There have been some extraordinary photography books released this year. Here’s just a small selection of the most interesting and engaging titles from 2015

Expanding-UniverseExpanding Universe: Photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope

by Charles F Bolden Jr, Owen Edwards, John Mace Grunsfeld and Zoltan Levay, Taschen, £44.99, hardcover, 260 pages, ISBN 978-3-83654-922-6

There are numerous images that can make us question our place within society and the world. This is perhaps the key purpose of reportage and documentary; those twin genres can offer viewers a sense of empathy that helps us to connect with one another and assist us in witnessing events and people whom we may not otherwise encounter. It takes a special collection of images to give us some sense of place within the universe, and that’s what we find with Expanding Universe. The images collected within this book all come from the Hubble Space Telescope, a feat of engineering that has not only helped astronomers get a better picture of the building blocks of the cosmos, but has also offered us a humbling account of just how small our place within the universe is. Expanding Universe is a gorgeous volume. Each image is, in the original sense of the word, awesome. There are not many books that can be said to leave you breathless, but this is certainly one of them.

Lois-GreenfieldLois Greenfield: Moving Still

by William A Ewing, Thames & Hudson, £39.95, hardcover, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-50051-805-2

You may be unfamiliar with Lois Greenfield’s work. If so, you’re in luck, not just because of the publication of this first new monograph in 17 years, but also because you are about to discover one of the most fascinating bodies of work around today. Greenfield has been shooting for 40 years and her career has found her being lauded as the pre-eminent photographer of contemporary dance. Greenfield’s images are notable for the sheer beauty of their execution. Each frame exudes elegance and passion. The forms of the dancers are perfectly captured as they spring mid-air against minimalist backdrops. There are very few photographers who could make this process look so effortless, yet Greenfield pulls it all together like a master.

Blue-Ice_coverBlue Ice

by Alex Bernasconi, Papadakis, £30, hardcover, 204 pages, ISBN 978-1-90650-658-2

Just outside our own planet we’re beginning to see that Mars, as well as a host of other planets, carry qualities that are rather similar to our own home world. The presence of water is a thrilling development in our quest to understand our galaxy, but that’s not to say that our own planet isn’t still capable of presenting us with seemingly alien environments. The Antarctic region is a vista that is at once sublime and hostile. It takes a special photographer to be able to convey these qualities in one, and Alex Bernasconi has achieved this with a series of beautiful images. There’s a quality that draws you in, hypnotises you and makes you feel the cold on your skin. It’s an extraordinary collection of pictures and one of the best on its subject.

Harry-GruyaertHarry Gruyaert

Thames & Hudson, £40, hardcover, 144 pages, ISBN 978-0-50054-448-8

This thorough volume is actually the first-ever English-language monograph of Harry Gruyaert’s work and it is a more than generous introduction. Harry’s busy eye has travelled the length and breadth of the world, and the photographer has taken great pleasure in drawing out the striking interplays of primary colour and gorgeous light. There are some absolute gems contained within this book as Harry takes us on a colourful tour of the world, including India, Morocco and Egypt. The book opens with Gruyaert’s eerie 1972 series ‘TV Shots’ and ends with his recent digital imagery. This is a body of work that shows how some artists never lose their touch.

SongbookSongbook

by Alec Soth, Mack Books, £40, hardcover, 144 pages, ISBN 978-1-91016-402-0

American photographer Alec Soth is known – to quote The Guardian – for his ‘offbeat, hauntingly banal images of modern America’. It’s a perfect description. In Songbook, Soth adopts the role of community newspaper reporter. For two years, he travelled the US state by state while working on his self-published newspaper, The LDM Dispatch, as well as on assignment for The New York Times, among others. His journey took him to a variety of communities gathering at dances, meetings and festivals, all of which are populated by individuals who seem to be longing for a human connection. Soth’s perfectly exposed and printed black & white images are breathtaking. They are eerie, beautiful and affecting.

Walker-EvansWalker Evans: Depth of Field

Prestel, £55, hardcover, 408 pages, ISBN 978-3-79138-223-4

In the pantheon of great American photographers, it’s perhaps Walker Evans who stands taller than most. His influence across the world of photography can be seen to this day. Evans’ ability to draw the extraordinary from the quotidian has been near unequalled in all the years since his death. This stunning volume from Prestel does ample justice to the legend’s work, and succeeds not just because of its reproduction of his more famous works, but because it takes the time to explore those images that have perhaps been overshadowed, such as his those taken in Florida’s Gulf Coast. This is a vital volume for anyone serious about the history of photography.