The Best Photo Books of 2011

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Our 50 Favorite Books of 2011

In this always-on age of tweets and tumblogs and tablets, of Flickr and Facebook, of “reality” programming and insta-celebrities, we’d like to pause a moment and look at some books. Remember books? Remember breathing?

Documentary & Photojournalism

Views of a changing world from its most curious and insistent witnesses


© Phil Borges
From “Tibet: Culture on the Edge”

Tibet: Culture on the EdgePhil Borges
In his fifth monograph, Borges explores both the indigenous lifestyles of the Tibetan people and their grand surroundings—each threatened by forces including industrial development, climate change and ongoing political tension between Tibet and the People’s Republic of China. Forged over 17 years of periodic visits, Borges’s affinity with the hardy natives informs the book’s illuminating text and warm portraits alike. $45

Is This Place Great or What, by Brian Ulrich
(See our interview with Brian and additional samples from Is This Place Great or What here). In a decade-long survey of American consumerism, Ulrich casts a wry eye on the nation’s shoppers and employees in big-box outlets and thrift shops—contrasting boom-years decadence and bust-years desolation with chilling irony. $50

My Journey as a Witness, by Shahidul Alam
Seeking to preserve justice and human rights through the power of the lens, Alam depicts cultures of Bangladesh, China and Pakistan in compassionate black-and-white images punctuated by saturated color bursts. $50

Questions Without Answers: The World in Pictures, by the Photographers of VII,
Since its founding in 2001, independent photo agency VII has been responsible for some of the decade’s most significant documentary photography, as evidenced by this hefty collection of images from Alexandra Boulet, Ron Haviv, John Stanmeyer, Christopher Morris and others.$75

Memory Remains: 9/11 Artifacts at Hangar 17, by Francesc Torres
National Geographic
The human impact of 9/11 is painted in relief through these poignant images of objects removed from New York City’s Ground Zero and stored at JFK airport, waiting to to be documented by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. $50

The New York Times Magazine Photographsedited by Kathy Ryan
Covering three decades, this volume showcases The New York Times Magazine’s reliable blend of ambitious photojournalism and inventive illustrative work. $75


Thames & Hudson

Afterwards, edited by Nathalie Herschdorfer,
Thames & Hudson
Photographers are naturally drawn to shooting disasters, not so much to what happens next. This aching collection spanning
60 years shows what happens when they stick around. $50

Inaugurationby Catherine Opie
Gregory R. Miller
Opie commemorates the inauguration of the first black U.S. president, Barack Obama, in shots of personal candor and celebratory energy. $50

Hard Groundby Michael O’Brien,
University of Texas Press
O’Brien turns his lens on the homeless, lending them a quiet dignity in portraits made all the more moving by poetry from singer-songwriter Tom Waits. $40


© Pieter Hugo
From “Permanent Error”

Permanent Errorby Peter Hugo
Documentarian Hugo delivers a gripping account from Ghana: At the Agbogbloshie dump outside Accra, men and children filter through electronic waste for scraps and metal that can be melted down and sold for tiny profits. The haunting scenes from these breathtakingly toxic waste grounds powerfully signal the hazards of electronic consumption and planned obsolescence. $50

A Window on Africa: Ethiopian Portraitsby Hans Silvester,
Thames & Hudson
Silvester’s portraits of natives reveal their steely characters and changing lifestyles in the face of modernity. $40

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