Show of hands: Who’s tired of Instagram?
Nowadays it’s all too easy to feel blasé about the state of digital culture.
But what if we told you there was a meaningful way to show your appreciation for discerning photography, while also displaying your taste and respect for printed matter?
It’s called Charcoal Book Club, and it’s the world’s first photobook of the month club, launching next month. It comes via the crew behind Collective Quarterly, the indie travel magazine with roots in Chicago.
The first thing to know: these books are not your typical Barnes & Noble finds. Hell, you won't even find the majority of 'em on Amazon.
“The photobooks that we handpick and send to our members are sourced from the most respected photographers and publishers in the industry,” says co-founder Jesse Lenz (who you'll also find listed under the dictionary entry for aptronym). “These are highly unique, contemplative and creative photographic works of art that not only inform and inspire, but also appreciate in value.”
All in, we’re talking over 200 of the world’s leading photobook experts, from well-known publishers like Aperture and Mack to lesser-known publishing houses like Steidl and Twin Palms.
And if what they say is true about how a man’s bookcase will tell you everything you need know about him, then Charcoal Book Club is a requirement. It should be noted that if you're not willing to commit to a monthly subscription, Charcoal will be launching a highly curated webstore soon enough. Which is to say: better bookmark 'em.
Keen on stocking our shelves, we spoke to Lenz for a run-down on five high-brow photobooks that any man would be proud to display in his home.
For the Budding Architect: New Topographics
"These stunningly mundane images create an interesting dialogue between the world we create for ourselves and the world we inhabit. Focusing on the 1960s suburban expansion of the "American dream" and the exploitation and destruction of natural resources, New Topographics signaled the emergence of a new approach to landscape: The Man-Altered Landscape."
For the Exhibitionist: Intimate Distance by Todd Hido
"Todd Hido’s photographs capture the profound in the mundane. His works are, in some way, a blank canvas for viewers to paint with their own emotion and history. 'I learned early on that ambiguity was one of art’s best tools.’ Hido says. 'Take an image of a suburban street, some people see the most fucked up place they’ve ever been, while others go back to their wonderful childhoods.'"
For the Rebel: A Period of Juvenile Prosperity by Mike Brodie
"Brodie spent years crisscrossing the U.S. by any means that were free — walking, hitchhiking and train hopping. He perfectly balances the gritty reality of this subculture with an incredible eye for beauty in the unexpected. It gives you hope and sorrow, love and hate, beauty and ugliness all at the same time."
For the Social Do-Gooder: Gypsies by Josef Koudelka
"This book made me fall in love with photobooks. Gyspy (Roma) culture has been so heavily romanticized and appropriated in society today, that we forget the alienation and discrimination these stateless exiles face. As a true Magnum photographer, Koudelka shows us the humanity of the Roma people without any filters or preconceived notions."
For the Sentimentalist: Aila by Rinko Kawauchi
"Kawauchi has a way of connecting seemingly unrelated, portraits of everyday situations into an incredible stream of consciousness that makes you feel like a child, a parent, and a grandparent all at the same time. Demanding that we slow down and appreciate the small things, 'I prefer listening to the small voices in our world, those which whisper.' Kawauchi explains. 'I have a feeling I am always being saved by these whispers, my eyes naturally focus on small things.'"
Nota bene: To make sure you've got a well-appointed bookhself, Charcoal Book Club is offering 15% off any subscription exclusive to InsideHook readers. Just enter INSIDEHOOK17 at checkout.
Main Photo: Todd Hido/Intimate Distance