the viewing, making, and understanding of photobooks is a crucial part of the preparation of student artists to successfully work in contemporary contexts 

In partnership with USU’s Merrill-Cazier Library and Nora Eccles Harrison Musum of Art, and with support from a 2022 USU Caine College of the Arts Differential Tuition Grant, USU Photo is proud to launch the USU Photobook Special Collection.

The USU Photobook Special Collection prioritizes a diversity of authors and titles. Primarily focusing on contemporary publications by women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and AAPI makers, the collection is augmented with books by artists from or making work about the American West as well as titles complementing USU Photo’s socially engaged curriculum.

We are grateful for the generous partnership and support of some of the world’s leading photobook publishers and distributors including Radius Books, Nazraeli Press, Twin Palms Publishers, Gnomic Book, Deadbeat Club, Distributed Art Publishers, and Faherty Books (Mack, Routledge).

View the collection catalog here.

To learn more or discuss ways to support the Special Photobook Collection, email Professor Jared Ragland at


photobooks and the usu photo curriculum

Published in 1843 at the dawn of the photographic medium, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions by Anna Atkins was the first book illustrated by a photographic process. Since that time the craft of photography has been defined, refined, and revolutionized by the photobook. Throughout the 20th century major photographic publications contributed to the recognition of photography as an art form, but it is in the contemporary moment that the photobook has truly transformed the way fine art photography is made, presented, and shared. According to the Museum of Modern Art, the number of photobook publishers has increased 500% in the last 20 years, and the genre “has achieved a new level of inventiveness, experimentation, awareness, quality, and sophistication.”1 The viewing, making, and understanding of photobooks is now critical in photography and a crucial part of the education and preparation of student artists to successfully work in contemporary contexts.

Photobooks also provide an exceptional opportunity for thoughtful study that runs counter to the constant distractions of the screen. Artist, writer, and bookmaker Teju Cole recently wrote, “Time with a photobook is a wander off the beaten path, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t reach for one. This enjoyment cannot be dispatched with a ‘like’ button. The photobook won’t send you ads based on how long you linger on a given page… Sitting with it, you have to sit with yourself: this is a private experience in a time when those are becoming alarmingly rare, an act of analogue rebellion in an obnoxiously digital world. Sure, one could look at a sequence of pictures on a digital device, but to do so would be to indulge a poor facsimile like frozen pizza, instant coffee, or artificial flowers.”2

The preeminence of the photobook today as both a tangible and collectible art object, and a powerful method of dissemination in the digital age is hard to understate. Understanding its role and impact for any photographer has become a central aspect of contemporary practice.3 At USU Photo, our students have the opportunity to share experiences like Cole’s: a radical visual and physical reordering of what it means to thoughtfully interact with an art object, which has a profound effect on the development of artistic voice, vision, and vocabulary. “Engaging with the photobook is an extended, different experience that plays out over time,” writes photobook collector David Solo, “and in turn, it is this sense of the duration that allows time and space for ideas, themes, and emotions to develop.”4

Augmenting the Collection is a selection of contemporary texts on photographic theory and criticism, history, and visual culture. As the collection grows, it will incorporate rare artist books, independently published zines, and editioned prints, and serve as the foundation for photobook conferences, visiting artist programs, and interdisciplinary courses in which students from across the arts, humanities, and sciences collaborate in producing and publishing photobooks.

1 Our Favorite Photobooks of 2021. MoMA.
2 Cole, Teju. In Praise of the Photobook. Mack.

3 Fotofilmic, Nov. 27, 2023.
3 Parr, Martin; Solo, David.
The Golden Age of the Photobook. Magnum.

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