The 10 Best New Photography Books of Spring 2015

Here are the best photography books we’re thumbing through this season

American Photography
Playground by James Mollison | Aperture | $50Courtesy of Aperture Foundation
American Photography
In previous projects ranging from closeups of apes to group shots of rock-fan disciples, Mollison has shown glimpses of individuality within swaths of sameness, in which detailed study reveals layers of insight.James Mollison

This series continues the trend, depicting schoolchildren romping on playgrounds throughout the globe; their environs vary wildly, from the wilds of Kenya to the cramped modernity of Japan, but their unbridled energy is constant. Further inspection reveals a nearly universal tendency toward combat — "little flashes of violence and cruelty," as Jon Ronson notes in his intro. This is offset by all the joy on display, in Mollison's words: "The sheer excitement of it. The lesson ends. And you just explode out into the playground, and you're just running…"

American Photography
Outside the Studio by Greg Gorman | Damiani | $50Courtesy of Damiani
American Photography
Best known for his elegant celebrity and commercial portraiture, Gorman takes it to the streets here, documenting scenes in Asian lands including China, India, and Cambodia; he writes in his intro that the title is “more accurately, ‘outside my comfort zone.’”Greg Gorman

Drawing on his photojournalist roots, Gorman shoots primarily impoverished peoples encountered during his travels in Southeast Asia as a rep for digital printing technologies. Though made by an outsider, the black-and-white portraits have a sense warmth and humanity, enhanced by Gorman’s artistic eye.

American Photography
Wild Pigeon by Carolyn Drake | Self-published | $60Courtesy of Carolyn Drake
American Photography
This book is beautiful and mysterious, revelatory and perplexing all at once.Carolyn Drake

Titled after the birds that inhabit its initial section, the series explores Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Western China, where Drake spent years traveling, photographing, and befriending locals. One method for the latter was to have them create collages from her images, many of which appear in the book — a multicultural dialog between photographer and subjects. Elsewhere we find striking juxtapositions and visual surprises, otherworldly citizens in ordinary routines, vivid colors among swaths of grey, as the scenes morph into night by book’s end. A dreamlike, eponymous poem by Nurmuhemmet Yasin and a memoir by Drake round out the package.

American Photography
Kill City by Ash Thayer | powerHouse | $35Courtesy of powerHouse Books
American Photography
A graduate of New York City’s School of Visual Arts, Thayer is also an alumnus of the 1990s squatter community in the city’s Lower East Side, where a post-punk subculture and a financially strapped arts community commingled in a wild underground milieu.Ash Thayer

Thayer’s lens captures the grime and ingenuity of the makeshift homes, the grit and colorfulness of the local characters, and the unfettered romance of a time and place that later gave way to police raids, wrecking balls, and gentrification. She captures the scene with both fondness and realism.

American Photography
Ill Form & Void Full by Laura Letinsky | Radius | $55Courtesy of Radius Books
American Photography
Here Letinsky’s artful still-life images use a white dining tabletop with backdrop as a starting point, then study the elements that might inhabit such a scene in a sterilized modern world.Laura Letinsky

With a combination of real artifacts (food scraps, beverage spills, lipstick stains) and paper cut-outs (from lifestyle magazines such as Martha Stewart Living, Dwell, and Good Housekeeping), Letinsky mixes social commentary about artificial appearances with an aesthetic appreciation of their charms.

American Photography
Kin by Pieter Hugo | Aperture | $75Courtesy of Aperture Foundation
American Photography
Drawing on Hugo's traveling exhibition now at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris, this collection marks a personal turn for the artist, who has previously mined such subjects as toxic waste sites in Human Error and exotic street performers in The Hyena & Other Men.Pieter Hugo

In Kin, Hugo focuses on members of his own family and community in his native Cape Town, South Africa. The images combine his mastery of hues and composition with an almost fey sense of strange subject matter — like a cross between the bizarre alchemy in Roger Ballen’s work and the colorful absurdity of Martin Parr’s. Yet Hugo’s world is uniquely his own, in all its weird and decaying beauty.

American Photography
In Color by Bruce Davidson | Steidl | $85Courtesy of Steidl
American Photography
Davidson is best known for his black-and-white documentation of hardscrabble communities, but he's also shot a lot of color editorial and commercial work for Vogue, National Geographic, Life, and other publications throughout his 50-year career. Ranging from street scenes to fashion shoots to documentary projects, the retrospective shows off his versatility as a visual stylist and wry social commentator.Bruce Davidson
American Photography
Pomodori A Grappolo by John Gossage | Radius | $85Courtesy of Radius Books
American Photography
It’s title roughly translating to “tomatoes in cluster,” this is a set of three books, each in a different trim size but with identical reproduction sizes of the images, shot in northern Italy and Sardinia.John Gossage

It’s an Art Project with caps — reflecting Gossage’s penchant for painterly photos of everyday detritus, still-life vignettes, and abandoned but picturesque spaces, with the occasion human portrait thrown in for good measure. Though captions are all but nonexistent, Marlene Klein contributes commentary to each volume.

American Photography
Memento Mori by Paul Koudounaris | Thames & Hudson | $60Courtesy of Thames & Hudson
American Photography
Jerry Garcia would love this book: It celebrates the rituals surrounding our preservation of the Dead with a healthy mix of ludicrousness and mysticism.Paul Koudounaris

In scenes ranging from mysterious bone caves in Asia to tragic-memorial ossuaries in Cambodia to fashion displays of mummified corpses in Italy, Koudounaris documents the many ways humans have honored their loved ones by consecrating their remains. A vivid chapter on the Fiesta de las ñatitas (celebration of decorated skulls) in Bolivia brings the trend into the modern era. It's a rather morbid journey — but a fascinating one.

American Photography
Bob Dylan: NYC 1961-1964 by Ted Russell and Chris Murray | Rizzoli | $35Courtesy of Rizzoli
American Photography
Photographer Ted Russell met Dylan virtually right off the turnip truck — when Bob arrived in Greenwich Village in 1961 with a cherubic face and a toothy smile — and caught key moments in the singer’s rise to stardom.Ted Russell

The gems here are pre-fame candids (many previously unseen) of Dylan off-stage and on, his girlfriend Suze Rutolo, and others on the burgeoning NYC folk scene. By the time Russell shot Bob accepting a 1964 Paine Award for civil rights work along with kindred spirit James Baldwin, Dylan’s rocket had taken off — but magic remnants of the launching pad remained on the lensman’s black-and-white film.

Photobooks on squatters of New York, wild pigeons, playgrounds around the world, and more in American Photo's roundup of the season's best. Revisit our picks for last season's standouts here.

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