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13 Essential Photobooks by Women Photographers

From Florence Henri’s little-known avant-garde photographs of the 1920s to Susan Meiselas’s piercing documentary photography of the 1970s, we’ve compiled a list of Aperture photobooks by women photographers that are sure to inspire.

Slide 1

Over the course of her storied career, Mickalene Thomas has worked in a variety of mediums, drawing inspiration from the women around her. Muse: Mickalene Thomas Photographs is the first book to gather together her various approaches to photography. From cultural icons like Beverly Johnson and Vonetta McGee to her family members and lovers, each of Thomas’s “muses” grapples with and asserts new definitions of beauty.

Slide 2

Mickalene Thomas, Remember Me, 2006

Slide 3

Mickalene Thomas, Negress #3, 2005

Slide 4

Mickalene Thomas, A Moment's Pleasure #2, 2007

Slide 5

Since 2004, photographer Justine Kurland and her young son, Casper, have traveled in their customized van across the United States. As Kurland balances life as an artist and mother, her son heavily influences her subject matter. Exploring the idea of the American dream juxtaposed against reality, the photographs in Highway Kind are equal parts raw and romantic.

Slide 6

Justine Kurland, Baby Tooth, 2011 © Justine Kurland

Slide 7

Justine Kurland, 280 Coup, 2012 © Justine Kurland

Slide 8

Justine Kurland, New Family, Black Bear Ranch, 2011 © Justine Kurland

Slide 9

In the late 1970s, Susan Meiselas traveled independently to Nicaragua to document the Somoza regime during its decline. The images she made would transform her career. Originally published in 1981, and reissued in 2016 with an augmented reality (AR) function, Nicaragua: June 1978 - July 1979 remains a seminal contribution to the literature of concerned photojournalism.

Slide 10

Susan Meiselas, Monimbo woman carrying her dead husband home to be buried in their backyard © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

Slide 11

Susan Meiselas, Muchachos await counterattack by the Guard, Matagalpa, 1978 © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

Slide 12

Susan Meiselas, Street fighter in Managua, 1979 © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

Slide 13

The Notion of Family, LaToya Ruby Frazier’s first book, offers an exploration of the legacy of racism and economic decline in America’s small towns, as embodied by her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Enlisting the participation of her family—and her mother in particular—Frazier reinforces the idea of art and image-making as a transformative act, a means of resetting traditional power dynamics and narratives, both those of her family and those of the community at large.

Slide 14

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Momme (Floral Comforter), from Momme Portrait Series, 2008 © LaToya Ruby Frazier

Slide 15

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Grandma Ruby and J.C. in Her Kitchen, 2006 © LaToya Ruby Frazier

Slide 16

LaToya Ruby Frazier, The Bottom (Talbot Towers, Allegheny County Housing Projects), 2009 © LaToya Ruby Frazier

Slide 17

Nan Goldin's The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between Goldin’s friends, family, and lovers. Aperture first published her irreverent and visceral images as a book in 1986. The influence of Ballad on photography and other aesthetic realms has continually grown, making the work a contemporary classic.

Slide 18

Nan Goldin, Trixie on the cot, New York City, 1979 © Nan Goldin

Slide 19

Nan Goldin, The Hug, New York City, 1980 © Nan Goldin

Slide 20

Nan Goldin, C.Z. and Max on the beach, Truro, Mass., 1976 © Nan Goldin

Slide 21

Provocative, seductive, and surprisingly fresh, this collection of Jo Ann Callis’s work from the mid-1970s investigates the nude body and sexuality. Callis utilizes twine, belts, tape, and other everyday materials in an intimate exploration of pleasure and eros. Other Rooms is as beautiful and delicate as it is mysterious and disconcerting. 

Slide 22

Jo Ann Callis, Hand in Honey, 1976–77 © Jo Ann Callis, Courtesy Rose Gallery

Slide 23

Jo Ann Callis, Woman with Black Line 1976–77 © Jo Ann Callis, Courtesy Rose Gallery

Slide 24

Jo Ann Callis, Woman in Crimson Slip, 1978 © Jo Ann Callis, Courtesy Rose Gallery

Slide 25

One of the best-known female photographers of her generation, Diane Arbus was already a legend among serious photographers when she died in 1971. In 1972, Aperture published Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph, and offered the general public its first encounter with her momentous achievements. The response was unprecedented. Universally acknowledged as a timeless masterpiece, this book will transform the way you see the world.  

Slide 26

Diane Arbus, Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C 1967 from Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (2011)

Slide 27

Diane Arbus, Woman with a veil on Fifth Avenue, N.Y.C 1968 from Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (2011)

Slide 28

Diane Arbus, A house on a hill, Hollywood, Cal. 1963 from Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (2011)

Slide 29

Mary Ellen Mark is renowned for the emotional power of her pictures. Though she died in 2015, she remains one of the most respected and influential photographers of our time. Mary Ellen Mark on the Portrait and the Moment distills over fifty years of Mark’s experience and wisdom, providing photographers with a unique chance to learn from Mark’s astonishing life and career. The book was printed just before she passed away.

Slide 30

Mary Ellen Mark, The Damm Family in Their Car, Los Angeles, California, USA, 1987 © Mary Ellen Mark

Slide 31

Mary Ellen Mark, Beautiful Emine posing, Trabzon, Turkey, 1965 © Mary Ellen Mark

Slide 32

Mary Ellen Mark, Pinky and Shiva Ji, The Great Royal Circus, Junagadh, India, 1992 © Mary Ellen Mark

Slide 33

During the height of the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s, Chilean photographer Paz Errázuriz was taking great risks to continue her work, which violated the regime’s strict regulations. She dared to visit brothels, psychiatric wards, and boxing clubs, where women weren’t welcome. In Paz Errázuriz: Survey, over 170 photographs by Errázuriz are compiled for the first time.

Slide 34

Paz Errázuriz, Club Buenos Aires, Santiago, from the series (In twos) Tango courtesy the artist

Slide 35

Paz Errázuriz, Evelyn IV, Santiago, from the series Adam's apple, 1987 courtesy the artist

Slide 36

Paz Errázuriz, Atáp, Ester Edén Wellington, Puerto Edén, from the series The nomads of the sea, 1995 courtesy the artist

Slide 37

When Aperture first published Sally Mann's Immediate Family in 1992, it was met with both acclaim and criticism. Though Mann’s extraordinary, intimate photos of her children caused an uproar among religious conservatives who deemed the work pornographic, the book is lauded by critics as one of the great photography publications of our time.

Slide 38

Sally Mann, Night-blooming Cereus 1988 © Sally Mann

Slide 39

Sally Mann, Jessie Bites 1988 © Sally Mann

Slide 40

Sally Mann, Gorjus 1988 © Sally Mann

Slide 41

Florence Henri’s work occupied a central place in the world of avant-garde photography in the late 1920s, and Florence Henri: Mirror of the Avant-Garde, 1927–40 pays homage to her essential, but under-recognized contribution. She remains an inspiration for photographers, artists, and design enthusiasts alike.

Slide 42

Florence Henri, Composition Portrait, Cora, 1931

Slide 43

Florence Henri, Self-Portrait,1937

Slide 44

Florence Henri, Abstract Composition, 1929, 1929

Slide 45

An-My Lê’s Events Ashore is an exploration of the American military, a pursuit both personal and civic. “This work is as much about my perspective and personal history as a political refugee from Vietnam as it is about the vast geopolitical forces and conflicts that shape these landscapes." With this body of work, Lê has assembled a visual narrative of that constitutes the American military experience—and influence. 

Slide 46

An-My Lê, Marine Corps Martial Art Program, Bundase Training Camp, Ghana, 2010 © An-My Lê, courtesy Murray Guy Gallery, New York

Slide 47

An-My Lê, Line Shack Supervisor for EA-6B Prowler, USS Ronald Regan, North arabian Gulf, 2009 © An-My Lê, courtesy Murray Guy Gallery, New York

Slide 48

An-My Lê, Demonstration of Puma AE Unmanned Aircraft System, HTMS Nareasuan, Sattahip Naval Taining Center, Thailand, 2010 © An-My Lê, courtesy Murray Guy Gallery, New York

Slide 49

In Range, Umbrico examines the analog history of photography within the digital torrent that is its current technological manifestation. It is the latest iteration of Umbrico’s larger project Moving Mountains, in which the artist rephotographs a selection of canonical masters’ photographs of mountains—the oldest and seemingly most stable of subjects—with a variety of the newest smartphone camera apps.

Mickalene Thomas, Muse
Over the course of her storied career, Mickalene Thomas has worked in a variety of mediums, drawing inspiration from the women around her. From cultural icons like Beverly Johnson and Vonetta McGee to her family members and lovers, each of Thomas’s “muses” grapples with and asserts new definitions of beauty.

Justine Kurland, Highway Kind
Since 2004, photographer Justine Kurland and her young son, Casper, have traveled in their customized van across the United States. As Kurland balances life as an artist and mother, her son heavily influences her subject matter. Exploring the idea of the American dream juxtaposed against reality, the photographs in Highway Kind are equal parts raw and romantic.

Susan Meiselas, Nicaragua: June 1978 – July 1979
In the late 1970s, Meiselas traveled independently to Nicaragua to document the Somoza regime during its decline. The images she made would transform her career. Originally published in 1981, Nicaragua remains a seminal contribution to the literature of concerned photojournalism.

LaToya Ruby Frazier, The Notion of Family 
The Notion of Family, Frazier’s first book, offers an exploration of the legacy of racism and economic decline in America’s small towns, as embodied by her hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Enlisting the participation of her family—and her mother in particular—Frazier reinforces the idea of art and image-making as a transformative act, a means of resetting traditional power dynamics and narratives, both those of her family and those of the community at large.

Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a visual diary chronicling the struggle for intimacy and understanding between Goldin’s friends, family, and lovers. Aperture first published her irreverent and visceral images as a book in 1986. The influence of Ballad on photography and other aesthetic realms has continually grown, making the work a contemporary classic.

Jo Ann Callis, Other Rooms
Provocative, seductive, and surprisingly fresh, this collection of Jo Ann Callis’s work from the mid-1970s investigates the nude body and sexuality. Callis utilizes twine, belts, tape, and other everyday materials in an intimate exploration of pleasure and eros. Other Rooms is as beautiful and delicate as it is mysterious and disconcerting.

Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph
One of the best-known female photographers of her generation, Diane Arbus was already a legend among serious photographers when she died in 1971. In 1972, Aperture published Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph, and offered the general public its first encounter with her momentous achievements. The response was unprecedented. Universally acknowledged as a timeless masterpiece, this book will transform the way you see the world.

Mary Ellen Mark on the Portrait and the Moment
Mary Ellen Mark is renowned for the emotional power of her pictures. Though she died in 2015, she remains one of the most respected and influential photographers of our time. Mary Ellen Mark on the Portrait and the Moment distills over fifty years of Mark’s experience and wisdom, providing photographers with a unique chance to learn from Mark’s astonishing life and career. The book was printed just before she passed away.

Paz Errázuriz: Survey
During the height of the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s, Chilean photographer Paz Errázuriz was taking great risks to continue her work, which violated the regime’s strict regulations. She dared to visit brothels, psychiatric wards, and boxing clubs, where women weren’t welcome. In Paz Errázuriz: Survey, over 170 photographs by Errázuriz are compiled for the first time.

Sally Mann, Immediate Family
When Aperture first published Immediate Family in 1992, it was met with both acclaim and criticism. Though Mann’s extraordinary, intimate photos of her children caused an uproar among religious conservatives who deemed the work pornographic, the book has been lauded by critics as one of the great photography publications of our time.

Florence Henri: Mirror of the Avant-Garde, 1927–40
Florence Henri’s work occupied a central place in the world of avant-garde photography in the late 1920s, and Florence Henri: Mirror of the Avant-Garde pays homage to her essential but under recognized contribution. She remains an inspiration for photographers, artists, and design enthusiasts alike. 

An-My Lê, Events Ashore
An-My Lê’s Events Ashore is an exploration of the American military, a pursuit both personal and civic. “This work is as much about my perspective and personal history as a political refugee from Vietnam as it is about the vast geopolitical forces and conflicts that shape these landscapes.” With this body of work, Lê has assembled a visual narrative of that constitutes the American military experience—and influence.

Penelope Umbrico, Range
In Range, Umbrico examines the analog history of photography within the digital torrent that is its current technological manifestation. It is the latest iteration of Umbrico’s larger project Moving Mountains, in which the artist rephotographs a selection of canonical masters’ photographs of mountains—the oldest and seemingly most stable of subjects—with a variety of the newest smartphone camera apps.

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