During the winter, most of us have carved out time to enjoy life a bit more slowly, spend relaxing hours with friends and family, and perhaps delve into a book. Some of us also get cabin fever and long for an escape to another clime, another place entirely. Maybe we know we need to make the new year the year we go, or perhaps we're feeling uninspired by everyday life.
The books that follow will hopefully stir your desire to travel, to explore, to get out there—whether "there" is close to home or unimaginably far away. They are all photo books, some recent and some not, designed to be studied and flipped through and perhaps shared with others. They might help you find a new place to visit, or see a familiar place in a new way.
We hope that you'll check out some of these books, either at the library or at your favorite bookstore, and we hope that you will share your own favorite books—photo books or otherwise—that inspire wanderlust for you.
The Oldest Living Things in the World by Rachel Sussman
University Of Chicago Press (2014)
This is a book ten years in the making. After conducting research and consulting with biologists, artist Rachel Sussman traveled to every continent in the world to photograph living organisms that are 2,000 years old or older—some of which have survived millennia in the harshest of conditions but which are now threatened or the last of their kind. Her portrait-like photos and the engaging essays she’s written to accompany them celebrate the past and demonstrate what we stand to lose in the future. This book is perfect for those who would like to see images of famous yet remote places such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the Australian outback, or have ever wanted to know what a 44,000 year old shrub looks like.
Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature by Andy Goldsworthy
Harry N. Abrams (1990)
Andy Goldsworthy is a sculptor who uses raw materials given to him by nature to create large-scale outdoor sculptural pieces that are as ephemeral as they are beautiful. Made of leaves, bark, rocks, and even ice and snow, his work temporarily interrupts a natural setting and then lets it return to its former state. The photos in this book capture the fragile purity of his art and remind us to take a moment, whether on our next forest hike or a stroll through the park, to appreciate the innate and fleeting beauty of a landscape.
Travels to the Edge: A Photo Odyssey by Art Wolfe; edited by Kathleen Cubley
Mountaineers Books (2009)
Earth Is My Witness: The Photography of Art Wolfe by Art Wolfe; introduction by Wade Davis
Earth Aware Editions (2014)
A native of Seattle, Art Wolfe is well-known as a photographer and conservationist, but his landscape and wildlife photography is so rich with color and explosive with life that not one, but two of his books warrant mention. Travels to the Edge (2009) contains 100 of Wolfe’s favorite images from the series of photos he took while traveling the globe for PBS. The images are perfect representations of tundra, mountaintops, and deserts, as well as the animals and people who live there. Wolfe’s 2014 book, Earth is My Witness, is the largest-ever collection of his photography. Comprised of unpublished images spanning Wolfe’s career, this book depicts life and landscape from every geographic and cultural region. Both books also contain essays and anecdotes that tell the stories behind the pictures.
Emmet Gowin: Changing the Earth by Jock Reynolds, with Terry Tempest Williams and Philip Brookman
Yale University Art Gallery (2002)
Many of the books on this list feature unspoiled nature, but this collection of aerial photographs by Emmet Gowin scrutinizes landscapes that have been created, changed, or marred by humans through their technology, architecture, and cultural-political conflicts. This collection of photos focuses on American military test sites, Japanese golf courses, petroleum refineries in the Czech Republic, and other locations around the world. From far above, it is possible to see the extent of humanity’s alterations of the natural world; at the same time, the photographs remind us of humans’ smallness and frailty. Not exactly a feel-good read, but still a thought-provoking and important work.
Patagonia: Land Of Giants by Daniel Rivademar (photographs) and Alejandro Winograd (text)
Terra Australis Editorial (2004)
When we think of remote places, the million square kilometers of Patagonia often come to mind. The southernmost tip of South America, Patagonia is known for its steppes-like plains and the mountainous landscape created by the Andes range. Taking its name from the Patagones, a mythical race of giants said to inhabit the region, Patagonia has long been the subject of fantastic speculation, undoubtedly fueled in part by its resistance to development over the centuries. Argentine photographer Daniel Rivademar captures the landscape, its animals, and its people in Patagonia: Land of Giants, a solid, full-color survey—a perfect introduction to Patagonia and the sweeping expanses that have made it famous.
Yosemite: The Promise of Wildness by William Neill; with an essay by Tim Palmer
Yosemite Conservancy (1994)
One of the most iconic American parks, Yosemite is the subject of many a photography book. Though this book by William Neill has been in print for a while, it’s a worthy addition to this list because of Neill’s unique perspective as a long-time resident of the park. Neill presents stunning views and a wide range of climactic and seasonal changes that most of us would not be privileged to witness in person.
Journey Through the British Isles by Harry Cory Wright
Merrell Publishers (2007)
While “studies of the British countryside” may seem a bit quaint, there is no denying that this region is crammed with picturesque landscapes just as varied as the range of dialects spoken there. Armed with a large-format plate camera, photographer Harry Cory Wright journeyed from the most northerly reaches of the Shetland Isles to the shores of southern Wales, shooting photos along the way. Taken in different seasons and weather and at various times of day, the images in this book will surely vie for the hearts of Anglophiles or anyone taken by scenes of pastoral beauty.
Empty Quarter: A Photographic Journey to the Heart of the Arabian Desert by George Steinmetz
Harry N. Abrams (2009)
Rub’ al-Khali, “the Empty Quarter.” It spans 250,000 square miles, has temperatures that can soar to 120°F, and receives less than 1 inch of rain per year, classifying it as a hyper-arid region. The Empty Quarter is the largest sand desert in the world, and was unexplored by outsiders until the early twentieth century. Soaring over the dunes hanging from a motorized paraglider, photographer George Steinmetz has captured breathtaking aerial images of this most inhospitable and unknowable terrain. Without any water sources or vegetation, no one can live permanently in the Rub’ al-Khali, and very few people have ventured there, making these photos a testament of genuine wilderness.