The photobook is a book of photographs by a photographer that has an overarching theme or follows a storyline – a convenient and reasonably cheap way of disseminating the work of a photographer to a mass audience

Introduction to photobooks

August Sander, ‘Village Schoolteacher’ 1921, printed 1990
August Sander
Village Schoolteacher 1921, printed 1990
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d'Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur - August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2018.
Edward Ruscha Pool #6 1968

Edward Ruscha
Pool #6 1968
Photograph, colour on paper
View the main page for this artwork

Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Artist Rooms Foundation 2011

Nan Goldin, ‘Greer and Robert on the bed, NYC’ 1982
Nan Goldin
Greer and Robert on the bed, NYC 1982
© Nan Goldin

Early photobooks were used to illustrate the work of individual photographers or a new type of photographic process. William Henry Fox Talbot published a photobook in 1844 called The Pencil of Nature in order to promote his calotype photographic process.

Over the years, photobooks have helped to establish the idea that a sequence of images represents a narrative in its own right. The German photographer August Sander published Face of Our Time, in 1929, part of his life-long project to create a comprehensive photographic index of the German population.

Today photobooks are crucial for financing and circulating modern photography enabling enthusiasts access to a wide range of photographers from across the world.

Photographers on photobooks

Nick Waplington created a photobook to capture the creative journey of McQueen’s final Autumn/Winter collection, Horn of Plenty in 2009.

In the video below, Waplington remembers working with the innovative fashion designer and shows the original mock up for the photobook.

We didn’t want it to be like any other photobook that we’d seen before, and the intervention pictures that cut up the action in the photographs would also reflect how we saw society at the time.
Nick Waplington 

Dirty, messy… and McQueen
Nick Waplington explains how the photobook came about.

TateShots: Daido Moriyama
Watch a recreation of Daido Moriyama’s 1974 performance Printing Room, where participants create their own limited-edition photobook by sequencing Moriyama’s images in whatever order they chose. 

In this TateShots interview, Goldin introduces her latest book, Eden and After; a collection of portraits she has taken of children which provides an intimate investigation into the narrative of childhood. 

TateShots: Ed Ruscha’s photography books
In this video artist Ed Ruscha talks about the cultural curiosities which fill his photography book series. 

Points of memory: Kikuji Kawada
Japanese photographer Kikuji Kawada discusses his photo book The Map and the works he made which led to its creation.

The photobook in detail

Listen to this panel discussion which brings together influential publishers and photographers who are pushing the boundaries of the photobook and its relationship to photographic practice.

The Photobook: A History
Watch this lecture on the history of Photobooks and the reason for the increase in self-publishing platforms. 

Face-Off in Weimar Culture
This research article looks at August Sander’s 1929 photobook Face of Our Time, a series of photographic albums depicting German people published during the last years of the Weimar Republic.

Related glossary terms

Photography, conceptual photography, documentary photography,

See also


The Photobook: A History

Martin Parr, Gerry Badger and Hannah Watson in conversation with Simon Baker

Street or Studio: A Photobook

Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography at Tate Modern 22 May – 31 September 2008 Your Photos book project