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14 Photo Books from 2023 on our Wish List

With our love for photos in print, Uncommon would like to share a selection of 14 photo books produced in 2023 that span geographies and genres. These intriguing pictorial narratives take us on a photography voyage around the world. We had a great time putting together this visual treat for you. Hope you enjoy it.

Happy New Year!

1. Metropolitan Melancholia

Published by: Kominek Books
Designed by: Matt Willey

Metropolitan Melancholia explores the complex push and pull of the modern city, and the weight of its textured histories. Alluring and repellent, cities intoxicate those they beckon. We leave our traces on them – if only in a passing shadow – as they leave their marks on us. But what happens when reality ruptures romantic visions, or when loneliness takes root in the midst of the sprawl? Can new fantasies form under the influence of what’s already been, or are we bound only to a cycle of familiar patterns?

Photographing New York from 2019 to 2022, long-term partners in life, work and love – David van der Leeuw and Sarah van Rij – brought their own distinct expectations to this iconic cityscape: maybe the most visually-mediated of any global metropolis. Together and apart, they walked its streets and absorbed its contours, along and beyond paths trodden by the ceaseless waves of artists, writers and filmmakers before them. For both, the camera was a means to grasp at New York’s contradictions, submit to its spells and think through its oppressive confines.

Surreal and painterly, their abstract images envelop city-dwellers in architectural compositions of light and shadow; cinematic fragments converge with splintered sketches of the everyday. More uneasy back-and-forth than one-sided love letter, Metropolitan Melancholia unties two poetic dialogues with the city.

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2. Tamasha

Published & Designed by: Loose Joints Publishing

Abhishek Rajaram Khedekar is a photographer based in New Delhi, India. His work revolves around documenting stories bordering between reality and fiction, creating narratives, and curating archival images.

"Tamasha is a docu-fiction. This photographic project explores everyday challenges faced by Tamasha, a 100 person family collectively known as Lokkalawant that live their life like nomads across the state of Maharashtra in India. The project focuses on their everyday life and is documented to reflect the discriminative and prejudicial treatment towards them. People in the community often see them as a form of entertainment and neglect their basic needs. Some instances are so repetitive through society that we often find ourselves getting used to them. A certain hierarchy and discrimination have always existed. Through Tamasha I would like to reflect on the issues that I so often observed in our society. I made a lot of trips to visit the Tamasha family to create these photographs. Peeking into the lives of others is not easy, spending time with them in their space and becoming one of them was very difficult for me when I started. I spent time with them over a period of 6 months in 2016. I traveled and stayed with the Tamasha tribe to understand and experience their daily life. What started off as an initial idea of just exploring a dying art that has been followed in Maharashtra since the 16th century, slowly built up to where I am now, where I allowed myself to explore another side of Tamasha as a performance to symbolize visual arts to convey artistic expression that revolves around discrimination." — Abhishek Khedekar

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3. Untitled

Published by: Zone
Designed by: Ali Besikci & Anna Seghedoni

Xunzi Wang is a photographer from Shanghai, China. Her work focuses on exploring the infinite forms of life in this world, between reality and mystery, and capturing forces that rely solely on understanding by heart, without the need to see with the eyes. She believes that the will to be light comes from the deepest exploration of darkness.

“I try to convey the world as I perceive it through images. To open the heart to truly see and feel the power of everything that miraculously exists in this universe and the power of life. Learning to be as passionate as the earth, to simply be, to dance with light, love and all that is between nature. I believe that the will to be light comes from the deepest exploration of darkness.”  — Xunzi Wang 

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4. Nightairs

Published by: Fw:Books
Designed by: Hans Gremmen

Samuel James is a photographic artist and naturalist from southern Ohio in the United States. He began working with photography in Lagos, Nigeria, and has since explored themes involving biodiversity and resources extraction in Nigeria and the US.

"Twenty-six species of the insect family Lampyridae, commonly known as fireflies, have been identified in the foothills of Appalachian Ohio. For a brief moment at the very end of their lives, nineteen of these species communicate with silent, bioluminescent displays of diverse flash patterns and colors – a procession of codes varying in precise accordance to habitat, season and time of night. With long exposures, I have recorded these dialects of light since 2019, exploring one luminous facet of life in the temperate deciduous forests of Ohio’s Allegheny Plateau, which host a near-infinite diversity of natural forms evolving through seasonal change atop eroded mountains and the stratified sediments of ancient seas." — Samuel James 

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5. Kiss It!

Published by: GOST Books

Abbie Trayler-Smith is an acclaimed portrait and documentary photographer, specialising in capturing people's reactions and responses to contemporary events and social issues. Often challenging, sometimes tinged with wry humour, but always beautifully crafted and created, Abbie's work is exquisitely personal and naturally observational. At the heart of each image lies an intense, personal connection to each and every subject, which reveals the everyday, the ordinary, the anguish, the humility and extraordinary courage of those on the other side of her lens.

"At age eleven, I felt judged, criticised, and not approved of...others saw only my imperfect body, not the fact that I was funny and clever and warm. I came to believe that if I wasn't fat, somehow everything else in my life would be problem-free. As I stepped into adolescence, all of this became my identity. Fast forward to the age of thirty-three. I was working as a photographer at the press conference for a launch of health services to teenagers and there she was – Shannon, with a voice I had never found, reading a poem addressed to the professionals, pleading to be understood and not judged. I saw the mutuality between us and the difference. She was the brave teenager I had never been able to be.

We can see the ways in which Shannon's life is changed...and maybe more importantly, the ways in which she refuses to allow it to be changed. In the photographs of her extraordinary, ordinary life, we see not only her story but the story of anyone who has grown up feeling as though they are somehow different. Her brave, relentlessly infectious energy gives us a window of empathy and understanding into a subject that requires it more than ever and which isn't going away." — Abbie Trayler-Smith 

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6. Terra Vermelha

Published by: Void

Tommaso Protti is an Italian-born photographer who has been based in Brazil for almost a decade. He has dedicated himself to long-term projects focusing on themes such as crime, the environment, and rural conflict. His work has been featured in global publications and exhibited worldwide.

Terra Vermelha, which means red earth, opens with visions of a paradise lost. Protti’s photographs show rural areas transformed by deforestation, where land conflicts are commonplace between cattle ranchers, landless peasants and environmental activists. The images in the book journey on to urban areas and shantytowns where Protti was given access following police operations to document the rising violence, mainly related to the drug trade. Further photographs show the hold of evangelical religion on the region, the impact of the COVID pandemic, and the construction of new towns and recently expanded cities such as Altamira, famous for both its hydro-power dam and for being Brazil’s murder capital in 2017.

“Deforestation, unregulated development, pollution. All of these scenarios are driven by the same forces; poverty, weak institutions, corruption and savage self-interest. More than in other places, in the Amazon region it becomes clear that land is worth more than human life. And on the path towards the destruction of the planet, the first and closest step for mankind is still its own annihilation… The violence consuming the Brazilian Amazon affects us all and sometimes we are even the unknowing perpetrators of it.”
— Tommaso Protti

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7. What's Ours

Published by: Aperture

Myriam Boulos was born in 1992 in Lebanon. At the age of 16 she started to use her camera to question Beirut, its people, and her own position in Lebanese society. Today she uses photography to explore, defy and resist society.

"I obsess about things and I don’t know how to deal with these obsessions in any other way but through photography." — Myriam Boulos

A searing, diaristic portrayal of a city and society in revolution by Magnum nominee Myriam Boulos. In her debut monograph, Myriam Boulos casts an unflinching eye on the revolution that began in Lebanon in 2019 with protests against government corruption and austerity – culminating with the aftermath of the devastating Beirut port explosion of August 2020. She portrays her friends and family with startling energy and intimacy, in states of pleasure and protest. Boulos renders the body in public space as a powerful motif, both visceral and vulnerable in the face of state neglect and violence.

Flip through the book here
Watch the interview with Myriam Boulos by Aperture here

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More often than not, one will find Jayanta Roy listening to music as he stands completely immersed in the stunning landscape in front of him. An Indian photographer who creates stunning visuals which are calm, pleasant and emotional, Jayanta has produced some astounding works that posit graphic elements and minimal expression against a clever wit and sharp sense of design.

"TANDAV derives its name from the dance of destruction, which paves the way for new creation. The images in this book were captured over many years, a time during which I struggled with addiction and hopelessness. My life was consumed by alcoholism and other substances, but through it all, photography kept me alive and gave me hope for brighter days.
In a way, creating this photobook was my own form of the TANDAV dance. I destroyed my old self to create a new version of me, and the images within these pages are a testament to that journey."  
— Jayanta Roy 
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9. The Horses

Published by: Sorika
Designed by: Scott King & Tom Etherington

Born in Northern Ireland, Gareth McConnell is an artist and publisher living in London. His work has been featured and written about in internationally recognised art and news publications such as Aperture, Frieze, The Guardian / Observer and The New York Times.

Gareth McConnell’s new book - The Horses - is a compelling combination of starkly understated title and kaleidoscopic contents, which manages to be steeped in meaning and mystery, yet with almost no text. Hues of neon-yellow against flashes of acid-green and stains of hot-pink. The saturated photographs of Gareth McConnell take on a painterly quality – or the euphoric ambience of a rave. The London-based photographer has repeatedly turned towards nature as a subject matter in his work, which he transforms with a psychedelic punch that conflates the natural and artificial worlds.

In 2022, McConnell turned his camera towards that most unknowable of subjects, the horse, and has produced a provocative collection of photographs, which somehow – appear to make the horse seem even more remarkable and mysterious then before. McConnell travelled to Iceland, a country where the horse is as symbolic to the national landscape as waterfalls or glaciers. Photographs of the horses were taken both outdoors and indoor and, with vivid flashes of colour, McConnell manages to convey the disparate characters of these animals – or at least as close as we can get. The work is wild, expressive, restful, and powerful, perfectly reflecting the animals’ variety. It is clear that McConnell was led by the horses in how he depicted them, rather than the other way round.


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10. I Am Not a Robot

Published by: Witty Books
Designed by: Antonio M.Xoubanova & David Mozzetta

Andrea Alessandrini is a documentary photographer based in Rome, Italy. He works on long-term personal projects and is one of the photo-lab coordinators at the CivicoZero centre for young migrants in Rome, founded by Save the Children.

Yin and yang, black and white, 0 and 1 are the symbols behind it all. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz came to this conclusion around the year 1700, when he found validation for his ideas in the hexagrams of the Book of Changes, written in China six and a half centuries earlier. In 1854, the fundamentals of Boolean algebra (by which 0 is false and 1 is true) were published by George Boole. In 1949, Boolean logic was adopted by Claude Shannon to explain the functioning of electrical, then electronic and computer circuits. In 1950 Alan Turing identified a principle to determine whether a machine is able to show “intelligent” behavior. He assumed that by the year 2000 this would have happened. Today ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence software developed by OpenAI, uses neural networks to recognize a written text, and is able to learn without human supervision. And to pass the national admission test to the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. I Am Not A Robot is a notebook in which computer science and photography touch each other and sometimes meet. I Am Not A Robot is a Turing test to distinguish humans from computers.
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11. Image Cities

Published by: HATJE CANTZ

Anastasia Samoylova grew up in Moscow. In 2008 she moved to the United States, where she graduated with a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Art. Her work explores the tension between the staged perception of a bombastic materialism and reality.

Image Cities is an exhaustive and conscientious work, produced in various locations, on how photography and images are integrated into the urban environment. Samoylova revamps the vision and language of documentary photography in a working process that she defines as artisanal: the photographs are superimposed on one another to create collages in which the human figure is almost always absent and, if it appears at all, it does so on a minimal scale compared to the grandeur of the buildings and advertisements. Her images express the ambivalence and contradictions of today's urban landscape: while cities try to promote their individuality, their reality is moving towards a generic scenario in which the specific configuration of each city loses its uniqueness amidst anonymous steel and glass architecture.
Buy it here


12. Fashion

Published & Designed by: Art Paper Editions
Paul Kooiker moves at the interface between fashion and art. Working in his Amsterdam studio, he creates a new and idiosyncratic form of fashion and still life photography that has received international acclaim.

'Fashion’ is a concept that represents what is trending at the moment. Paul Kooiker’s fashion photography, on the other hand, is characterised by its timelessness. The artist portrays the biggest fashion brands and today’s most famous faces, but transports them to a world of their own. Disconnected from time and place, his surreal images feel like film stills with stories we can only guess.

His photography transcends classic gender roles: his models adopt unusual poses and their faces are often left out of frame, obscuring their identity. At times, it is not even clear whether the subject is a human or a doll. In order to capture the extravagance of luxury objects, Kooiker magnifies its means of pre­sen­tation, like for example mannequins and displays, to such a degree that it is ultimately our desire itself that is captured by his camera.

Over the span of 10 chapters, he endeavours to articulate his perspective on fashion. This commissioned work, bearing the same title, was showcased prominently in a solo exhibition at the Museum Folkwang Essen in 2021 and at Foam Amsterdam in 2022.
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13. From Pillar To Post

Designed by : Grafisch Gezegd

Hans Borg enjoys collecting memories, like many of us. He is a truck driver by day and at night he tends to be busy with his photography in every possible way.

"Straight forward, no shortcuts, to the point. From Pillar to Post is a collection of black and white photographs made while trucking. I hope the book shows the viewer what I see or feel in it. Now get mangled in my small world of chaos."  — Hans Borg 

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14. Indianism


Prashant Panjiar is a self-taught photographer from Goa, India. He has worked as a photojournalist and editor in mainstream media at Patriot newspaper, India Today and the Outlook Group of Publications. Since 2001 Panjiar has been working independently as a photographer specialising in reportage, editorial and documentary photography, a photo editor and curator. He works on issues of health, education and livelihood across Asia and Africa for international non-profit organisations. Being one of India's leading photo-practitioners, Panjiar is actively involved in mentoring younger photographers.

"I have always been interested in the vernacular imagery of India with all its irony, idiosyncrasies, incongruity, and ingenuity. Around 2010 when I dived back into my archive as a way to find a new direction in my photography, I came across many of my images that celebrated this vernacular imagery. Around the same time, I had been wanting to experiment with the square format. The two trains of thought came together in Indianisms, this photo series  I have been working on since then."  
— Prashant Panjiar 

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Compiled by Hunny Awatramani and Kamal Chawla




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