Ten Best Travel Photography Books Ever


Travel photography is a subcategory of photography involving the documentation of an area’s landscape, people, cultures, customs and history. The Photographic Society of America defines a travel photo as an image that expresses the feeling of a time and place, portrays a land, its people, or a culture in its natural state, and has no geographical limitations.

Here are the ten best travel photo books and photo essays ever:

1) Portraits by Steve McCurry


Magnum photographer Steve McCurry never set out to take portraits. Critically acclaimed and recognized internationally for his classic reportage, over the last 20 years he has worked for the “National Geographic” and other publications on numerous assignments: along the Afghan border, in Baghdad, Beirut and the Sahel. McCurry’s coverage of the monsoon won first prize in the World Press Awards, and was part of his portfolio when he was named Magazine Photographer of the Year in 1984. In 1985, McCurry photographed an Afghan girl for the “National Geographic”. The intensity of the subject’s eyes and her compelling gaze made this one of contemporary photography’s most celebrated and best-known portraits. McCurry is now equally famous for his other portrayals of memorable faces that he has encountered while travelling throughout the world. Compelling, unforgettable and moving, McCurry’s images are unique street portraits: unstylized and unposed snapshots of people that reveal the universality of human emotion.

2) Through the Lens: National Geographic’s Greatest Photographs


This monumental collection of 250 photos, mostly in color and drawn from the National Geographic Society’s archive of 10.5 million, will be published simultaneously in 20 languages, with an eye toward the 113-year-old magazine’s international readership of 40 million. As in the magazine, the society’s signature blend of dramatic, rigorously composed natural shots and “family of nations”-style culture peeps are backed by broad captions and text (“Perfecting la dolce vita, the people of Europe are renowned for their wholehearted embrace of life’s rewards, from festivals to fine dining to stolen moments with friends or loved ones”) often far exceeded by the pictures themselves. Meticulously (and sympathetically) deconstructed in Catherine Lutz and Jane Collins’s early ’90s book Reading National Geographic, the society’s broader-crossing humanism is in full effect here-and it retains its arresting power. The six sections (“Europe”; “Asia”; “Africa & the Middle East”; “The Americas”; “Oceans and Isles”; “The Universe”) include the first color underwater photographs, as well as collaborative work with NASA, and prominently credit the 84 photographers whose work is featured, giving the book a less homogenous feel.

3) Work: The World in Photographs by Ferdinand Protzman


The enormous variety of things that people do for survival and sustenance is impressively represented in this book. Neither doctor nor lawyer is included, and only a small number of white-collar jobs make the cut. Instead, readers see clover collectors in Yemen, bootblacks in Portugal, ice fishermen in Russia, coal miners in West Virginia, and salt miners in Ukraine. The volume is arranged in geographic sections: Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, Americas, and Islands. Interspersed among them are three thematic portfolios: agriculture, extraction (mining), and manufacturing. Protzman contributes engaging and helpful introductions to each geographic section, as well as brief notes introducing the thematic portfolios. With few exceptions the photos are captivating and of high technical quality. Most were taken within the past 20 years, although some are historical, including a few early-20th-century images by Lewis Hine. Many of the images display poverty, hardship, and oppression (especially of children). A few are whimsical, including a workhorse keeping cool in Spain with the aid of a tiny umbrella. The message that work can be tedious and dangerous, as well as rewarding and enjoyable, is thoroughly established.

4) Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Walter Silvester


In this stunning collection of photographs, Silvester (Ethiopia: Peoples of the Omo Valley) celebrates the unique art of the Surma and Mursi tribes of the Omo Valley, on the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. These nomadic people have no architecture or crafts with which to express their innate artistic sense. Instead, they use their bodies as canvases, painting their skin with pigments made from powdered volcanic rock and adorning themselves with materials obtained from the world around them—such as flowers, leaves, grasses, shells and animal horns. The adolescents of the tribes are especially adept at this art, and Silvester’s superb photographs show many youths who, imbued with an exquisite sense of color and form, have painted their beautiful bodies with colorful dots, stripes and circles, and encased themselves in elaborate arrangements of vegetation and found objects. This art is endlessly inventive, magical and, above all, fun. In his brief text, Sylvester worries that as civilization encroaches on this largely unexplored region, these people will lose their delightful tradition.

5) CHINA: Portrait of a People by Tom Carter


There are more than 1.3 billion people in China. Besides the majority Han Chinese, the population includes 56 ethnic groups numbering over one hundred million. Over the course of 2 years and 35,000 miles, photojournalist Tom Carter captured it ALL on film. For their historical value alone, the 800+ photos in Portrait are priceless. Carter’s anthropological-like study of China stands apart in its genre, as it focuses expressly on the PEOPLE of China. In addition to documenting the everyday life of “ordinary” people, Carter also backpacked to the most remote areas of China to observe reclusive ethnic minorities such as the red-turbaned Pai Yao minority of northern Guangdong and the resplendent Dong and Miao tribes of eastern Guizhou. From Inner Mongolian nomads to newlyweds in Hong Kong, from the teenage girl living in Chengdu dressed like an American punk rocker to the soot covered coal miner in Southern Shanxi, Carter’s camera documented the complexity and diversity of China like no other book ever has (or likely ever will).

6) The Travel Book by Celeste Brash


Even the most avid readers of travel guides and travel literature will not have encountered a book quite like this one. It is huge and heavy but reasonably priced, and it is vastly informative, which is its calling card. All the writers who contribute to the Lonely Planet travel guide series have put heads, knowledge, and experience together and come up with an A-Z series of capsule profiles of every country in the world, 230 in number. Each country gets a two-page spread, on which are placed, like luscious dishes set before one at a feast, illustrations that are typical of Lonely Planet’s unique, non-picture-postcard brand of shots. The accompanying text presents a cogent rundown of the best experiences for gaining the essence of the place; books to read beforehand; music to listen to before you go; food and drink to consume once you are there; and a few brief but pungent closing comments on the trademark things to do and buy and see and what, ultimately, is the best surprise awaiting the tourist. For borrowers in the travel section to sit down, look at, and make notes from, without taking off the premises.

7) Fruits by Shoichi Aoki


If you ever wondered where the catwalk got its claws, then the portraits gathered in photographer Shoichi Aoki’s book Fruits, from the streets of Harajuku in Tokyo, point the way to an extraordinarily imaginative and invariably stunning glut of mongrel fashion heists. A best-of collection from the fanzine of the same name, and published for the first time outside Japan, Fruits keeps its style clean: front-on, razor-sharp images, ranging from the deadpan to the manic, of the sharpest collages of sartorial influence that, usually, little money can buy. From off the peg to off the wall, kitsch to b***h, each person bears a combination and philosophy as distinctive as DNA. All shades of aesthetic are raided, with exquisite, scrupulous attention to detail. Punk is a favorite, as is, appropriately, Vivienne Westwood, alongside Milk and Jean-Paul Gaultier, and the occasional Comme des Garçons. Many of the outfits, though, are second-hand or self-assembly, such as a skirt drooping petals of men’s silk ties, Wa-mono, when tradition Japanese clothes are topped with, say, an authentic bowler hat, EGL (elegant gothic Lolita), and a swathe of tartans, pinks, and turquoises. The most malleable feature, unsurprisingly, is hair, with dreadlocks, mohicans, back-combing, and crops dyed an irradiated spectrum. While the eye is drawn, obediently, to the mannequins, the background is often worth a look, either for the vending machines against which a number are shot, or the ubiquitous Gap store and bags, a constant reminder of the global mass market.

8) One Planet – Lonely Planet Publications

The old adage that says a picture is worth a thousand words seems to hold true especially well for travel. Browsing through Lonely Planet’s One Planet: Inspirational Travel Photographs, a collection of some of the best photos from the Lonely Planet Images Library, will give you plenty of inspiration for your future travels; alternatively, you could simply use it as an excellent armchair travel experience. The introduction to this (smallish) coffee table book says that the pictures were chosen for beauty, of course, but also “for their sense of capturing a moment in time, a moment that is shared across the globe”. And it’s a good point, because this collection is relatively free of those vast landscape photographs or impossible-to-replicate air shots that some travel books love. In fact, in the vast majority of photographs there are people, keeping the collection far removed from typical postcard shots. The photographs are, as you can imagine, from across the world: a teenager in Chile, divers in Indonesia, street parades in London and people struggling against typhoon winds in Hong Kong. It’s a book to dip into again and again, whether you’re looking for ideas to help you plan a trip or just wanting to escape for a moment from everyday life.

9) Revelations: Latin American Wisdom for Every Day by Danielle Föllmi


A cradle of Nobel Prize winners and a font of ancient wisdom, Latin America provides a wealth of sublime source material for the husband-and-wife creative team of Danielle and Olivier Föllmi. In the latest installment in their Offerings for Humanity series, the authors draw nuggets of written wisdom from the Andean plains to the Mexican desert. Set against the stunning visual backdrop of 365 photographs, taken all across the continent by Olivier, these quotations come from both world-renowned Latin American writers (including Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, and Carlos Fuentes) and traditional Indian spiritual teachings, demonstrating the subtle interweaving of ancestral belief and contemporary thought in one of the world’s most intellectually fertile regions. Like their previous explorations of Buddhist, Indian, and African wisdom, this new volume will surprise, enlighten, and nourish the soul. Danielle and Olivier Föllmi are the authors of 14 books, including Offerings, Wisdom, and Origins in the bestselling 365 series. They are the founders of HOPE, an association dedicated to education in the Himalayas and divide their time between the Alps and travels around the world.

10) Ruin: Photographs of a Vanishing America by Brian Vanden Brink


Brian Vanden Brink’s photographs of a decaying America provoke both melancholy and wonder. This is a thoughtful book that is worth keeping at hand for those times when one feels a need for introspection. Each of us likes to think that we are unique with eternal visions of our lives, but in fact our place in this world is only temporary – doomed to a certain deadly end. But men and women tend to leave monuments behind, and Vanden Brink has captured those relics with his camera — before the relics, too, turn to dust. Vanden Brink is a professional architectural photographer whose career has focused on contemporary architectural design. As he traveled around the country on assignment for such magazines as Architectural Digest, the New York Times Magazine and Down East Magazine in Maine, however, Vanden Brink’s artistic eye fell on old wrecks of homes, churches, stores, factories and bridges that were all but falling down. Fortunately, he took the time to photograph his discoveries. Vanden Brink is following a grand tradition in modern photography. The pioneer in this genre, of course, was Eugene Atget who focused on ancien France with his 19th century photographs of ghostly structures. Andre Kertesz was also a well know chronicler of fading architecture, as was Maine native Berenice Abbott. More recently, William Christenberry captured the essence of the old south with his penetrating photographs of crumbling buildings overgrown by vines and trees.

Article publié pour la première fois le 26/01/2016

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