest river cave in the world. With the intricate design allowing readers to lift Champassak’s hand-pasted photographs to discover Verne’s original illustrations, the book serves as a double mise en abyme, dealing with the volatile matter of our unconscious. You’ll be silly to miss it.

Cloud by Luce Lebart

Fluffy, moody, feathery, menacing, grey, boundless and borderless, clouds have fascinated humans since the beginning of time. Edited with Timothy Prus and David Thomson, Luce Lebart’s sublime album gathering hundreds of cloud photographs is thus an embodiment of dreams, speaking to our innate urge to gaze up at those fleeting forms. Derived from the Archive of Modern Conflict, the photographs drift through all kinds of stories, from little odes to billowing epics. They belong to artists, meteorologists, pilots, storm chasers, scientists and amateurs alike, yet they all share the same desire to press snap at the sky, and catch the ungraspable. After all, because it was photography’s probing imagination and penchant for innovation that made the once-impossible possible, Cloud is a history of not only the skies but of photography itself. Prepare to be swept away.