Photo books of the year

Christmas books of the year

For me, one of the most interesting books of the year is Magnum Contact Sheets (Thames & Hudson, £95). Although film is still used by some photographers, the practice of editing pictures from a contact sheet has been somewhat lost.

This book lets us view the frames around many familiar Magnum images. It is refreshing to see that the younger generation of photographers such as Jonas Bendiksen are represented here alongside the icons of history such as Che Guevara by Rene Burri. The contact sheet and photo here are from Bendiksen's 2006 book Satellites (1, 2).

In The Photographer's Vision (Ilex, £22.99), Michael Freeman continues to give us his refreshing version of the "how to" photography genre, ignoring the technical in favour of the creative. He illustrates how pictures are viewed, and why some work and some don't, in a very intelligent and simple way. In this, his third book, he has turned to "translating" the work of other photographers. Here we see the famous Dorothea Lange image of the migrant mother which is published alongside several weaker, probably earlier frames (3). In the book he gently describes why the final close frame works best.

A very different book is The Sea by Mark Laita (Abrams, £35) in which he brings to life a surreal underwater world of endlessly fascinating coloured creatures suspended in an inky blackness (4). Some almost resemble ink-blot tests in their symmetry.

A very personal book is Annie Liebovitz's Pilgrimage (Jonathan Cape, £35) for which she travelled to photograph places and things that matter to her. She wasn't on assignment, so she was free to work in any way she chose. The first trip was to Emily Dickinson's House in Massachusetts, where she only used a compact camera. The image here is from the next adventure, a trip to Niagara Falls with her children (5). As the project progressed, the distances travelled and the equipment used became more elaborate. The end result is a very personal and beautiful book.

I was delighted to see that Kurt Tong's wonderful project In Case It Rains in Heaven (Kehrer Verlag, £25) became a book this year. It shows the paper offerings to the dead that are burnt in China by relatives. As western influence has spread, these have progressed from paper money to everyday objects such as the ice skates seen here (6).

As the year drew to a close Jocelyn Bain Hogg released his long awaited follow-up to 2001's portrait of the London underworld The Firm. The Family (Foto8, £45) focuses on the next generation. The book concentrates on Joe Pyle and his three "brothers" who were chosen by his father Joey to continue the work of the family. Here we see Sue Pyle chatting with her friends after a night out while the men talk business in another room (7). The gritty black and white images perfectly capture this cleaner but still clandestine world.