Top 5 Photo Bookstores—San Francisco and Los Angeles
By Darius Himes
Opened by Lee Kaplan in 1987 and newly located in the historic Helms Bakery district, Arcana: Books on the Arts is a fixture of the Los Angeles scene. Photography is a specialty at the store, but the shelves contain far more, including rare and collectible titles on modern and contemporary art, design, architecture, cinema, music, and fashion. Long a favorite of Hollywood insiders (John Waters can regularly be seen flitting through the stacks), Arcana’s selection is unparalleled and the staff is knowledgeable and friendly.
Run by the gracious, ever-informed Dagny Corcoran, the first Art Catalogues opened in 1977 above the Nicholas Wilder Gallery on Santa Monica Boulevard. In the intervening years, Art Catalogues had several homes. It is now happily settled on the grounds of LACMA, where Corcoran has the talent and authority to craft a full roster of talks, readings, and interviews with some of contemporary art and photography’s shining stars. The shelves are always filled with a great selection of known and obscure monographs, catalogs, anthologies, and essays.
With over twenty thousand titles in stock and thirty years of thriving business under its belt, William Stout Books is exactly what you want in a neighborhood bookstore: an open, airy space; an informed staff; and shelves and shelves of art, design, photography, and architecture titles from around the world. What started as essentially a favor—travels abroad yielded unseen titles that friends wanted access to—has become a mainstay of the tightly knit San Francisco art community. The shop near Chinatown is the original store, and there is a great second space in Berkeley.
ARTBOOK | D.A.P. is the nervous system of the independent art and photography book community in North America. Under the laser-sharp leadership of Sharon Gallagher, the company has continued to thrive in this attack-of-the-Amazon era by simultaneously publishing new titles, distributing books by more than two hundred small art publishers, fueling art fairs with their book booths, and nurturing independent bookstores from sea to shining sea. Its Los Angeles showroom, ARTBOOK | D.A.P. Showroom, Los Angeles, is open by appointment to bookstore and specialty retail buyers, cultural institutions, journalists, and other bibliophiles (that’s you). Contact Tricia Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (323) 969-8985.
Another combination bookstore and art gallery, Park Life marries the feel of a neighborhood shop with the leanings of a hipster/fringe artist hangout to produce a space some have affectionately referred to as “Giant Robot North.” The photobook selection is smartly curated and placed amid design titles, graphic novels, and other contemporary artist monographs. Don’t forget to pick up a Chris Baird– or Tucker Nichols–designed T-shirt while you’re there.
The PhotoBook Review is a publication dedicated to the consideration of the photobook—focusing on the best photography books being published, from the coffee-table book to the handmade artist’s edition, and on creating a better understanding of the ecosystem of the photobook as a whole.