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8 Book Recommendations from Josef Chladek

New York through the eyes of William Klein, suburbian Ireland and voyeurism in Japanese parks – expert Josef Chladek names eight most important books.


Josef Chladek is the author of one of the most famous European blogs about photobooks from all over the world. He claims that in the past several years photo industry has been experiencing a real book boom. Bird in Flight asked Chladek when he took interest in photobooks, why he started writing a blog, and asked him to recommend eight editions that in his opinion were the most interesting.


Josef Chladek, 47

Born in Vienna (Austria). Graduated from Vienna Technical University. Photobook expert, created a blog about photobooks Virtual Bookshelf JC, that now has more than 4000 subscribers. Reviewer of the 1st and 2nd ViennaPhotoBookReview. Since 2013 co-founded FC Chladek Drastil GmbH, supports and develops websites for publishing houses, photobook and photo projects.

Photobook today is the most vibrant and expressive channel for photography, at least for me, much preferred over images and image-sites on the internet. The main goal of “Virtual Bookshelf JC” is to have a representation that "matches" the beauty of the books/photography.

I started being interested in photobooks many years ago, except that I didn't notice that the term was "photobook" for it, but through typography and design books from the 30ies I (re)discovered photography in the book for myself and started to look at "recent" publications – and discovered a frenzy and very lively genre of the book, with a lot of passionate people producing, selling, printing and distributing them. I’m one of them now, but I’m less the critic, and more the presenter.

I started my site on photobooks two years ago. I always had my books in a database, otherwise I would loose track what I have and where it is (as I don't have any order on the real shelves). Then I was so frustrated that there is no real source for book covers, dustjackets - whenever (or most of the time) I look(ed) up books I end up reading a few words and rarely have an image of the dust jacket, the inside spreads etc. - so I decided to change that for my personal library. As it grew, I thought, hey, why not share that with other people. The main goal was to have a representation that "matches" the beauty of the books/photography, and because most of the time we look at/in libraries we see spines only, differently sized. So the idea was simple: take the correct sizes and start with spines, use some nice font (Futura, my favourite, classical one), and go online with it. Well that was in June 2013, it started with 50–100 books, now, nearly two years later, there are 1400 books on the shelf.

The history of the photobook is long, but the "revolution" that happens these days is the simple access to computers, design-applications, way cheaper printing – so in fact everyone can make a photobook (the question is, if everyone should).

I was the reviewer at The First ViennaPhotoBookReview. It's inspiring to see unpublished work, finished or more or less finished dummies, talk to the artist in one on ones and find out about their work directly. There are 15 reviewers, each has approx. 8 one on ones, then you nominate your three winners and the overall winner is calculated, whose book will get published. Enjoyed it and will do so again!

My criterion of choosing photobooks is next: good and fascinating images come first, then comes excellent design followed by good printing – the mix makes a good book.

Masahisa Fukase

Sadness and despair in a perfectly edited book.


{ "img": "/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/josef-chladek_02.jpg" }

Krass Clement

Like a film, being alone with company.


{ "img": "/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/josef-chladek_10.jpg" }

William Klein

The father of grainy, blurry black and white photography that influenced legions of artists to come.


{ "img": "/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/josef-chladek_21.jpg" }

Moi Ver

Avantgarde, avantgarde and avantgarde, outstanding, even by recent standards an exceptional book.


{ "img": "/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/josef-chladek_23.jpg" }

Kohei Yoshiyuki

Peeking and playing the voyeur, wonderful print and pervert from first to last page.


{ "img": "/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/josef-chladek_25.jpg" }

Chris Killip

A touching documentary in images, one better than the other.


{ "img": "/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/josef-chladek_36.jpg" }

Susan Lipper

A depressing portrait, yet thoughtful captured with no distance to the people.


{ "img": "/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/josef-chladek_55.jpg" }

Takuma Nakahira

If you take all other books and leave me with this, I could do – unbearable brilliance and expression.


{ "img": "/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/josef-chladek_73.jpg" }

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