Kisses and kinks

Sexy photo books that double as perfect Valentine’s Day gifts
By Barry Pierce | Art | 13 February 2024

OK, so you’ve gone on a date or three and now you need something to one-up the Tesco flowers. Perfume is definitely more Date #10 territory, but you want to look like you’ve actually made an effort. Enter the humble photo book. Everyone loves photo books! Even if they usually do end up being used as decor.

This Valentine’s, we wanted to take some of the hassle out of browsing the shelves and instead present you with a selection of our favourite photo books that have a romantic theme. So whether you have a kinky rubber fetish or you miss the days of early 00s youth club discos, we’ve got you sorted.

Rain Time, Augenblick Press

It all started with a random box of old photographs that Augenblick Press founder Sam Kilcoyne found at a flea market in London. It was claimed they came from a house clearance in the suburbs after the owner had died. The photographs, over 500 in total, seemed to document the life of a typical 1950s London housewife but with one strange exception — she was a rubber fetishist with a kink for underwater submersion.

The images in Rain Time are some of the strangest and most perverse of the era. They are a fascinating document of one woman’s experimentation with fetish and kink from a time when such proclivities were beyond taboo. But it is hard, too, to view the images without feeling the twisted romanticism of them.



DISKO by Andrew Miksys, ARÖK Books

There is something about the images of the underground Lithuanian discos in Andrew Miksys’ legendary DISKO that are just so unbelievably romantic. The fresh-faced teens who have found each other in the dark, their bodies draped over each other, that mix of shell suits and low-rise jeans. One image, of drops of blood all over a tiled floor, is possibly the most romantic of all. Was this a scene of a chivalrous battle? Was a heart won over that night?



Tokyo Lucky Hole by Araki, TASCHEN

It’s difficult to choose just one book by the infamous Japanese provocateur Nobuyoshi Araki but Taschen’s collection of his work focusing on Tokyo’s Shinjuku red light district has to be the go-to for Valentine’s Day. Over 700 pages of the most raw and uncensored images ever printed by a mainstream publisher, Tokyo Lucky Hole may be one to hide the first time your potential lover comes to yours but a shared affinity for Araki’s work could lead to some of the wildest nights of your life.



Tokyo Love by Nan Goldin & Nobuyoshi Araki, Ohta Publishing

OK, we’re cheating and including Araki again, but this time it’s in the form of the rare photo book he did with Nan Goldin in the mid-1990s exploring Tokyo’s youth subcultures. Made up of contrasting imagery by Goldin and Araki, the book shows young couples in the prime of their lives, breaking the rules and making up their own. The fashion of the kids in this book is insane but it also broke so many boundaries. Goldin’s work has always skewed toward the underground, the drag queens and the dive bars and all that, but then she visited Tokyo in the mid-90s she said, “I found kids who are living by the same beliefs that I did as a teenager, and who transcended any definition of hetero or homosexual.” In these photographs, you can sense that Goldin felt incredibly at home.



Young Love by Ewen Spencer, Stanley/Barker

Starting life as a commission from The Face to document youth clubs across the United Kingdom in the year 2000, Ewen Spencer’s Young Love has become an invaluable document of British youth culture at the turn of the millennium. Scenes of sweaty lads in their Ben Shermans, girls necking Bacardi Breezers, dark corners where who knows what is happening, Young Love is one of the greatest documents of the mortifying awkwardness of being a teen in love.



Cannibal Soup: Tubbing with the Thompsons, Chronicle

Nothing says Happy Valentine’s like a load of naked people hot tubbing together. Hot, wet and fleshy, the 1978 book takes us into the free-livin’ world of 70s hippie culture, where people would build their own hot tubs and invite everyone they know – sans bathing suit. The images are typical of the era, with retro tones, West Coast landscapes and plenty of facial hair – we said facial!



The Travel Diary: Last Chance to Try by Juergen Teller, The Travel Almanac

Imagine getting Juergen Teller to take your wedding photos. That’s what these lucky couples experienced as the photographer immersed himself in Polish weddings and family celebrations for a rare supplement issued with The Travel Almanac in 2014. Capturing a sense of joy, community and after-hours fun (which Teller got involved in, obviously), photos include undressing on the dance floor, happy couples and a cock cake.

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