Photography Michal Chelbin

10 beautiful photo books coming in 2021

Put in your pre-orders for 2021’s most anticipated books of photography from newcomers and legends alike.  

by Douglas Greenwood
12 January 2021, 8:15am

Photography Michal Chelbin

We have spent almost a year chasing stillness and tactility; a chance to spend time slowing down and engaging with something beautiful in a time where ugliness greets us at every corner. For some, that’s come with the decision to switch off from the frenzy of social media: read more books; watch movies without checking texts; have something aesthetically pleasing -- be it a magazine or photography book -- in your hands. 

As 2021 comes around, it seems like we have a year of special photo books that are crying out to be added to our collections, promising that rare tactility. Some come from legends (like the 76-year-old queer documentarian Joan E. Bire); others come from photographers with modest followings and bright futures. Either way, all seem determined to put the worlds they’ve captured into a solid, legacy-binding state. These are the 10 books in particular that, we think, look set to do that.

1. Richard Misrach on Landscape and Meaning (12 January)

For those fascinated by the practise as much as the finished photograph, American photographer Richard Misrach’s forthcoming addition to the Photography Workshop series is a gift. Richard Misrach on Landscape and Meaning, published by Aperture, allows the artist known for his deft portraits of landscapes, drenched in pathos and emotion, to explain how he manages to capture such beauty with his camera. Buy it here.

2. Uniform, Kacey Jeffers (Out now)

The Caribbean nation of Nevis has a population of just over 11,000 people. In his debut photo book, Kacey Jeffers went there, capturing the pupils at the island’s 14 schools for a book that functions both as a documentation of regular life in a country far from our own, but also as a left-field, self-styled fashion story helmed by teenagers. Colourful, evocative and brilliant. Buy it here.

3. Tengo Un Dragon Dentro del Corazon, Carlota Guerrero (6 April)

Movement, femininity, skin and the combined beauty of the contorted body lies at the heart of Carlota Guerrero’s work. The self-taught, Barcelona-born photographer’s dusty, skin-hued work caught the eye of Solange in 2016, who enlisted her to shoot the artwork for her now legendary record, A Seat at the Table. Her first photo book, the title of which roughly translates into English as “I have a dragon inside my heart”, will be published by Prestel in the spring. Buy it here.

4. The British Isles – Jamie Hawkesworth (May TBC)

i-D favourite and modern marvel of British photography Jamie Hawkesworth always delivers dignifying and personal portraits both of his homeland and its people. The British Isles, set to be released by MACK in early summer, continues that trend. Shot over the course of the past 13 years, it’s considered an alternate look into a country in a seemingly endless state of self-inflicted turmoil: school kids and priests; estates and construction sites. The very political discourse that informs these people and landscapes often overshadow the subjects it all affects. Here, Jamie reshifts that perspective. Buy it here

5. Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians by JEB (23 March)

Over 40 years ago in 1979, photographer Joan E. Bire (known better by the acronym JEB) self-published a photographic homage to the lesbian community, capturing them in states of kinship, power and love. It was quietly game changing at the time, but has become criminally overlooked in the years since. Now, in 2021, Anthology Editions have reprinted it in all of its original glory, featuring essays from the likes of Audre Lorde, and new ones from photographer Lola Flash and football player Lori Lindsey. Buy it here.

6. I Can’t Stand to See You Cry – Rahim Fortune (spring/summer)

Having released, and since sold out of copies of, his debut monograph Oklahoma last summer, Rahim Fortune is gearing up to release a new project, titled I Can’t Stand to See You Cry, with independent art publisher Loose Joints before this summer. Known for his work with T Mag, as well as his recent cover with the Elsesser family for i-D’s 40th Anniversary issue, he’s become a closely watched figure in the world of documentary and fashion photography. That aforementioned monograph was a four-year odyssey through the landscapes and familial roots that shaped him. What will this new project entail? We won’t have long to wait and find out. 

7. Cruise Night – Kristin Bedford (18 February)

Kristin Bedford’s time spent capturing America’s subcultures has led to her debut book: Cruise Night, a five-year study of Mexican American lowrider car culture shot entirely in the city of Los Angeles. It’s a collection of images that sensitively toe the line between being presented in the context of social study and aesthetics-based photography, but ultimately endeavours to undo the longstanding stereotypes of the culture. Maybe leafing through its pages will carry the energy of a cool LA night few of us outside of the States will experience in real life for a while. Buy it here.

8. How to Dance the Waltz – Michal Chelbin (18 March)

Born in Israel, but having spent much of her adult life travelling through America, Europe and Ukraine, Michal Chelbin is a photographer who’s long been fascinated by life on the fringes of society; of children navigating a world alien to most of us like it’s their natural landscape. Her fourth book, How to Dance the Waltz, will be released by Damiani in spring, and will consist of matadors, prom nights and young army recruits captured the world over, staring wistfully into her lens. Buy it here.

9. What She Said – Deanna Templeton (February)

“When I wake up in the morning I feel like I’m 99 years old!! I’m so tired and lazy and unhappy. I’m only 15 years old, what’s wrong with me, why am I so UNhappy? This world is so fucked!” This animated excerpt is lifted from the diary of photographer Deanna Templeton, and appears alongside energetic, colourful portraits of young women on the brink of adolescence and ‘womanhood’ proudly figuring their shit out. A mix of archival scans, vintage teen gig posters and Deanna’s pictures — shot everywhere from suburban American to the cities of Russia — it intends to figure out exactly what binds the teen girl experience. Released by MACK in February, you can buy it here

10. Lump Sum Lottery – Bonnie Briant (13 April)

Not much is known about Bonnie Briant. Born in Rhode Island, before she moved to New York to study at Tisch, graduating in 2008, she’s predominantly worked as a designer alongside her photography. Her forthcoming project, Lump Sum Lottery, is her first published book since her self-released graduate work in 2008. In it, Bonnie curates a decades’ worth of diaristic pictures to form a narrative of her life; one only photos can capture. Released by prestigious publisher Damiani, its introduction comes courtesy of Sylvia Plachy, the Hungarian photographer renowned for being one of New York’s most prolific chroniclers for The Village Voice and New York Magazine. Buy it here.

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