Leatherette, prosthetic breasts, and fashion world It Boys: we take a look through some of this season’s most extraordinary photo books...
STEVEN KLEIN, STEVEN KLEIN
“Steven is the only photographer I know who can turn a child’s inflatable pool into a sexual predator,” Vogue editor Phyllis Posnick once said of Steven Klein. As one of the world’s foremost photographers, Klein’s seductive and meticulous images are perpetually undercut by a subversive component, whether it be a mere suggestion of a disturbance or a more explicitly eerie element.
In this, his first-ever monograph [Phaidon], Klein’s work unfolds like a series of stills from the most compelling and stylish movie you would ever wish to be made. Sexually charged and with more than a hint of violence, fetishism and felony, his work features stars such as Madonna, Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West in uncanny and unexpected guises. This desirable photo book is bound in white leatherette and includes an introductory essay by art writer Mark Holborn, who warns, “To open this book is to enter criminal territory. Here, the police are busy. Transgression, too, has its allure.”
Steven Klein is published by Phaidon and is available now
CN: THE CHRISTOPHER NIQUET BOOK
Japanese icon books are based on the pure and unambiguous idea of books or zines dedicated to pictures of the creator’s object of love, be they mainstream icons or more cultish, obscure figures. They’re artefacts of adoration, fascinating for the light they shed on the particular species of fandom they illuminate, as much as for what they reveal about their subjects.
CN The Christopher Niquet Book (IDEA) pays tribute to the “peerless aesthetic and precise eye” of Paris and New York fashion and style icon, It Boy, and editor-in-chief of Study magazine, Christopher Niquet. “It is, in fact, an icon book, very much in the style of Japanese fan books we love so much at IDEA,” explains a statement in the book’s press release. “Take someone with innate cool and make a beautiful book of nothing but pictures of them.”
The book is comprised of photographs from Niquet’s own archive. Having moved through the upper echelons of the fashion world, his snapshots are suitably extraordinary. Expect to pour over compelling pictures of CN by the likes of Steven Meisel, Karl Lagerfeld, Ellen von Unwerth, and many more.
CN The Christopher Niquet Book is published by IDEA and available now
JOHNY PITTS, HOME IS NOT A PLACE
Johny Pitts spent a year tracing the coastline of the UK in a Mini Cooper, documenting manifestations of Black Britain. Along with poet Roger Robinson, the pair traced a path around the edge of the country, excavating the many buried histories and encountering present-day stories that explicate many varied ideas relating to home, identity, community, and memory.
Home Is Not A Place [Harper Collins] gathers together Pitts’ striking, poignant images with Robinson’s evocative verses and, together, they created a vast tapestry of meaning and storytelling as individual narratives and vignettes emerge from the expansive and complex portrait of Britain encapsulated within.
In a recent conversation with Dazed, the Sheffield-born artist explained: ‘Britain is such a strange, amorphous thing. And the notion of Blackness is really quite an abstract concept, and trying to apply that to a landscape is tricky. I knew we couldn’t be definitive because that’s just an impossible task, but we could try and tell an interesting story that has maybe been left out of British consciousness and even, in some ways, Black consciousness.”
Home is Not a Place by Johny Pitts and Roger Robinson is published by Harper Collins. The exhibition by Johny Pitts [commissioned by Photoworks for the inaugural Ampersand/Photoworks Fellowship] will be exhibited at Graves Gallery, Sheffield Museums, from August 11 until December 24, 2022 and Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, March 9 until June 10, 2023
HARLEY WEIR, BEAUTY PAPERS
Photographer Harley Weir has worked with some of the biggest names you could care to imagine, shooting high-profile campaigns for the most revered figures in fashion. Take for example her recent shoot for Marc Jacobs’ AW22 Heaven collection featuring Pamela Anderson, Doja Cat, Kyle MacLachlan.
Yet she’s rarely stepped in front of the camera publicly and, despite having had an Instagram account for almost a decade, she has never posted a single selfie – until recently.
Weir’s new photo book Harley Weir Beauty Papers is an exploration of beauty and artifice, dedicated to “all the dolls in the world” and featuring a series of self-portraits in which she plays with the trappings and mores of beauty standards. Sensual and grotesque, the pictures feature the artist peering out from behind a slightly askew and uncannily realistic rubber mask, contorted in impossible positions, adorned with prosthetic breasts and buttocks, and hanging upside down with a sex doll, both suspended with shabari ropes in a position which she recently told Dazed made her eye “actually burst, and then I vomited.”
The images veer between obscenely lush and carnivalesque, erotic and comical. “It’s very confusing because at once I don’t agree with the over-sexualisation, the over-beautification, the artificial elements of current-day beauty, but I still follow that trend in a way. If you go on social media a lot, it’s very hard to move away from those wants and desires,” she told Dazed. “Everyone wants to be desired, so it’s a difficult one: you don’t want to be a part of something that you think is not quite right, yet you don’t want to get left behind. Especially working in the fashion industry, you’re inundated with images of beautiful people all the time. It’s a catch-22.”
ANGELA HILL, SYLVIA
“Angela Hill may not dress like a punk, but to me, she takes photos like one,” explains Nadia Lee Cohen in the introduction to Hill’s latest photo book, Sylvia [IDEA]. “Her team is non-existent, no make-up, lighting, styling, devoid of the usual paraphernalia. Angela just shows up with her camera, probably wearing a cap, jeans and maybe something from Hermès slung over her shoulder. Perhaps even an abundance of loose film and teabags in a plastic Waitrose bag (that part may or may not be true). Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Angela Hill isn’t really a pre-planner, and to me, this is a magical fairy-like quality of which I am forever envious.”
Sylvia is a magical collection of photographs tracing the transition from girlhood to the precipice of adulthood. While the pictures were shot as fashion editorials for EXIT, Purple, and Dazed the late 90s and early 00s, fashion is “far from the first thought when looking at the book.” We meet Sylvia aged 11 and follow her, through the pages, until she reaches 18. “The result is photo-documentary,” a statement from IDEA explains, “A worldview of one person.”
“When I first met Sylvia, she was talking about playing Pooh sticks with her mother,” says Hill. “When she arrived for the final photographs in this series, she was a cool college girl with a severe buzz cut and multiple piercings. One begins the teenage decade as a child and ends it as a woman, able to bear a child.”
Sylvia by Angela Hill is published by IDEA and available from October 2023