“Fashion is an expression of the times. Elegance is something else again.” – Horst P Horst
One of the medium’s most fascinating genres, fashion photography encompasses a variety of styles, though its essence is about conveying a story. Over the years, it has been responsible for some of the most iconic imagery in existence, captured by some of photography’s most renowned names, encapsulated in these 10 fashion photo books, which we believe capture its unique, fascinating allure.
1. Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography
Perhaps the most iconic photo book on the subject ever published, A Different Vision on Fashion Photography collates four decades of compelling work from a pioneering fashion photographer, Peter Lindbergh. Few practitioners have shaped the genre in the manner of the German, renowned for his iconic, naturalistic portraiture, that permeates with cinematic intensity. Featuring over three hundred images, (many previously unseen), from his iconic ‘white shirt’ group portrait (captured in Malibu in 1988) through to his most recent creations, this retrospective pays tribute to the gaze of one of photography’s living masters, whose extraordinary oeuvre laid the pathway for the generations who succeeded him.
– A Different Vision on Fashion Photography is published by Taschen
2. Vogue: The Covers
This landmark book chronicles over a century of iconic covers from US Vogue. Encompassing over 300 images, captured by the most renowned figures in fashion photography accompanied by the stories behind them, as well as the history of the publication it is an absorbing tribute to the illustrious history and enduring influence of fashion’s most influential publication.
– Vogue: The Covers is published by Abrams & Chronicle
3. Avedon Fashion (1944-2000)
Few if any photographers have shaped the visual language of fashion in the manner of Richard Avedon, a master, and visionary whose impact on the genre was truly immense. Originally published in 2009 to accompany a landmark exhibition at the International Centre of Photography, Avedon Fashion 1944-2000, encompasses the full breadth of the American photographer’s illustrious fashion career, from his pioneering early work for Harper’s Bazaar through his creative contributions to Vogue, and The New Yorker, among others. It demonstrates his unique, creative style, which remains as captivating and influential today as in his heyday.
– Avedon Fashion (1944-2000) is published by Abrams
4. Annie Leibovitz at work
Featuring 360 captivating images, a number of which were previously unpublished, and a diversity of subjects, along with a foreword by Anna Wintour, Annie Leibovitz At Work, explores the extraordinary practice of a visionary photographer responsible for some of the most engaging and iconic portraits of the last five decades. Though she has photographed across a variety of styles, fashion photography has always been a key part of her oeuvre, and this excellent book presents the stunning images she captured for Vogue over the course which, by her own admission, helped shape the distinct style for which is renowned: ‘fueled the fire for a kind of photography that I might not otherwise have explored.’
– Annie Leibovitz at work is published by Phaidon
5. Horst: Photographer of Style
Vogue’s influential editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and Susanna Brown Curator of Photographs at London’s V&A, present the captivating work of German-American fashion photographer Horst P Horst.
A key figure within early the evolution of fashion photography, Horst was a remarkably innovative practitioner whose striking and often surreal images permeate with palpable eroticism and display a masterful understanding of light and form. A celebration of his remarkable career, Horst: Photographer of Style, extols the unique artistry for which he is renowned, presenting the images he captured for Vogue throughout his career, alongside, amongst others, his intriguing nude studies, and absorbing still life.
– Horst: Photographer of Style is published by Rizzoli
6. Irving Penn: A Career In Photography
“Penn changed the way we saw the world and our perception of what is beautiful.” – Anna Wintour
Published in 1997 to coincide with a landmark retrospective at The Art Institute of Chicago, Irving Penn: A Career In Photography features some of the most compelling portraits that the iconic photographer captured for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar during the 20th century, alongside portraits of artists and writers, and those he captured on his travels in a makeshift studio, as well as his ever captivating still lifes. Each is rendered with the unique artistry and perceptivity, that defined his practice, and which helped redefine the genre of fashion photography thenceforth.
-Irving Penn: A Career in Photography is published by Bullfinch
7. Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography
This landmark book, first published in 2018 by Getty, narrates a century of fashion photography, from Edward Steichen’s modernist imagery in the early 20th century to Avedon’s expressive, and forthright portraiture, the cinematic voyeurism of Helmut Newton, through to current trends and styles. Featuring more than three hundred photographs from the genre’s most iconic names as well as lesser-known practitioners, alongside illustrations, magazine covers, advertisements and costumes, by some of the medium’s leading experts, it’s a truly comprehensive chronicle of the genre, that is a must for the collection of any fashion photography enthusiast.
– Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography is published by Getty
8. Helmut Newton, Legacy
This outstanding monograph, published by TASCHEN, celebrates the seismic legacy of German-Australian photographer Helmut Newton, renowned for his cinematic portraiture that helped inspire generations of notable practitioners. Inspired by film noir, Expressionist cinema, S & M, and surrealism, and often captured in the opulent surrounds of mansions, or upscale hotels, rather than in studios, his work is voyeuristic, inflected with eroticism and at times, controversial, though always absorbing, permeating with a sense of foreboding, that stirs, intrigues, and provokes the imagination.
– Helmut Newton, Legacy is published by TASCHEN
9. Dior Couture
The 2011 monograph is a celebration of one of fashion’s most iconic houses, known for their dramatic dresses that redefined luxury style in the decades following the second world war. Featuring one hundred dresses from the entirety of Dior Haute Coutoure, expertly photographed by Patrick Demarchelier, the French photographer who left an impact on the world of fashion photography, and whose trademark visual parlance accentuates the wonderful elegance of Dior’s creations.
– Dior Couture is published by Rizzoli
10. Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography
This 2019 bestseller celebrates the life and career of iconic New York City street photographer Bill Cunningham, who spent almost five decades traversing the streets of his home city (usually on his bicycle) capturing its most stylish denizens, with warmth, veracity and skill. Spanning the full length of his career, from the early 70s until his death in 2016, it is a fitting testament to this remarkable character who captured the unique spirit of New York City throughout the decades.
– Bill Cunningham: On the Street: Five Decades of Iconic Photography is published by Penguin Random House
Choosing the best 10 fashion photobooks is a difficult task and it should be noted that the list we’ve compiled is subjective, and by no means exhaustive. However, collectively the 10 books we’ve selected encompass some of the most important examples of fashion photography in existence, and we believe, showcase the genre at its very best.
All images © their respective owners