The best books about travel photography

The Books I Picked & Why

Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay

By Mary Ellen Mark

Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay

Why this book?

Prior to her death in 2015, photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark had published over 20 collections of her work spanning her storied career, but few hit the reader in the gut like her debut Falkland Road. Taken during visits to Mumbai (Bombay) in the 1970s, Mary was able to gain the trust of sex workers being pimped out in the Indian city’s notorious red-light district. The images are dark, disturbing, and bleak, but their intimacy and tenderness are what separates Mary from her peers.


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South Southeast

By Steve McCurry

South Southeast

Why this book?

Legendary travel photog Steve McCurry has developed a bad reputation over the decades for reportedly mistreating his subjects (notably “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gula), for allegedly staging and digitally manipulating images (as opposed to the candid shots he claims they are), and for profiting handsomely from it all. But gosh dang if his photographs aren’t gorgeous! In light of his purported misdeeds, I do not intend on dropping any more money on his newest retrospective books, but 2000’s South Southeast – based on his early work in Asia – will always remain on my bookshelf.


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Origins: African Wisdom for Every Day

By Olivier Föllmi, Danielle Föllmi

Origins: African Wisdom for Every Day

Why this book?

In my opinion, there are no more accomplished travel photographers than the Föllmis. This couple has been on the road continuously since the 1980s, spending years at a time in the countries and continents they photograph, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Together they have put out dozens of books as part of their ongoing Wisdom project. These are not gritty, candid photos; they are works of art and jaw-droppingly beautiful. Perhaps not an entirely accurate representation of those places, but sometimes it’s nice just to gaze at pretty pictures.


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The Edge of Time: Photographs of Mexico

By Mariana Yampolsky

The Edge of Time: Photographs of Mexico

Why this book?

In the 1940s, a young American woman named Mariana Yampolsky came to Mexico to study and never looked back. Throughout the 1960s, she wandered around the country taking shots of the rural and indigenous people she met. Her lens conveyed the poorest aspects of Mexican culture with empathy and artistry that no other photographers of the time demonstrated. Inexplicably, for all its vast and varied geography, ethnicities, and societal classes, rivaling even China in terms of its photogenic diversity, there are very few photography books on Mexico, making The Edge of Time a timeless literary benchmark.


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Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream

By Matthew Christopher

Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream

Why this book?

We often think of travel photography as limited to exotic overseas locales, but Matthew Christopher set out to show that the United States has fallen into just as much decay and deterioration as any third-world nation. Part of his Abandoned America book series, Dismantling the Dream follows up on his debut, The Age of Consequence, with evocative scenery of properties and venues – malls, factories, schools, farms, homes – forsaken by their original inhabitants. Anyone who has not deluded themselves into disbelieving that the U.S. is in a permanent state of demise will appreciate these apocalyptic yet nonetheless lovely photographs.


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