Gerhard Richter’s Atlas is my favourite photobook even though many won’t event classify it as one.
Richter (b.1932, Germany) started collecting images early in his career, maybe influenced by his job as a darkroom assitant. He started by collecting his own (mainly black and white) photographs and some others donated by friends.
The Atlas includes amateur snapshots which he once infamously referred to being “(…) more beautiful than a Cezanne.”, images taken from newspapers and magazines as well as sketches for paintings, installations, colour fields and colour charts. He only had one criterion for exclusion: strictly no art photography.
I find the content of this book so inspiring and so many times stop and wonder if other contemporary artists have “borrowed” something from it. It seems like for every few pages I flip I can find a connection between some of these images and the works of celebrated practitioners of our time.
The unpretentiousness and humanity of its content are in my opinion the characteristics that set Atlas apart from many other photography books.
It’s not the easiest title to find but fortunately its content is entirely online. Below are some of my favourite sheets:
Newspaper & Album photographs, 1962-66, 51.7 cm x 66.7 cm, Atlas sheet 5
Volker Bradke, 1966, 66.7 cm x 51.7 cm, Atlas sheet 26
Photograph Sections (BMW), 1973, 51.7 cm x 66.7 cm, Atlas Sheet 100
Cities, 1968, 51.7 cm x 66.7 cm, Atlas Sheet 109
Landscapes, 1969, 51.7 cm x 36.7 cm, Atlas Sheet 177
Seascapes, 1972, 51.7 cm x 36.7 cm, Atlas Sheet 200
Plants, 1969, 51.7 cm x 73.5 cm, Atlas Sheet 305
Greenland, 1972, 51.7 cm x 73.5 cm, Atlas Sheet 352
Apples and Bottle, 1984, 66.7 cm x 51.7 cm, Atlas Sheet 443
Niagara Falls, 1988, 51.7 cm x 66.7 cm, Atlas Sheet 464
Sabine, 1993, 51.7 cm x 36.7 cm, Atlas Sheet 578
S. with Moritz, 1995, 51.7 cm x 66.7 cm, Atlas Sheet 603