American photographer Sophia Renee’s beautiful new monograph “Little Black Book” is well on its way to becoming a must-have item for those of us who have been following the trajectory of this wonderful artist. Presented by Morel Publishing and Art et Essai (Les Editions Limitees), the book is being released in periodic, limited edition pressings through 2016. Although the prime cost could deter more conservative buyers, we were pleasantly surprised to find a book that more than lives up to its tony $135 price tag.
Sophia is often referred to as a “fashion photographer.” However, from a conceptual perspective, her imagery rarely falls within traditional fashion parameters. She shoots provocatively and artfully, utilizing natural light and muscular, athletic men to create stunning, subtly erotic imagery evocative of early Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts. These polished influences and elements, coupled with a restrained, documentary-style realness, is precisely what makes Sophia’s work so unique and hard to categorize. As an independent artist, she has helped guide and develop the portfolios of many popular but unconventional-looking models, including the heavily tattooed and dreadlocked Robbie Gambrell. One of the faces of the Girbaud Jeans campaign, Gambrell’s stark but astonishing visage is featured prominently in her “Little Black Book.”
When Sophia announced earlier this year she had a book coming down the pike, we hoped it would be something really special. I am happy to say we were not disappointed. In a market littered with overpriced Blurb books shamelessly promoted as high-end publications, Sophia Renee’s “Little Black Book” is an entirely different animal.
To dismiss this as just another photo book would be doing an incredible disservice not only to the artist, but to the editor, designer and printer responsible for this highbrow presentation. “Little Black Book” is a revelatory work of art in and of itself. The book features a beautiful, skillfully selected array of black and white images impressively presented on thick, rigid pages made of real (and somehow reinforced) silver halide photo paper. This is not so much a book as it is a uniquely crafted and sophisticated opuscule.
The collective work is small but powerful, with many of her most well known images and leading faces prominently featured. The unique essays and reflections that accompany many of Sophia’s images on her official website are notably absent. In that regard, we were a little disappointed. Her words and stories are often powerful and moving. Including some of those previously published insights on her models might have made this work even more special than it already is.
Overall, as a first monograph, Sophia Renee’s “Little Black Book” makes an impressive statement. It is a fine repository and a complimentary testament to her talent and skill. It left us wanting more but in a really good way.
For more information about Sophia Renee’s “Little Black Book,” you may inquire at the artist’s website www.sophiareneephotography.com