Art books of the year 2016

These books are my favourite books I bought in 2016, not necessarily published for the first time in that year. Normally these are exclusively photography books but this year I’m including some art books as they can be inspirational in the photographic process. So in this first post I’ll mention the art books.

Having found inspiration in photographing birds in the past number of years, I was naturally attracted to this book.The Book of the Bird celebrates the bird in art with an elegant, international collection of paintings, illustrations and photographs, featuring all kinds of birds from the smallest tits and wrens to colourful exotics. Interspersed though the illustrations are short texts giving background to the pictures and information on bird species. Beautifully reproduced this is a little visual treasure. Check it out here

Many photographers work in projects and although Matisse did not do so nevertheless certain motifs crop up in his work time and time again. This book brings together for the first time the rich collection of Matisse’s paintings of interiors and windows. The distinguished art historian Shirley Blum analyses more than fifty works, from the early painting Studio Under the Eaves (190102) to the great stained glass window at the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence (1947-51). With perceptive text and scores of luscious illustrations, Rooms with a View reveals the key role of the window in Matisse’s oeuvre. Book details here

Being an admirer of David Hockney’s work, this new book naturally caught my attention. This is a large format book which deals with the relationship between painting, photography and optical instruments like the Camera obscura. Generously illustrated, it is in a conversational style between artist David Hockney and art historian and critic Martin Gayford. Topics discussed are what happens when we try to express reality in two dimensions? Why is the ‘Mona Lisa’ beautiful and why are shadows so rarely found in Chinese, Japanese and Persian painting? Why are optical projections always going to be more beautiful than HD television can ever be? How have the makers of images depicted movement? What makes marks on a flat surface interesting? You get the idea. This may all sound a bit academic but it does not come across that way, and if you are creative person these can be your concerns. As David Hockney has used photography quite a lot in his career, the medium is referred to throughout the book. The reproductions are excellent and the book has the knack of offering up images which you might not easily come across or have considered giving time to. Highly recommended. Details here

Book Highlight: Valparaiso - Sergio Larrain

Aperture’s monograph Sergio Larrain was my book of the year 2013. You can read about it here . If you missed that volume, I am happy to see that his most famous book Valparaiso has just been republished with extra photos which were not in the original publication.
Chilean photographer Sergio Larrain (1931-2012) published very few books during his lifetime, but perhaps the most feted among them was Valparaiso. He photographed this Chilean seaport throughout his career, but it was in the early 1960s, when he returned to his homeland after travelling the world for many years as a Magnum photographer, that it became a focus for his attention. He saw it as 'a rather sordid yet romantic city', standing between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, falling into a slow decline as its trading importance faded away, yet still retaining hints of beauty and magic. Now published in English for the first time with an introduction by Agnes Sire as well as a specially written text by Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, this new edition of Valparaiso is based on a layout that Larrain designed in 1993, in response to the original French edition of 1991. It also includes a selection of previously unpublished photographs taken between 1952 and 1992, expanding the original 36 images to a total of 120. This intimate book features handwritten notes and texts by the artist himself, allowing us to share his singular vision of the world and its moments of grace.
The Aperture publication featured much of this work and the printing was excellent. I only hope the same high values will be again evident in this welcome book. A must buy for Larrain fans. RRP €50 but The Book Depository currently has it for around €30