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Looking for that special gift? Check out these 5 awesome photography books

Are you looking for something special for the photography lover in your life? Here are my pick of the year's best photography books, plus an extra special treat for the senses.

The Skelligs: Islands on the Edge of the World

Peter Cox Photography

Peter Cox is a photographer based in Co. Cork who has produced stunning images of many of the world’s most iconic places, yet, for him, nothing matches the dramatic beauty of the Skellig Islands. He says,

“I’ve travelled all over the world, I’ve photographed in Greenland, Antarctica, Iceland. The Skelligs is probably my favourite place to photograph — it is a place that is very special to me personally, but also photographically.”

The Skelligs Islands, two uninhabited, rocky islets located off the Kerry coast, were originally a settlement to a community of monks, and the larger islet, Skellig Michael, has a well preserved early Christian monastery. More recently, the magnificence of the islands was revealed to the world through the filming of Star Wars on the islands. In 1996 the World Heritage Committee granted Skellig Michael the title of World Heritage site, an honour which raised the profile of the islands internationally and which has resulted in thousands of visitors to the Skelligs every year.

My own vivid memory is of travelling around the islands during the summer and seeing some of the thousands of puffins which use Skellig Michael as their breeding ground, as well as viewing the colony of gannets which make their home on Little Skellig.

Cox’s book includes amazing images of the islands, some taken at night. Through his images, Cox says, he tried to communicate what it would have been like for the monks living on the islands; tried to see what they saw, experience what they experienced. As is evident from the quality images in his book, Cox believes in the primacy of composition. Interestingly he remarked in an interview that, “A mobile phone image thoughtfully taken and well-composed will be far better than a carelessly taken picture with a state-of-the-art camera.”

These images are indeed thoughtfully taken and well composed and will make a beautiful gift for all photography lovers.

Twilight Together

Ruth Medjber

This book, which was shortlisted for the An Post 2020 Book of the Year award, does indeed document the extraordinary year that was 2020. When the country, along with much of the world, went into lockdown in March, life changed dramatically for everyone. No longer were we allowed to travel, visit loved ones, celebrate special events or have gatherings of friends or family in our homes. Older people and those with medical vulnerabilities had to ‘cocoon’ at home, while many workers had to make the change to home working. Frontline workers were the heroes who kept our hospital system running, while all sorts of community initiatives were rolled out to try to ease the difficult situation in which we suddenly found ourselves. Families waved to each other through windows and this image, more than anything, became a symbol which represented the pandemic. In her book Twilight Together: Portraits of Ireland at Home, Irish photographer Ryth Medjber has produced a series of images portraying a nation peering through their front windows at dusk - a nation in lockdown. There are people from every generation; people on their own, couples, people in families, each with their own story to tell, many of them heartbreaking stories, and each image suggests that story. This is a visually stunning and poignant book, documenting a pivotal year in the history of our country and our world.

Old Ireland in Colour

John Breslin & Sarah-Anne Buckley

In this book, images depicting Irish life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have been collected and lovingly restored and colourised to bring them to life and accessible to a whole new generation. The photographs are from all walks of life, ranging from an iconic image of the well-known explorer Tom Crean to images of simple country folk going about their daily business; from Civil War scenes to the simplicity of life on the islands. With over 170 images from all four provinces, covering many aspects of the Irish people, their society, culture and land, this book provides a stunning chronicle of the rich history of Ireland and the Irish abroad. Enhanced with captions from co-author Dr. Sarah-Anne Buckley, this is a beautiful book of photography, and while I love some of the images in their original black and white, they do become much more vivid through the colour restoration. Without doubt, whether you are a lover of history, a lover of photography or simply a lover of Ireland, this is a book to treasure.

Bird Photographer of the Year

Bird Photographer of the Year Collection 5 is the 2020 version of the book which accompanies the annual Bird Photographer of the Year competition, an event which showcases and celebrates some of the best bird photographs captured during the year. The book includes the winning and short-listed images from the competition and includes some of the finest bird photography from around the world. It is a large-format book, and this format brings to life some stunning bird photography.

See for copies of all five Bird Photographer of the Year books.

American Gardens

Monty Don and Derry Moore

A collaboration between Britain’s much loved celebrity horticulturalist Monty Don and renowned photographer Derry Moore has resulted in a beautiful book of photographs to complement the BBC television series in which the pair travel across America to discover the gardens and outdoor spaces at the heart of American history. Their trip takes them to places as diverse as the slave garden at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate and the urban outdoor space that is New York’s Central Park, taking in all classes of garden in between. For anyone who enjoys viewing images of beautiful gardens this book is a feast for the eyes, giving a unique view of some of America’s most celebrated open spaces. As the introduction states, there is no cohesive answer to the question, 'What is an American garden?' The term, like the people who inhabit this culturally diverse place, cannot be accurately defined but through words and pictures Don and Moore provide a flavour of what the term might mean, while the accompanying text adds a depth of meaning to the exquisite images.

Bonus Book

The Dublin Art Book: The City Through the Eyes of its Artists

While not a photography book, this is still a book that will be appreciated by artists of all kinds. It is, as its title suggests, a series of art works depicting life in Dublin city. Ranging from famous landmarks such as the historic Trinity College to the hustle and bustle of O’Connell Street on a rainy day, from the James Joyce statue to the iconic GPO, contemporary Dublin artists highlight their city, and their vision of their city, with a beautiful art collection which will be appreciated by anyone who loves art as well as anyone who loves the city of Dublin and its people.

In his foreward to the book, curator and art collector Brent Pope states,

“What better way to celebrate Dublin’s art culture than through the eyes of 55 inspirational local artists, who have helped mould this city. A unique blend of artists from different generations, cultures and perspectives, that have in so many different ways been able to express just what Dublin means to them.”

Dublin city has provided me with many opportunities to take candid photographs, capturing life as it happens

I love this book; it is a celebration of every aspect of Dublin, seen through the eyes of its talented artists. A city rich in history and culture is portrayed in all its beauty, from the historical to the modern, with each artist representing the city in their own unique style to give a flavour of their Dublin for locals and visitors alike.

"We need to see the places we live in through the eyes of artists... to look up and see the beauty."

Cathy Davey, Musician

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