The Ten Best Photography Books of 2017

These eye-opening works invite us to find ourselves in history and nature


Invented nearly 200 years ago, photography has endured as an essential artistic medium largely because of its singular capacity to capture and preserve the ephemeral. It is what allows us to hold onto a knowing glance between friends, a tree caught in a gust of wind, or a tear in the eye of a stoic. Photography gives us the means to instantaneously take some infinitesimal aspect of existence and render it immortal. Seeing our lives stilled in photographs, we cannot help but contemplate our small place in a vast and ever-changing world, and the legacy we will one day leave behind.

Tackling subjects ranging from the Civil Rights Movement to the Obama White House, Vietnam to Guantánamo Bay, the hidden wonders of insects to the plastics polluting our oceans, these ten books force us to come face to face with the relatable, the uncomfortable, and the inspiring—sometimes all at once. They invite us not merely to consider images on a page, but to consider our own situation in the nuanced worlds they depict.

About Ryan P. Smith
Ryan P. Smith

Ryan graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Science, Technology & Society and now writes for both Smithsonian Magazine and the World Bank's Connect4Climate division. He is also a published crossword constructor and a voracious consumer of movies and video games.

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