Photobook recommendations: Look at all the people!

Don’t trust algorithmic recommendations, advertisements, or SEO. Get recommendations from real people whose opinions and tastes you trust.

I love people! Each person is unique and individual, and as a group humans are wildly different from each other in every way imaginable. Atlanta Fashion Police uses “diversity via repetition” to reveal this. The project has a very specific theme: people in costume at Dragon Con holding a mugshot sign. The individuality of the people in the photos contrasts the sameness of the photographs.  Here are some photobooks from my collection that also show diversity via repetition.

A tragically necessary disclaimer

  • To the best of my limited knowledge, none of these photographers are abusers.
    • Some the people pictured are!
  • No art justifies cruelty to actual human beings.
  • Don’t tolerate any artistic collaborator who doesn’t respect you.

Athlete by Howard Schatz

Schatz’s lineups of Olympic athletes from different sports are so famous that you’ve probably already seen stolen copies floating around the internet. Buy this book to see the legit, full-size images.  Another meme says “this is what peak performance looks like” but Schatz shows that peak performance looks different depending on what’s being performed. Even in the extremely rarified environment of world-class athletic competition, bodies are very different. The pinnacle of human physicality does not exist. It’s a mountain range.

Breaking All The Rules by Ger Tysk

Tysk pairs photos of cosplayers with short interviews. Despite the range of ages, locations, professions, skillsets, and fandoms, all these people are united by their love of making and wearing costumes.

Cosplay In America & Cosplay In America V2 by Ejen Chuang

Ejen’s a fellow cosplay photographer and I’ve enjoyed hanging out with him at conventions.  In Volume 1 he photographs cosplayers with a single light and a grey backdrop. In Volume 2 the grey backdrop returns, but he increases the scope of the book significantly, photographing cosplayers in their homes as they build the costumes, and at conventions as don the complex costumes and mingle with fans and other cosplayers. I see so many of my friends in these books I can’t help but feel good when I look through them.

DPBBBV 2020 aka Daily Portrait 5 by Martin Gabriel Pavel

A massive book for a massive project spanning several years and countries and over 400 people.  Pavel photographs nude people doing odd things in quirky locations: places that may soon be revitalized or gentrified into clean conformity. Pavel’s eye for uniqueness extends beyond the people in his photos to the spaces they inhabit or visit.

Hips by Patrick Roddie

Roddie’s website is gone, but loans out a virtual copy of the book, and used copies are available. The most rigorous implementation of “diversity via repetition” in this list. Every photo is framed the same way: a hand, a hip, and a belly. Each pair of hips on a spread shares some commonality: pop-tab chain-mail, pregnant bellies, matching tattooes, walkie-talkies, leopard print (fabric on one, bodypaint on the other). All the hips belong to attendees of Burning Man, so there’s significant nudity, emphasized but not sensationalized by the framing.

Humans by Brandon Stanton

A popular street photography blog traveled around the world, photographing people and listening to their stories. Many stories are sad or poignant, so I only flip through a few pages at a time. Street photographers can easily treat people like props, but Stanton takes time to respect their individuality and learn specific details that aren’t obvious from a photograph.

The Nu Project, Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Matt Blum and Katy Kessler

The goal is to show “beauty in every body” by photographing “normal” women (not models) nude in their homes.  Pets and babies and housemates are also welcome.  The light is so soft and pleasing. Everyone seems so happy and comfortable. Blum is a wizard for getting strangers and non-models to open up like this. So many open smiles and big laughs.

The People of Burning Man by Julian Cash

Alas, the book is out of print and the author’s website is gone. Cash photographed people at Burning Man against a white background, often with a fish-eye lens.  Like the festival it’s based on, this book is full of surprises:  Yogis forming every letter of the alphabet with their bodies, paper dolls to cut out and dress, match the faces with the tattoos, hugging, bodypaint, dancing, nudity. An explosion of color and creativity and fun.