Coronavirus, the new dirty word. So dirty that people stopped drinking Corona Beer even though it had no affiliation to the virus, other than the bloat you experienced after drinking a bottle.
The Coronavirus is actually a blanket term for a family of viruses such as SARS-CoV and Covid-19 is the actual name of the virus we are all hiding from at the moment.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.– The World Health Organization
Now, while politicians fight over who’s hoax it is, and people fight over hand sanitizer, most Americans are biding their time at home anxiously awaiting the news when professionals have discovered what the nature of this virus really is, and we are called to come back out of our caves. But until we can walk out our front doors shielding our sun weary eyes from the light of day, most of us are bored. I know in the film community we are all itching to get back out and about, taking photos again.
I am no stranger to quarantine. Living with an autoimmune disease, such as Crohn’s Disease, there have been many times when I’ve had to stay away from people to preserve my health. I have been criticized much for it, even shunned by people who just don’t understand. But if nothing comes from this time of solitude and inner reflection, I hope at least people of the world, and particularly Americans, will at least realize they’re getting a small taste of what people dealing with chronic illness deal with everyday of their lives: fear of contamination from others because our immune systems are weakened by disease and medications; isolation because we have no energy to leave our beds and most people don’t understand so they just stay away, and of course, anxiety over the uncertainty of what our futures are going to bring.
In this uncertain and anxious time in our world right now, a time that will surely be in the history books in the future, we as film photographers and storytellers almost have an obligation to record what is going on around us. So I have decided to put together a list of 5 photo books that will, hopefully, help you to get motivated and recording the world around you, if not at the least entertain you for a few hours.
First you’re going to need some film. You most likely already have a fridge full if you’re like me, but if not, why not buy some film from Kosmofoto or Shot on Film Store? I bought some from Shot on Film and with the code FREESHIP on an order of +$29, shipping was free and quick. These small businesses are going to be hit hard from this whole thing, so we should support them when we can.
So now you have no excuse not to shoot some film. While you’re at it, during your quarantine and beyond why not consider binge watching some of my videos on my YouTube channel? It makes for some nice entertainment and maybe you’ll learn a little something.
Now on to the list
- The first book on my recommended photobook list is
Stephen Shore – Uncommon Places The Complete Works.
I got this book online from the Museum of Modern Art. You can get it a little cheaper from amazon or buy smaller series books of his work, but this one I liked because it includes his complete series.
The reason I recommend this book is because while looking at Stephen’s work you relate to the everyday scenes his photos depict, but at the same time they come from a world that doesn’t exist anymore.
For us as photographers, we have the opportunity to photograph our lives around us, and though it may not seem significant today, ten years from now everyday life will not look the way we remembered it today. Take pictures of your breakfast table, the walls in your house, taking note of the wallpaper or paint. Take pictures of the items in the trunk of your car. One day you will look back at these and realize how fleeting life is and you’ll be glad you stopped time just for that moment.
- Fred Herzog – Modern Color
Herzog recorded Vancouver after moving there from Europe. He especially liked to photograph advertising and second hand stores. I chose his work for this list to inspire you to record your town, and for right now while you’re in quarantine, to record your neighborhood.
- Vivian Maier – Self Portraits
I am a big fan of Maier. I love all of her work. I chose this specific book of her work because one of the easiest things you can do while stuck inside, is practice taking self portraits. To some it may seem a little self centered but in my opinion some of my favorite pictures in a photographers work is their self portraits. There is a drama involved in it.
I love this one of Fred Herzog. Its probably my favorite self portrait:
- Linda McCartney – The Polaroid Diaries
Pretty much everyone has a polaroid camera laying around their house, or even the more modern Fujifilm cameras. This book I think can serve as an inspiration to take photos of your family and pets. Be goofy, and just record good times with the ones you love because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
Paul McCartney’s wife Linda used an SX-70 to record her family and the towns she lived in. One of the benefits of these cameras is you can get your pictures almost instantly instead of having to mail them out or developing them yourself. Film packs can be purchased on Polaroid Originals, amazon, or anywhere film is sold.
- Jessica Lange – Highway 61
Jessica Lange is mostly known for her long acting career. You may have seen her recently in American Horror Story, or you may remember her from the movie Tootsie and many more.
A little known fact is that she also loves photography. She has a Leica and she has said she doesn’t use any kind of flash. She likes to observe like a fly on the wall.
This book was a series she did driving up Highway 61 where she grew up, and photographing America along the way. I chose this book because again I want to encourage you to record your neighborhoods. Especially if you live in a rural area where you won’t have to come into contact with any other people right now during the quarantine.
I hope you will find some inspiration in one or all of these books to stay motivated and keep shooting.
Let me know in the comments below what you’ve been shooting during this time. Leave me a link to your work. Id love to see it.
Stay safe and wash your hands.
Buy Me a Roll of Film
If you'd like to help me keep going with these reviews, donate below. Any amount is a great help.
9 thoughts on “5 Photobooks for the Quarantine Life”
Great recommendations! I don’t actually own any of these books, but I do love their work, with Lange and Herzog being particular favourites. I also wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts on the importance of recording the passage of time. It’s something I’ve been trying to do, but too often we dismiss something as ordinary, precisely because it is familiar, only to realise – too late – how rare and extraordinary it was.
Since you asked what others are working on, I recently did a collaborative project with photographers from around the world who work with alternative processes. Each of us created a handmade “lumen print” (an alternative process which involves printing with sunlight). The idea was to explore themes of self-isolation and home-boundedness – both through the subject-matter of the prints, and through the materials themselves (the prints were made using objects and light found in or around the home). If you’re interested you can check out the prints on 35mmc 🙂
Thank you for sharing. What a great idea for a collaboration. I will go check out that article
Linda Mc Cartney’s “The Polaroid Diaries” evokes nostalgic memories of those crisp warm Polaroid pictures. I have a stack of those stored in a box. It’s a good idea to make a photo book out of those pictures..it will make a great keepsake family gift.
I always think of my neighbourhood and surroundings as being boring, but maybe I just need to spend a bit more time looking. I have film coming in the mail so maybe I’ll spend a morning photographing things around me.
Yes and while it may seem boring to you always remember most of us don’t live where you do, so it may look a lot different than what we are used to.
Great suggestions there. I have a good stock of photo books next to the sofa ready to go, and it will be spring here soon. I was able to order 100’ of film and some fixer before the funds ran out, and luckily we live on a fairly photogenic street. Best of luck.
Great! I’d love to see what you come up with.