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Curated selection: Edward Burtynsky's top photography books

Posted on 10 May 2023

For Photo London 2023, acclaimed photographer Edward Burtynsky selects his top picks from our photography list, including an 'incandescent' monograph and a celebration of Harry Gruyaert.

© Birgit Kleber, 2012.

1. Tamara Dean

What Tamara Dean has produced is a gorgeous suite of poetically conceived, sumptuous and haunting images most of which bear lengthy viewing. There is no triviality, no derivation; all shine with originality, and the quiet affirmation of the preciousness of human life. Her attention to the nuances of light, form and detail has all the hallmarks of a contemporary master.

The book’s design is also uniquely creative in the way the images unfold for the reader. It is a joy to see this work and how it is presented. Now I only wish to see the actual prints!

Congratulations to Tamara Dean and to Thames & Hudson for helping her realize this incandescent project.

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2. Sebastião Salgado (Photofile)

With a perceptive foreword by Christian Caujolle, this book in Thames & Hudson’s Photofile series gathers a broad selection of iconic images by Sebastião Salgado which depict the deeply austere beauty of fragile ecologies and humanity as they persist, with grace, while poised on the edge of disappearance. Aside from his technical mastery of the photographic medium, both in seeing and printing, Salgado strikes me as a visual anthropologist of the highest order. The arc of his 50-year career in the field is a solid testament to the photographer’s commitment.

The book’s design is uniquely conceived, as both vertical and horizontal formats are used. This has the unexpected effect on the reader’s experience by necessitating a physical engagement with the book-as-object, thereby slowing down the process of viewing and absorbing the often riveting content.

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3. Harry Gruyaert: Between Worlds

Thames & Hudson’s recent (2022) publication of works by the Belgian Magnum photographer Harry Gruyaert offers a visually engrossing survey true to its title. Between Worlds takes us on an often kaleidoscopic, peripatetic journey through liminal space. In the photographer’s keen observations we are offered complex glimpses into realms of our everyday layered and fragmented world – slices that we mostly overlook in all the busyness of moving from one place to another. Through Gruyaert’s selective eye and camera we are offered privileged access, allowed to rest between observed and subjective experiences; between the solid and reflected, between reality and illusion, light and shadow, figure and ground – all at once.

To heighten the pleasure of seeing these photographs, Gruyaert’s keen sense of colour, his sensitivity to quality of light, and strong formal compositions often coalesce, verging on the purely abstract. I found myself staring into many of the images for long stretches, wilfully taking the time to gaze ever deeper, and allowing my mind to wander through a myriad of details, shapes and colours, as if in a daydream.

The book is punctuated with an engaging, intelligent essay by David Campany.

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From Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky: Essential Elements

William A. Ewing Out of stock

Edward Burtynsky: Essential Elements (Deluxe Edition)

A slipcased edition of 50 copies with a signed print William A. Ewing