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In Inspiration
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During our recent trip to California, we spent a day at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, enjoying the Diego Rivera exhibition, as well as the Sightlines exhibit of photography from the Museum’s collection. This collection includes the haunting “Death of a Valley” series by Dorothea Lange and Pirkle Jones, which chronicled the destruction of the town of Monticello, near Napa, in order to create the the Monticello Dam and Lake Berryessa. Another striking collection was the work of Chanell Stone called Natura Negra, which explores the Black body’s connection to the American landscape.

After viewing the exhibits and visiting the amazing collection of photography books in the SFMOMA’s gift shop, I was inspired to order recently published photography books through our library system and catch up on the many I had missed.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love, 1850s-1950s by Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell, 2022. “This visual narrative of astonishing sensitivity brings to light an until-now-unpublished collection of hundreds of snapshots, portraits, and group photos taken in the most varied of contexts, both private and public. Taken when male partnerships were often illegal, the photos here were found at flea markets, in shoe boxes, family archives, old suitcases, and later online and at auctions.” The images are tender, joyous, and inspiring.

Haikyo: The Modern Ruins of Japan by Shane Thoms, 2017. “Stepping away from the lights and into the shadows, one adventurous photographer embarks on an underground voyeuristic journey, documenting a curious collection of images that provide a rare and intimate glimpse into a secret, mysterious and sometimes bizarre world. Miniature jungles sprout and thrive in the rooms of a discarded beachside resort.” You know I love a good ruin, and Thoms’ images capture not only decay but whimsy.

On Photographs by David Campany, 2020. “Curator Campany presents an exploration of photography in 120 photographs by a variety of photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Eggleston (above), Helen Levitt, Garry Winogrand, Louise Lawler, Andreas Gursky, and Rineke Dijkstra. Proceeding not by chronology or genre or photographer, Campany’s eclectic selection unfolds according to its own logic.” His selections are thought provoking and wide-ranging.

France is a Feast: The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child by Alex Prud’homme and Katie Pratt, 2017. “Though Paul was an accomplished photographer (his work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art), his photographs remained out of the public eye until the publication of Julia’s memoir, My Life in France, in which several of his images were included. Now, with more than 200 of Paul’s photographs and personal stories recounted by his great-nephew Alex Prud’homme, France is a Feast not only captures this magical period in Paul and Julia’s lives, but also brings to light Paul Child’s own remarkable photographic achievement.” I love Paul’s photographic eye and his ability to capture the unique light and atmosphere of France in the late 1940s and 1950s.

William Gedney: Only the Lonely, 1955-1984 by Gilles Mora, 2017. “Mysterious, introspective, fiercely private, and self-taught, street photographer William Gedney (1932-1989) produced impressive series of images focused on people whose lives were overlooked, hidden, or reduced to stereotypes. He was convinced that photography was a means of expression as efficient as literature, and his images were accompanied by writings, essays, excerpts from books, and aphorisms.” His series of photographs of life in rural Kentucky particularly resonated with me, depicting the hard living conditions but also the closeness of family life.

Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective by Paul Martineau, 2020. “An early feminist and inspiration to future generations, Cunningham intensely engaged with Pictorialism and Modernism; genres of portraiture, landscape, the nude, still life, and street photography; and themes such as flora, dancers and music, hands, and the elderly.” Cunningham’s work is elegant, artful, and powerful.

There are so many more titles I could share with you! Which photography books or photographers are inspiring you lately?

See you in November. –lucy

PS: For you animal and pet lovers out there, we recently added this beautiful bookLove Immortal Antique Photographs and Stories of Dogs and Their People by Anthony Cavo (2022) — to our Library collection. “An artfully designed compendium of 200 antiquarian photographs, all published here for the first time—including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, cartes de visite, and sepia and black-and-white images—culled from the private collection of longtime antiques collector, dealer, and appraiser Anthony Cavo, accompanied by an entertaining mix of historical anecdotes, true stories, excerpts from literature, letters, quotes, and fun facts.” If you’ve ever taken photos of your dog — or a selfie with one — you will love this book and know that there’s a longtime tradition of honoring your furry family member in this way. xo


  1. Lovely recommendations! And a great reminder that we have access to so many treasures at the library.

  2. Lucy, this is fabulous! Thank you for updating me on some of the latest photography books. I will definitely be adding some of these to my Christmas wish list! x

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