What to get the person whose head is always buried in their ‘gram and who double-taps in their sleep? These, some of my own favorite photo books (a few of them new, but most of them not, and several out of print), would make great gifts for your Instagram-obsessed friends — to show (or remind) them what the medium looked like before iPhones, filters, and DMs. Best case, it will give them a reason to put their phone down for a moment and discuss the work IRL; worst case, they will have a flashy new book for their coffee table. Here are more of our favorite highly giftable coffee-table books and favorite highly giftable vintage books.
If they like classic cars and smoking cigarettes
The godfather of color photography. William Eggleston’s Guide is an essential volume that captures the residents of his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee from 1969 to 1971.
If they take a lot of selfies
For four decades, businessman, art collector, and philanthropist Jean Pigozzi took selfies with his famous friends. A fun look at musicians, actors, writers, hangers-on, socialites, artists, and of course, Pigozzi himself through the years.
If they just saw the Stephen Shore show at MoMA
Coinciding with a massive retrospective at the MoMA — when I visited on a quiet Tuesday morning I saw Stephen Shore and his wife taking it in, a real New York moment! — this book includes the work he is best known for (1970’s America in vivid color) as well as some of his more experimental work (large format, digital, black and white, Instagram).
If they romanticize old New York
Nan Goldin’s work showcases the beauty and horror of life at a particular time in New York City, specifically the old Times Square and the Lower East Side. Every image, no matter how intense, comes across as delicate and honest.
If they need a vacation
Years of trips to the seaside, from Spain to China, produced this fun and sometimes absurd look at people being themselves at the beach.
If they follow lots of models
For one year, from May 1998 to May 1999, photographer Juergen Teller took hundreds of photos of models who visited his West London studio. Even with the limitations of his single location, Teller makes the photographs extremely compelling.
If they’re jet-setter types
Tillmans makes 62 color photographs of the Concorde, a “British-French
turbojet-powered supersonic passenger jet airliner,” elegant and engaging.
If they can quote “Kids”
Larry Clark’s legendary black-and-white collection released in 1971 that set the standard for autobiographical photographic work.
If they unironically miss the ’90s
Corinne Day helped put Kate Moss on the map and is often credited with popularizing “grunge” fashion photography. Her first book, Diary, is an honest document of her friends during that all-important hazy time before adulthood, when everything is in front of you, and the possibilities are endless.
If they appreciate a good cry
Araki is best known for his erotic work. But this is one of his best and easily most personal books, as it tackles two big themes: love and loss. The first section is photos of his wife from their honeymoon; the second part is a chronicle of the final days before her death.
If they have a screwed-up family
A labor of love, this book documents Sultan’s own flesh and blood in an attempt to destroy the mythology of family and the image of success. It’s voyeuristic and engaging.
If they fancy themselves an artiste
Mark Borthwick’s work is intimate and dreamy. He seamlessly combines fashion and art using light and color.
If they use the word “wanderlust” a lot
An intriguing series of large-format color photographs taken along the Mississippi River. Soth captures the American spirit at its best and worst.
If they like elephants
A mixed bag of photographs, diary entries, drawings, and environmental activism. Peter Beard combines it all into carefully constructed collages that demand to be studied over and over.
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