Fanning Out Over Photobooks

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If you’re someone who loves collecting photography and art books, you probably know the struggle of discovering new creatives, hunting down their work and purchasing from an affordable and reputable seller.

Award-winning artist Jesse Lenz was all too familiar with the obstacles of finding and buying the elusive photobook. After falling in love with them, he knew he had to collect as many as possible. But time and again he ran into the same problems.

“The major downside of internet shopping is you have to know what you are looking for. You have to keep tabs on a specific artist or publisher, trust them enough to buy a book after only seeing the cover and few images or spreads online, and then often deal with high international shipping costs,” explains Lenz. “It’s just too many obstacles for beginners or people who are not ‘insiders.’”

It was this realization that sparked the idea for Charcoal Book Club, the first and only subscription service dedicated exclusively to photography.

Each month, members receive a new, specially curated and beautifully bound first-edition signed photobook, as well as a collectible print by the artist. Lenz’s goal is to make the journey of collecting accessible, affordable and exciting for novice enthusiasts and veterans alike, and to make the discovery and purchasing process easier. Different subscription tiers also offer unlimited swapping for books in Charcoal's store.

“You need to feel informed and empowered to experiment,” Lenz says.

Deepen and challenge your palate with a Charcoal Book Club subscription, or dig into the offerings in their online shop, which features over 170 carefully selected titles.

Here's a look at the two most current releases.

October’s Book of the Month: On Contested Terrain by An-My Lê

An-My Lê's On Contested Terrain is the first comprehensive survey of the Vietnamese American artist, published on the occasion of a major exhibition organized by Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Drawing, in part, from her own experiences of the Vietnam War, Lê has created a body of work committed to expanding and complicating our understanding of the activities and motivations behind conflict and war. Throughout her 30-year career, Lê has photographed non-combatant roles of active-duty service members, often on the sites of former battlefields, including those reserved for training or the reenactment of war, and those created as film sets.

Flexibind, 9.25 x 10.5 in.; 204 pages. Co-published by Aperture and the Carnegie Museum of Art

November’s Book of the Month: The Locusts by Jesse Lenz

The Locusts is the first monograph by photographer and publisher Jesse Lenz. His images transport the reader to rural Ohio, where his children run wild in fields, build forts in the attic, and fall asleep surrounded by lightsabers and superheroes. The microcosmic worlds of plants, insects, animals and children create a brooding landscape where dichotomies of nature play out in front of his growing family. The backyard becomes a labyrinth of passages as the children experience the cycles of birth and death in the changing seasons. The Locusts depicts a world in which beautiful and terrible things will happen, but offers grace and healing within the brokenness and imperfection of life.

Embossed linen hardcover with tipped-in image, 9.75 x 12.25 in.; 144 pages. Published by Charcoal Press