9 of the best new arts and photography books to inspire you creatively

While we couldn't live without our devices, there's nothing that can replace holding a physical book in our hands. It's the perfect way to get a fresh perspective and a shot of pure inspiration, whether it contains beautiful reproductions of stunning art or words of wisdom from ground-breaking creative thinkers.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

In this article, we've gathered together nine of the best new books on arts and photography books to add to your collection. If you're interested in buying them, please click the accompanying links for Bookshop.org, which is on a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores.

1. What Artists Wear by Charlie Porter

Fundamentally, we wear clothes to keep warm and hide our modesty. But in the right hands, they can become much more. Tools of expression, storytelling, resistance and creativity; canvases on which to show who we really are.

In this eye-opening book, style guru Charlie Porter takes us on an invigorating journey through the iconic outfits worn by artists, in the studio, on stage, at work, at home and at play. It's an intriguing idea and one that's brilliantly executed, making this a fascinating read not just for fashionistas but for anyone interested in creativity in its broadest terms.

From Yves Klein's spotless tailoring to the kaleidoscopic costumes of Yayoi Kusama and Cindy Sherman, from Andy Warhol's signature denim to Charlotte Prodger's casual wear, the author picks out the magical and revealing details, weaving together a new way of understanding artists and of dressing ourselves.

2. Taking a Long Look: Essays on Culture, Literature and Feminism in Our Time by Vivian Gornick

Want a deeper understanding of feminism? Then it's time to delve into the past and get a sense of context and perspective about how we got to where we are today.

This collection of work by feminist American critic Vivian Gornick, spread across almost 50 years, is a great place to start. In these classic essays, she explores the lives and literature of Alfred Kazin, Mary McCarthy, Diana Trilling, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Herman Melville, the cultural impact of Silent Spring and Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Going all the way back to her early essays from the Village Voice, championing the women's liberation movement of the 1970s, her words are still crackling with urgency and lucid with insight.

3. Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? by Linda Nochlin

Here's another feminist classic every creative should add to their reading list. This 1971 essay is widely considered to be the first real attempt at a feminist history of art.

Rather than directly tackling the title's question (which seems crazy now but was represents the standard perspective of the time), the author instead proceeds to dismantle it and expose the ignorance and prejudice that underpins it. With insight and startling wit, Nochlin lays bare the acceptance of a white male viewpoint in art historical thought as not merely a moral failure but an intellectual one.

This new anniversary edition includes the original essay plus a new reappraisal, 'Thirty Years After', reflecting on the emergence of a whole new canon. With reference to Joan Mitchell, Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman and others, this companion essay diagnoses the state of women and art with striking precision and verve.

4. Offline Matters by Jess Henderson

We all say we want to spend less time on social media and offline in general. But few of us ever actually succeed in doing so. Here's a great guide to actually achieving this worthwhile goal in practice.

Part insider exposé, part worker manual, this book is for any creative seeking help on navigating the possibility of offline alternatives. It addresses how to counter 'overwork culture', exploitation, and dulled-down ideas, and how to recover what you loved about your creative calling.

By the end of reading this book, you'll have a new perspective on the "dry digitality" that defines creative work today and a set of strategies for moving beyond it.

5. You Are An Artist by Bob and Roberta Smith

Lacking self-confidence because you never formally trained as an artist? Written by Patrick Brill, an artist and teacher known by his pseudonym Bob and Roberta Smith, his book will set you straight.

You Are An Artist is aimed at anyone who wants to be an artist but has been too afraid to take the plunge. And it combines a thought-provoking meditation on art practice with a series of practical exercises and creative provocations that encourage everyone to fulfil their potential.

Drawing on the author's experience as an art school teacher, it mixes the standard methods of art education with the sideways approach to creativity popularised by the author's activist campaigns. It's packed full of ideas, tips and practical examples, illustrated with documentary photographs of his own, specially made work.

6. The Whole Picture by Alice Procter

Everyone agrees the colonial history of art in museums and monuments in the public realm is an important issue. But reading a book about such a weighty subject might sound like a bit of a drag. Thankfully, it's nothing of the sort.

With wit, verve and a very readable writing style, Alice Procter – creator of the Uncomfortable Art Tours – provides a manual for deconstructing everything you thought you knew about art history and tells the stories that have been left out of the canon.

These are fascinating, enlightening and often shocking tales, from the propaganda painting the East India Company used to justify its rule in India to the tattooed Maori skulls collected as 'art objects' by Europeans. It's full of thought-provoking insights, as the author encourages us to look more critically at the accepted narratives that still pervade the art world today.

7. Make Time for Creativity by Brandon Stosuy

Never have time to work on the kind of creative projects you wish to pursue? Then maybe you should do something about it. And this book is a great place to start.

The first in a series of three guided journals dedicated to living a creative life, Making Time for Creativity, provides a series of writing prompts on the themes of defining work-life balance, creating daily rituals, setting intentions, meeting goals, and taking time off from creativity.

Working artists from all walks of life, including musicians, authors, filmmakers, dancers, designers, and visual artists, share their responses to these prompts. And it all adds up to an inspiring framework for reflecting on how you can use your own time meaningfully.

8. Basic Forms by Bernd and Hilla

Across a 40-year career, Bernd and Hilla Becher become famed for photographing unglamorous buildings in a unique style. Shooting mine shafts, blast furnaces, cooling towers, water towers, silos, and gas tanks, the artists' passion for their work imbues these images with beauty and solemnity.

While the subject matter is varied, the style is consistent, and that's no accident. Each photograph was taken early in the morning, on an overcast day, to eliminate shadow and distribute light evenly. Each image is centred and frontally framed, its parallel lines set on an even plane. And there are no human figures, nor birds in the sky.

The result is a treasury of precisely functional architectural forms, a series of "perfect sculptures of a bygone industrial age."

9. Fotoclubismo by Sarah Hermanson Meister

Accompanying a new exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art, this book explores a major chapter of photography's history that's largely unknown to European and North American audiences.

São Paulo's Foto-Cine Clube Bandeirante (FCCB) is widely heralded in Brazil but almost invisible to photography enthusiasts elsewhere. This publication assembles a selection of images that introduce its ground-breaking photographic experiments to a wider audience.

Six thematic chapters highlight individual achievements as well as the breadth of the club's membership, transforming the history of photography as we know it and connecting with contemporary Brazilian painting and São Paulo's then-newly-formed museums of modern art.


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