The best fashion books are often not designed or marketed as fashion books. This is probably because the best fashion is often not made for it’s own sake, it’s incidental fashion: the costuming you see in the cinema, on the show stage, or the street, the dress that’s an expression of identity and character, of place and time.
Tracey Emin’s new book from Fuel Publishing, My Photo Album, is one of the best fashion books I’ve come across in awhile. It’s an exhibitionistic and self-indulgent folio from an artist who is both of those things—in life, as in art, which are one and the same for her—but who gets away with it because she is so interesting to look at.
The book is simply a collection of Tracey Emin’s personal photographs, a biography in images, which she annotates occasionally with handwritten details. Highlights include the eyeliner of her teenage rock years, her “only suit in 1994,” her campaign with Vivienne Westwood, and her collaborations with fellow Y.B. Artist Sarah Lucas (picture Lucas wearing a t-shirt that says, “I’M SO FUCKY,” and Emin in one that asks, “HAVE YOU WANKED OVER ME YET”).
Throughout her album, Emin’s style is measured—often outrageous and sometimes très fashion—but it’s never packaged to sell as fashion, and that’s what makes it so compelling. My Photo Album collects over five decades of personal style (Emin was born in 1963) and that span and specificity (a diachronic look at a Brilliant! subject) makes for what I’m declaring the best new fashion book of 2013 to date.