Our Favorite Photobooks of 2021
Find out which books made MoMA’s inaugural list.
Nov 1, 2021
At MoMA, we believe in the essential role of the photobook. The first book illustrated by a photographic process, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins, was published in 1843, at the dawn of the medium. Although the 20th century was marked by major publications that contributed to the recognition of photography as an art form, our current century brings the photobook into a whole new light. Since 2000, the number of photobook publishers has multiplied by five, and the genre itself has achieved a new level of inventiveness, experimentation, awareness, quality, and sophistication. It is not uncommon to meet young photographers who are more preoccupied with publishing their first book than having an exhibition. In short, the photobook has never been so essential as an element of photographic creativity.
MoMA has played a vital role in this development. Published in 1938, Walker Evans: American Photographs accompanied the first monographic exhibition dedicated to a photographer at the Museum, marking the beginning of a rich book publishing program. Today, MoMA continues to actively support the photobook phenomenon. Alongside prints, paintings, and sculptures, a collection of photographic books are currently visible in the collection galleries of the Museum. Our Library pursues an intensive and carefully curated program of acquisition and preservation of publications, which are available to the public.
Together, we are launching a new yearly celebration of the photobook. The list below comprises our 10 favorite photobooks of 2021, dating between July 2020 and August 2021. These books are now part of our Library collection, and are also available for anyone to purchase in the Design Store. Here, we’ve invited our colleagues across the Photography and Archives, Library, and Research Collections departments to contribute short descriptions of these standout titles.
And join us at the Forum on Contemporary Photography on December 8, 1:30–3:30 p.m. ET, for The Photobook Phenomenon, 1999–2021.
–Clément Chéroux, Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, and Michelle Elligott, Chief of Archives, Library, and Research Collections
Selected by Clément Chéroux
• Stefen Chow, Huiyi Lin, The Poverty Line (Lars Müller Publishers, 2021)
• Bieke Depoorter, Agata (Des Palais, 2021)
• Rahim Fortune, I Can’t Stand to See You Cry (Loose Joints, 2021)
• Samuel Fosso, SIXSIXSIX (The Walther Collection, Steidl, 2020)
• LaToya Ruby Frazier, The Last Cruze (The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 2020)
• Seiichi Furuya, Christine Gössler, Face to Face (Chose Commune, 2020)
• Tarrah Krajnak, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (Dais Book, 2021)
• Diana Markosian, Santa Barbara (Aperture, 2020)
• Pacifico Silano, I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine (Loose Joints, 2021)
• Taryn Simon, The Color of a Flea’s Eye, The Picture Collection (Cahiers d’Art, 2020)
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