According to critic Ralph Prins, “the photobook is an autonomous art form, comparable with a piece of sculpture, a play or a film”. These publications contain a series of photographic images ordered with internal coherency, visual rhythm, and a sense of narration akin to literature and film. Behind the photobook is an idea, an intention and a message transmitted through a play with images, which are arranged so that one strengthens the other and gives rise to an open unitary work with multiple readings. Photographic content is pivotal in photobooks, as are the design, text (if any), graphic elements, typeface and printing.

The idea of the photobook began to crystallise in 1920 through innovation and experimentation in historical avant-garde art movements. Today, an increasing number of artists turn to this format to make works, an upsurge resulting from technological developments in publishing processes and, more specifically, digital printing, which makes smaller and more economical print runs possible.

The Museo Reina Sofía Library’s photobook collection assembles a varied selection spanning the beginnings of the photobook in the 1920s and 1930s to the present day, including works such as Margaret Bourke-White’s Eyes on Russia (1931), Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963) by Edward Ruscha, David Goldblatt’s In Boksburg (1982) and Illuminance (2011) by Rinko Kawauchi, among others.

Worthy of additional mention is the group of Spanish and Latin American photobooks by artists such as Enrique Bostelmann, Ricardo Cases, Lourdes Grobet, Cristóbal Hara, Graciela Iturbide, David Jiménez, Xavier Miserachs, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio and Mireia Sentís. The series is completed with the collection Río de luz (River of Light), from the Fondo de Cultura Económica, and the collection Palabra e imagen (Word and Image), by Editorial Lumen, in which a writer and a photographer collaborate on each edition.

Explore this collection

Photobooks can be searched for in the Library catalogue by introducing the term “photobooks” in the simple or general search box, and via the “any field” option in the advanced search.

Photobooks are part of the Museo Reina Sofía Library’s special collections, which is why they must be consulted at the table reserved for such purposes on Floor -1. Their use and reproduction is limited.

From the Museo’s networks, some of these materials can be consulted online via LaDigitaldelReina. Consultations from external networks may be restricted due to intellectual property rights.

If you require more information, please refer to the Library’s terms of access and use, Library Guide, and available services. Library staff in the Reading Room are also available to deal with any questions.

 Federico García Lorca, Poet in New York, Barcelona, Lumen, 1966. Museo Reina Sofía Library and Documentation Centre
Federico García Lorca, Poet in New York, Barcelona, Lumen, 1966. Museo Reina Sofía Library and Documentation Centre

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