The 50+ Best Photo Books of the Year

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108 Rock Star Guitars by Lisa Johnson / Glitterati, $108

The rich saturation of color in Lisa Johnson’s ground-breaking photographic vision documents not only some of culture’s most important rock star guitars, but also recounts how the instrument itself has become the essential symbol of rock. Her bold use of unusually low depth-of-field photography visually caresses the instrument in the way a skillful musician might – zeroing in on subtle gradations in a guitar’s patina or hugging the curves of another’s silhouette. Johnson accompanies her images with text cultivated from interviews with the proud guitar owners, revealing the personality of the musician who plays the instrument while her images revere the instrument itself. Johnson provides up-close inspection of guitars, including those of Eric Clapton, Les Paul, Jimmy Page, Billy Gibbons, Rick Nielsen, Brian Setzer, Chrissie Hynde, Ace Frehley, Carlos Santana, Jack White and many others. Here, the guitar is made exotic, sensuous, and evocative – it transforms from an instrument into an artwork.

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50 Portraits by Gregory Heisler / Amphoto Books, $40

In this first-ever showcase of his work, Gregory Heisler, one of professional photography’s most respected practitioners, shares 50 iconic portraits of celebrities, athletes, and world leaders, along with fascinating, thoughtful, often humorous stories about how the images were made. From his famously controversial portrait of President George H.W. Bush (which led to the revocation of Heisler’s White House clearance) to his evocative post-9/11 Time magazine cover of Rudolph Giuliani, to stunning portraits of Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Hillary Clinton, Michael Phelps, Muhammad Ali, and many more, Heisler reveals the creative and technical processes that led to each frame. For Heisler’s fans and all lovers of photography, Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits offers not only a gorgeous collection of both black-and-white and color portraits, but an engrossing look at the rarely seen art of a master photographer at work. With a foreword by New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

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A Life in Pictures by Douglas Kirkland / Glitterati, $125

This comprehensive volume of images honors Douglas Kirkland, the talented photographer who has been such an integral leading force in contemporary culture and photography. Will appeal to Kirkland fans craving a comprehensive collection of all his iconic photographs, from Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding day kiss to Marilyn Monroe swathed in silk bed linen.

Douglas Kirkland has amassed an impressive body of work throughout his 50-year photography career, his images running the gamut from stars and filmmakers, to classics and collectables, to love and nudes. Here, the photographer presents a collection of his images accompanied by a story of his career’s development told from his perspective. Kirkland worked for such publications as Look Magazine and Life Magazine, but his career took off with his legendary 1961 Marilyn Monroe shoot for Look’s 25th anniversary issue, the photographs from which are still recreated by stars today. Featuring an insightful foreword by acclaimed director Baz Luhrmann and his award-winning wife, Catherine Martin, this volume reveals both Kirkland and his prolific work.

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Across the Ravaged Land by Nick Brandt / Abrams, $65

The book is the culmination of more than a decade of work, during which time populations of elephants, lions, and other large mammals have fallen precipitously. Over those years, the acuity of Brandt’s vision and his attachment to his subjects have intensified. His images of animals resonate with a simple idea: That the sentient creatures in his portraits are not so different from us and have an equal right to live.

In addition to his starkly powerful animal portraits, Brandt explores new themes, as humans make an appearance in his work for the first time in the form of the rangers, whose work it is to protect the animals. He also “repopulates” the epic landscape with remains of animals that he finds or introduces, including hunters’ trophy heads looking out over the lands where they once roamed, and preserved birds and bats calcified in soda lakes, appearing to pose for their portraits, alive again in death.

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After the Threshold by Sandi Haber Fifield / Kehrer, $50

In her third monograph, which includes an insightful essay by critic Vicki Goldberg, photographer Fifield (Between Planting and Picking) weaves an uplifting visual tapestry of her everyday life using the power of light and color. At first glimpse, the collection appears unified by her singular point of view and style, but little else. However, on closer inspection, each mysterious trio and quartet contains unifying thematic and geometric rhythms that make them complete. The photographer’s favorite subjects become evident early on, including: the natural world, windows and reflections, and an obscured or blurry artwork. These understated and economical arrangements (41 groups of photos altogether) resemble haikus. Fifield’s photographs evoke dreams that linger upon slowly waking in a foreign place, and some of the images appear to have been taken on her travels, as evidenced by her titles: Montauk Blue and Mare Ionio. Far from typical travel pictures, each combination of images functions as its own peculiar moody narrative with a certain logic of lines, shapes, and colors. Fifield remarkably draws us in using the simplest of details: a circular tattoo on a foot, a hand holding the corner of a map, or the pattern of tape on a window. Such ordinary moments might have been overlooked were it not for Fifield’s engaged, transforming eye. Photos. (Apr.)

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A Period of Juvenile Prosperity by Mike Brodie / Twin Palms, $65

When he was 17, Mike Brodie hopped a train with a Polaroid camera and a pack of film. About 10 years later, he doesn’t hop trains and doesn’t really photograph, either. But he does have a book out about those years.

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Beautiful Whale by Bryant Austin / Abrams, $50

Photographer and conservationist Bryant Austin’s breathtaking photographic project Beautiful Whale is the first of its kind: It chronicles his fearless attempts to reach out to whales as fellow sentient beings. Featuring Austin’s intimate images–some as detailed as a single haunting eye–that result from encounters based on mutual trust, Beautiful Whale captures the grace and intelligence of these magnificent creatures. Austin spent days at a time submerged, motionless, in the waters of remote calving grounds waiting for humpback, sperm, and minke whales to seek him out. As oceanographer Sylvia A. Earle says in her foreword to the book, “As an ambassador from the ocean–and to the ocean–Bryant Austin is not only a source of inspiration. He is cause for hope.”

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Before They Pass Away, by Jimmy Nelson / Teneues, $130

This historic volume showcases tribal cultures around the world. With globalization, these societies are to be prized for their distinctive lifestyles, art and traditions. They live in close harmony with nature, now a rarity in our modern era. Jimmy Nelson not only presents us with stunning images of customs and artifacts, but also offers insightful portraits of people who are the guardians of a culture that they–and we–hope will be passed on to future generations in all its glory. Nelson’s large-plate field camera captures every intricate detail and fine nuance for posterity. What’s more, this splendid pageantry is set against a vivid backdrop of some of the world’s most pristine landscapes. English/German/French edition.

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Bending the Frame by Fred Ritchin / Aperture, $15

In Bending the Frame, Fred Ritchin–Professor of Photography & Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and author of After Photography–examines the complex relations between social justice and photojournalism in today’s oversaturated political and media climates. Is visual journalism even effective at all, given the ease with which so many of us can simply record events? And how can the impact of iconic images from the Civil Rights Movement or the Vietnam War be compared to, say, the consequences of leaked images from Abu Ghraib? Do changes in strategy imply changes in accountability and responsibility for visual journalism as a whole? Ritchin intends his discussion–which ranges across new media but also includes uses of video as well as a wide range of books and exhibitions–to provide critical tools with which to approach the various efforts of today’s visual (and “citizen”) journalists and documentary photographers. He also examines the historical uses of photography and related media to inspire social change, the better to pose the critical question that lies at the heart of his book: How can images promote new thinking and make a difference in the world?

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Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light Moma, $50

Bill Brandt was the preeminent British photographer of the twentieth century, a founding father of photography’s modernist tradition whose half-century-long career defies neat categorization. This publication presents the photographer’s entire oeuvre, with special emphasis on his investigation of English life in the 1930s and his innovative late nudes. The Museum of Modern Art has been exhibiting and collecting Brandt’s photographs since the late 1940s, and has recently more than doubled its collection of vintage prints of his work, which forms the core of this selection. An essay by Sarah Hermanson Meister, Curator in the Department of Photography at MoMA, sets the artist’s life and work in the context of twentieth-century photographic history. With rich duotone illustrations that highlight the special characteristics of Brandt’s prints, this volume is an invaluable resource to students and scholars alike. Lee Ann Daffner, the Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Conservator of Photographs, contributes an illustrated glossary of Brandt’s retouching techniques, enhancing the appreciation of Brandt’s printing processes. The book also includes a generously illustrated appendix of Brandt’s published photo-stories during the Second World War.

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Bourke-White: Moments in History / La Fabrica, $55

America’s first female war correspondent, Margaret Bourke-White was also something of a media star, with the portrait of her decked out in flying gear, camera in hand, about to set off on a bombing raid, being a favorite pin-up among U.S. forces. Focusing on the work Bourke-White made in the 1930s and 40s in Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union and the U.K., Moments in Historypresents 150 classic photographs alongside revelatory extracts from letters and publications in periodicals. Bourke-White traveled to the USSR when the first Five-Year Plan was being implemented; she documented the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, and the Allied bombing of Germany. In the summer of 1945 she was commissioned by Life to make a photographic record of the destroyed German cities. She was present at the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp and the Leipzig-Thekla forced labor camp. She recorded the partition of India and the Korean War, and one of her most famous pictures of this period is “Gandhi,” which shows the subject at his spinning wheel. Also included in the catalogue are some of the word–picture sequences Bourke-White did for Fortune and Life, as well as extracts from her correspondence with personalities from the worlds of politics and culture, such as Winston Churchill and Georgia O’Keeffe. Bourke-White wanted to be the “eyes of the age,” and her pictures testify to (as she put it) her “unquenchable desire to be present when history is being made.”

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Boxeo Clasico by Christaan Felber / Self-published, $30

Felber provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Zaragoza Boxing Gym, a family-owned Bushwick establishment where locals go to sweat. The artifice and glamour of televised fights are replaced with emotive snapshots of victory, defeat and doubt. The photographer’s meditation on the importance of a fading ritual, drenched in warm retro hues and glistening bodies, brings a refreshing earnestness to the rugged pastime. (Huffpost)

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Brassaï: Paris NocturneThames & Hudson, $85

Walking the city streets at night, Brassaï discovered a previously unseen world and captured it on camera. He shows us every face and every facet, from tough guys and showgirls to prostitutes and pleasure-seekers, from the bustling cafés and dance halls to the stillness of deserted streets and mist-shrouded monuments. Through his eyes, Paris becomes a world of shadows, in which light, the prerequisite for any photograph, is reduced to dimly lit windows, streetlamps in the fog, or reflections on a rain-soaked pavement.

Although firmly rooted in its time and place, Brassaï’s night photography is nonetheless timeless in its appeal. Full of beauty, bleakness and insight, these images assure his place among the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

Brassaï (1899–1984) was born in Hungary and came to Paris in 1924, working first as a journalist and then embracing photography, but it was the Paris of the 1930s that came to form the bedrock of his work.

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Bright Nights by Tod Seelie / Prestel, $35

Photographs of Another New York compiles a decade and a half of pictures from a roiling underground of music and art and noise and mess.
Organized aesthetically, the collection features friends and comrades tromping through basement rock shows and dirty parties, climbing up bridges, and descending into live subway tunnels.  Short essays from Seelie’s collaborators, including Ian Vanek of the band Japanther and street artist Swoon, make sense of the senseless. These are not the snapshots New York City wants you to see.

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Caught in the Act: Actors Acting by Howard Schatz / Glitterati, $65

Actors fascinate us in part because they live out the truths we cannot – or do not – want to live out ourselves. In his latest book, acclaimed photographer Howard Schatz develops upon his well-received monthly feature for Vanity Fair,”In Character.” Schatz’ mastery of his craft is demonstrated as he himself acts, taking on the role of a director and giving his subjects detailed situations to explore, which are listed with the resulting image.

The actors featured here – including John Malkovich, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Douglas, Colin Firth, Laurence Fishburne, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael C. Hall, Hugh Laurie, Amy Poehler, and Geoffrey Rush, among other illustrious greats – demonstrate their skill for improvisation while Schatz captures the complexity of their emotional and physical range. This inventive collection is a richly entertaining revelation of the fantasy of transformation. Schatz does not simply create characters from these actors – he helps to reveal their humanity.

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Color! American Photography Transformed University of Texas Press. $75

Capturing the world in color was one of photography’s greatest aspirations from the very beginnings of the medium. When color photography became a reality with the introduction of the Autochrome in 1907, prominent photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz were overjoyed. But they quickly came to reject color photography as too aligned with human sight. It took decades for artists to come to understand the creative potential of color, and only in 1976, when John Szarkowski showed William Eggleston’s photographs at the Museum of Modern Art, did the art world embrace color. By accepting color’s flexibility and emotional transcendence, Szarkowski and Eggleston transformed photography, giving the medium equal artistic stature with painting, but also initiating its demise as an independent art.

The catalogue of a major exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which holds one of the premier collections of American photography, Color tells, for the first time, the fascinating story of color’s integration into American fine art photography and how its acceptance revolutionized the practice of art. Tracing the development of color photography from the first color photograph in 1851 to digital photography, John Rohrbach describes photographers’ initial rejection of color, their decades-long debates over what color brings to photography, and how their gradual acceptance of color released photography from its status as a second-tier art form. He shows how this absorption of color instigated wide acceptance of a fundamentally new definition of photography, one that blends photography’s documentary foundations with the creative flexibility of painting. Sylvie Pénichon offers a succinct survey of the technological advances that made color in photography a reality and have since marked its multifaceted development. These texts, illuminated by seventy-five full-page plates and more than eighty illustrations, make this book a groundbreaking contribution to photographic studies.

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Color Rush by Katherine A. Bussard / Aperture, $60

This is an overview of pioneers in color photography, from Stieglitz to Sherman, with salient images such as Nickolas Muray’s “Bathing Pool Scene,” above. (American Photo Magazine)

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Composing Space by Hélène Binet / Phaidon, $100

This book is an elegant overview of Binet’s career, bringing together black & white and color work. It is divided into thematic sections, each highlighting specific architects and designers as well as a particular aspect of their work that Binet’s dramatic photographs draw out and present. Interludes of more personal work, primarily abstract landscapes, show a different aspect of Binet’s work. Accompanying texts and conversations will highlight the ideas that inform Binet’s work, including abstraction, the importance of materiality and light, the experience of space, and the emotional power of architecture.

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Coney Island by Jeff Liao / Nazraeli, $125

Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao, born in Taiwan and based in New York, is well-known for his large-scale panoramic photographs that capture magnificent detail of the urban and social environment of New York City. Liao received broad critical acclaim for his Habitat 7 series, published in book form by Nazraeli Press in 2007 and now an out-of-print, sought-after first monograph. We are pleased to follow up with the artist’s second oversized monograph, “Coney Island”. In 2010, Liao began photographing Coney Island during a period of transition, for both the place and the artist. A new incarnation of Luna Park opened to the public, the municipal government actively engaged in redevelopment, and the area visibly transformed. At the same time, Liao’s approach to picture making changed as he experimented with new strategies and techniques. He started the project working with traditional transparency film. Although he had always used digital technology to transform the film images into a finished image, he slowly introduced digital picture-making technology to the process of recording the scenes. The resulting large-scale prints have a visual sweep often associated with cinema, encompassing the viewer and providing a strong sense of place. Jeff Liao’s work is widely exhibited and collected, and is included in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Bronx Museum of the Arts; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Opening with an introduction by Sean Corcoran, “Coney Island” is printed in an edition of only 500 copies, printed on Japanese art paper in an oversized, 24 x 12 inch format and bound in cloth. Each book comes with its own carrying case. A special edition with a choice of two original photographs is also available.

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EarthArt: Colours of the Earth by Bernhard Edmaier / Phaidon, $60

Divided into colour-coded chapters (blue, green, yellow, orange, red, violet, brown, grey/black and white), EarthART offers an astounding and little-seen view of the world’s surface. The images are presented on a black background for maximum effect: in the jewel-bright pages of this book, the colour wheel comes to life.

The selection includes some of Edmaier’s most celebrated aerial photographs as well as brand new, never-before-published images from the photographer’s most recent photographic flights, undertaken in Chile and Bolivia in November 2012 to complete his image selection for this new book. The book also includes some close-up shots of particularly striking natural phenomena.

The images in EarthART cover the entire colour spectrum as found in nature, and each photograph is accompanied by a short caption explaining how, where and why these spectacular colours occur: from tropical turquoise seas to icy blue glaciers; from lush green forests to rivers turned green by microscopically small algae. Yellow is the colour of desert sands as well as of sulphur crystals found near active volcanoes, while orange is the colour both of autumn leaves and of weathered rock: iron elements in the earth’s crust react with the oxygen and humidity in the air, producing shades from gold and rust right through to blood red. Red can also be a sign of intense heat, in the form of magma emerging from the earth’s core. Violet-coloured rock is very rare, requiring the presence of sunlight as well as several different minerals.

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Emmet Gowin Aperture, $65

Throughout his prolific career as a photographer, Emmet Gowin has threaded together seemingly disparate subjects—his wife, Edith, and their extended family; American and European landscapes; aerial views of environmental devastation—that reflect his ongoing interest in issues of scale, the impact of the individual, and notions of belonging. This long-awaited survey, Emmet Gowin pays tribute to Gowin’s remarkable career and his impact on the medium.

Following his marriage to Edith Morris in 1964, Gowin began work on a series of images of his extended family that is now recognized as a touchstone of twentieth-century American photography. He photographed their children and their aging parents, and made intimate portraits of his wife, carrying on a photographic tradition inherited from his mentor, Harry Callahan, with whom he studied in the 1960s. His focus broadened in the 1980s, when he began an exploration of landscape and aerial photography, most specifically in his documentation of Mount St. Helens and the American West. He has since photographed in the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, Japan, and the United States with a continued interest in irrigation, mining and natural resources, and the environmental effects of military testing. As a photography professor at Princeton University from 1973 to 2009, Gowin exerted a powerful influence on several generations of photographers. A related exhibition is organized by Fundación Mapfre, Madrid, and will open in June 2013 with the possibility of traveling to the United States and The Netherlands.

Edward Weston & Harry CallahanLa Fabrica, $42

This book compares the portrait photographs of two American masters, Harry Callahan (1912-1999) and Edward Weston (1886-1958), examining how their images combine desire and affection. While many of their well-known works have been understood as straightforward nudes or landscapes, this book looks beyond the limitations of these categories to suggest a more complex notion of their erotic photography. He, She, It looks at Callahan and Weston’s images through an examination of the relationship of the body and nature, but also, that of photography and affection. Unlike the majority of erotic photography that seeks to represent desire, in both Callahan and Weston we find the rare instance of desire wholly transformed into an image–an image where the subject is clearly not just displayed but the affection of the photographers toward the subject is clearly evident. For this to occur, there must be complicity between the photographer and his model. It’s clear that these are not anonymous and interchangeable models in these images but women whose bodies are evidently loved by the photographers: Tina and Charis in the case of Weston, and Eleanor in the case of Callahan. This emphasis makes this selection of photographs all the more intimate, and all the more deeply erotic.

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Genesis by Sebastião Salgado / Nazraeli, $70

Over 30 trips—travelled by foot, light aircraft, seagoing vessels, canoes, and even balloons, through extreme heat and cold and in sometimes dangerous conditions—Salgado created a collection of images showing us natureanimalsand indigenous peoples in breathtaking beauty. Mastering the monochrome with an extreme deftness to rival the virtuoso Ansel Adams, Salgado brings black-and-white photography to a new dimension; the tonal variations in his works, the contrasts of light and dark, recall the works of Old Masters such as Rembrandt and Georges de La Tour.

What does one discover in Genesis? The animal species and volcanoes of the Galápagos; penguins, sea lions, cormorants, and whales of the Antarctic and South Atlantic; Brazilian alligators and jaguars; African lions, leopards, and elephants; the isolated Zo’é tribe deep in the Amazon jungle; the Stone Age Korowai people of West Papua; nomadic Dinka cattle farmers in Sudan; Nenet nomads and their reindeer herds in the Arctic Circle; Mentawai jungle communities on islands west of Sumatra; the icebergs of the Antarctic; the volcanoes of Central Africa and the Kamchatka Peninsula; Saharan deserts; the Negro and Juruá rivers in the Amazon; the ravines of the Grand Canyon; the glaciers of Alaska… and beyond. Having dedicated so much time, energy, and passion to the making of this work, Salgado likens Genesis to “my love letter to the planet.”

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Hans Feurer / Damiani, $65

Hans Feurer has been a mainstay of fashion photography since the late 1960s, but despite his influence, this legendary photographer has had no books dedicated to his work–until now. Feurer’s career has certainly been an illustrious, star-studded and influential one, and the models who were his subjects, the designers he profiled and the leading publications which featured his work comprise a roll call of the highest echelons of the fashion and magazine worlds. Feurer has shot for VogueNova,Elle and many more leading publications. One of his most famous advertising campaigns was for Kenzo in 1983, which immortalized Iman and secured her status as an iconic supermodel of the period. Before embarking on a career in photography, Feurer worked as a graphic designer and art director. Traces of these previous careers are detectable throughout his work, evidenced by his careful compositions and precise styling. Emmanuelle Alt, the editor of French Vogue, has revived Feurer’s photographic career, and he is now widely referenced by top photographers such as Inez & Vinoodh. Designed by Fabien Baron, and lavishly illustrated with 175 photographs, this overview is a must-have for collectors of fashion photography books. It presents the photographer’s most iconic images from throughout the years, in a fascinating mélange of fashion styles and trends.Hans Feurer was born in Switzerland in 1939. After studying art in Switzerland, he worked as a graphic designer, illustrator and artistic director in London. In 1966, he traveled to Africa, during which trip he decided to become a photographer. He returned to London and began to compile a portfolio.

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Home Truths / Art/Books, $60

Published to accompany a highly anticipated traveling exhibition, Home Truths examines contemporary interpretations of one of the most enduring subjects in the history of picture-making: the image of the mother. Focusing on the work of 12 international photographers, it challenges the stereotypical or sentimental views of motherhood handed down by traditional depictions, and explores how photography can be used to address changing conditions of power, gender, domesticity, the maternal body and female identity. The work featured here is highly personal, often documentary in approach and with the individual at its center. The featured artists–among them Janine Antoni, Elina Brotherus, Elinor Carucci, Ana Casas Broda, Tierney Gearon, Fred Hüning, Leigh Ledare, Miyako Ishiuchi, Ann Fessler, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Katie Murray and Hanna Putz–offer very different views of contemporary motherhood, from the devoted to the dysfunctional. The book’s essays explore the historical and contemporary context of the mother figure, illustrated with dozens of comparative images from antiquity to the present day. Curator and editor Susan Bright traces the history of photographs of motherhood from the nineteenth century to the present; Simon Watney discusses the Madonna; Nick Johnstone looks at the presentation of the mother from the perspective of the father; Stephanie Chapman explores issues of motherhood and loss as expressed through photography.

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Hoop: The American Dream by Robin Layton / Powerhouse, $40

From urban playgrounds to small-town alleyways and windswept barnyards, basketball is a universal American experience and worldwide cultural touchstone. Renowned photojournalist Robin Layton captures that shared community, as well as the diversity and astonishing beauty surrounding this simple iron ring in hoop: the american dream, a loving look at basketball at its most elemental level: the basketball hoop.

Layton’s hoops include the childhood baskets of celebrated players such as Shaquille O’NealLarry BirdLeBron JamesSue Bird, and more documenting the altars upon which they laid their dreams, honed their skills, and made a first splash in the game. Robin has photographed basketball shrines such as New York’s Rucker Park playground and tiny Milan High (the real-life underdog school that inspired the movie Hoosiers). Many of the large-format images are accompanied by personal quotes from coaches and players, past and present, about the game of basketball and the significance of particular hoops in their lives, notably Mike KrzyzewskiRobin RobertsGary PaytonDanny Manning, and Rebecca Lobo among others.

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Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton / St. Martin’s, $30

When Brandon Stanton bought his first camera in 2010, he was a Chicago bond trader. Then, six months later, he lost his job, moved to New York, and began taking pictures and gathering stories about “humans of New York.” Before he knew it, his blog and Tumblr sites had more than a million total followers and an almost uncountable number of notes. What makes this self-trained photographer so popular is his uncanny powers of portrayal coupled with his willingness to let his subjects speak for themselves; witness, “I may look like a schlub, but I’ve attended 6,000 art lectures at The Met, and I’ve got more degrees than a thermometer.” With its 400 full-color photographs and annotations, this first-ever collection of quintessentially humans of New York confirms the best in who we are.

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If  You Knew Me You Would Care by Rennio Maifredi / Powerhouse, $65

If You Knew Me You Would Care represents a journey taken to find women who have survived wars, violence, and poverty in order to collect their stories. The stories go beyond tears and victimhood and reveal joy, love, and forgiveness.

If You Knew Me You Would Care is a collaboration between women’s rights activist and Women for Women International founder Zainab Salbi and photographer Rennio Maifredi. Together they traveled to Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to seek out women who have been subject to the worst trials individuals must ever face, and yet overcame this adversity. Salbi conducted interviews with women about their definitions of war and peace, about their horrific and tragic pasts and their hopes for the future, and Maifredi photographed each of the women interviewed. The interviews and images together create a compelling, global, first-person account of what it means to be a powerful, female, survivor.

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Japan’s Modern Divide by Kansuke Yamamoto and Hiroshi Hamaya / Getty, $50

In the 1930s the history of Japanese photography evolved in two very different directions: one toward documentary photography, the other favoring an experimental, or avant-garde, approach strongly influenced by Western Surrealism. This book explores these two strains of modern Japanese photography through the work of two remarkable figures: Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto.

Hiroshi Hamaya (1915–1999) was born and raised in Tokyo and, after an initial period of creative experimentation, turned his attention to recording traditional life and culture on the coast of the Sea of Japan. In 1940 he began photographing the New Year’s rituals in a remote village, which was published as Yukiguni (Snow country). He went on to record cultural changes in China, political protests in Japan, and landscapes around the world.

Kansuke Yamamoto (1914–1987) became fascinated by the innovative approaches in art and literature exemplified by such Western artists as Man Ray, René Magritte, and Yves Tanguy. He promoted Surrealist and avant-garde ideas in Japan through his poetry, paintings, sculptures, and photographs.

Along with essays by the book’s coeditors, Judith Keller and Amanda Maddox, are essays by Kōtarō Iizawa, Ryūichi Kaneko, and Jonathan M. Reynolds, life chronologies, and a selection of poems by Yamamoto translated by John Solt. This book, which features more than one hundred images, accompanies an exhibition of the same name on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from March 26 to August 25, 2013.

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Kennedy in Berlin by Ulrich Mack / Hirmer , $18.11

“Ich bin ein Berliner.” With these words, John F. Kennedy made history. Addressing a crowd of several hundred thousand in West Berlin, two years after the erection of the Berlin Wall, the young and charismatic president conveyed solidarity and support for West Germany on behalf of the United States, marking the height of good relations between the two countries and a decisive moment in Cold War history as well.
The local media were poised to record this momentous event. Among the photographers and reporters covering the Kennedy visit was twenty-eight-year-old Ulrich Mack, whose never-before-published photographs feature the president in a variety of settings: a triumphal ticker-tape procession down the main street of West Berlin with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt, mayor of Berlin; a visit to the notorious Checkpoint Charlie where Kennedy stands atop the observation deck; a crowd of cheering West Berliners encircling the president following his impassioned speech. Mack’s photographs are technically superb but, more important, they are guided by an instinctive feel for capturing great moments—including those on the sidelines that, in their candor, often surpass the staged appearances. For the modern-day viewer, many of the photos are also remarkable for having been taken at very close range.
Published on the fiftieth anniversary of this historic occasion, Kennedy in Berlin reproduces more than one hundred of Mack’s photos taken throughout the state visit in June 1963—selected by the photographer himself and editor Hans-Michael Koetzle, offering a look at this important event.

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Kodachrome Memory: 1972-1990 by Nathan Benn / Powerhouse, $50

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Kolor by Elliott Erwitt / Teneues, $125

To select the color photographs for this vast project that have never been published in a book before, Elliott Erwitt sifted through his ample archive of nearly half a million 35mm slides. Then he began the mammoth task of whittling it down to this epic collection of roughly 450 pages. For most of these images, the color managed to stay miraculously preserved and every evocative detail is as crisp as the date of its creation. Whether world leaders or sassy showgirls, the subjects reflect Erwitt’s own wry and eclectic sensibility. To say the juxtapositions are intriguing would be an understatement. From marketplaces to military camps, Vegas to Venice, there’s a rich mixture of public pageantry and carefully observed private interactions.

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Man and Sea by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Brian Skerry / Abrams, $50

Spanning from the arctic to the tropics, from large-scale views of Australia’s barrier reef to close-up images of sea turtles, Man and Sea is a compelling, entirely unique journey through a fascinating world. Spectacular aerial images by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and striking underwater photographs by Brian Skerry offer a top-to-bottom tour of the world’s oceans, while the enlightening text covers the sea’s critical mechanisms, from currents to food chains. Inspiring interviews of some of the world’s most respected researchers and activists also offer cutting-edge insight into the many challenges, such as overfishing and pollution, facing the oceans today. Exploring the critical and ever-evolving relationship between mankind and the ocean, Man and Sea is an unforgettable portrait of the global issue of sustainable development.

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Minescape by Brett Van Ort / Daylight, $35

A Texan photographer who divides his time between London and Los Angeles, Brett Van Ort started out as a camera assistant and operator working on various films, documentaries, commercials and television shows. He has always been fascinated by land and how we use it to both our benefit and detriment. Minescape documents the legacy of land warfare on the social and natural landscape in Bosnia that continues to render many portions of the country impassable. “These pieces show the regenerative power of nature and human beings’ insatiable appetite to expand, explore, conquer and transform nature into civility,” Van Ort states. The photographs range from images of the mines themselves, set on stark white backgrounds, to landscapes that are unusable until meticulously cleared and images of prosthetic limbs. In Minescape, Van Ort portrays human technology as an agent that maims or heals, while the natural world remains edenic.

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Modern Times by Patrick Tsai. $19

“Modern Times” is a series that Patrick Tsai shot in China, before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Coming after his intensely personal project “My Little Dead Dick,” these snapshots are a much more objective body of work. Still, there’s a strong sense of humor here, which is helped by the inventive editing.

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Neue Welt by Wolfgang Tillmans. € 29

Over the period of more than two decades, Wolfgang Tillmans has explored the medium of photo-imaging with greater range than any other artist of his generation. From snapshots of his friends to abstract images made in a darkroom without a camera or works made with a photocopier, he has pushed the photographic process to its outer limits in myriad ways. For this collection of photos, his fourth book with TASCHEN, Tillmans turned away from the self-reflexive exploration of the photography medium that had occupied him for several years by focusing his lens on the outside world—from London and Nottingham to Tierra del Fuego, Tasmania, Saudi Arabia, and Papua New Guinea. He describes this new phase simply as “trying out what the camera can do for me, what I can do for it.” The result is a powerful and singular view of life today in diverse parts of the world, seen from many angles. Says Tillmans, “My travels are aimless as such, not looking for predetermined results, but hoping to find subject matter that in some way or other speaks about the time I’m in.”

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Passage to Burma by Scott Stulberg / Skyhorse Publishing, $38

It is a charming and satisfying thing that there are still places in this world where magic seems to pervade the sights, smells, and sounds of a place more than the trappings of the so-called modern world. For more than ten years Scott Stulberg has made multiple pilgrimages to Burma (sometimes called Myanmar) to capture this sense of magic with his cameras. The result of those pilgrimages is captured here in a collection of images that display the heart and soul of this magnificent country. Burma is a place of dreams. Bagan, where two thousand pagodas carved from the native rock occupy an area one-sixth the size of Washington, DC. Mandalay, an exercise in calm and chaos that seduces the eye in every direction. Inle Lake, where small villages cluster along the water like mussels clinging to the rocky shore. Mrauk, a place so remote that tourists are a curious rarity. And Yangon, (once Rangoon), a tropical coastal city that still bears the trappings of colonial rule along its shady avenues. And around every corner of this country of contrasts are Burma’s Buddhist monks in their distinct saffron robes. Their warmth and openness have come to symbolize this amazing country. Passage to Burma is Stulberg’s photographic tribute to this remarkable place. It is a country in transition, yet with a timeless quality to it that is captured beautifully in the images in this book. “This is Burma,” wrote Ruyard Kipling, “it is quite unlike any place you know about.”

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Photojournalists On War / University of Texas Press, $41.36

With previously unpublished photographs by an incredibly diverse group of the world’s top news photographers, Photojournalists on War presents a groundbreaking new visual and oral history of America’s nine-year conflict in the Middle East. Michael Kamber interviewed photojournalists from many leading news organizations, including Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press, theGuardian, the Los Angeles TimesMagnumNewsweek, the New York TimesParis Match, Reuters,Time, the Times of London, VII Photo Agency, and the Washington Post, to create the most comprehensive collection of eyewitness accounts of the Iraq War yet published. These in-depth interviews offer first-person, frontline reports of the war as it unfolded, including key moments such as the battle for Fallujah, the toppling of Saddam’s statue, and the Haditha massacre. The photographers also vividly describe the often shocking and sometimes heroic actions that journalists undertook in trying to cover the war, as they discuss the role of the media and issues of censorship. These hard-hitting accounts and photographs, rare in the annals of any war, reveal the inside and untold stories behind the headlines in Iraq.

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Out of the Wild: Zoo Portraits by Boza Ivanovic / Glitterati, $60

Photographer Boza Ivanovic artfully transforms the traditional animal-visitor dynamic in Out of the Wild. These animals are at once as terrifying as they are hauntingly beautiful.

Zoos work to preserve nature, protecting animals from the encroaching human presence in their native environments. Cages and glass – these barriers exist to protect both the animals and the visitors. Photographer Boza Ivanovic, however, artfully transforms this dynamic in his latest book, Out of the Wild: Zoo Portraits. His photographs pull viewers past protective boundaries, reinstating a sensation of awe and even fear. Here, zoo animals appear as they do in nature – without the perceived safety of barriers.

As a result of his careful presentation, Ivanovic inspires a tension in his viewers. These animals are at once as terrifying as they are hauntingly beautiful. They emerge from the darkness or swoop gracefully toward the lens. Ivanovic’s carefully crafted images restore the majesty of these creatures, revealing that there is still a wild spirit in these animals’ hearts – whether in the wild or out.

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Revue by Eugenio Recuenco / Teneues, $125

Spanish photographer Eugenio Recuenco has gained widespread acclaim as a noted advertising and fashion photographer. With other-worldly narratives of great vitality, his complex signature style uses elaborate handmade scenery and contains multiple references to art history—the Renaissance, Picasso, Tamara de Lempicka just to mention a few of his varied influences. A highly cinematic photographer with an innate storytelling flair, it is hardly surprising Recuenco has also created a number of award-winning works in commercial spots and short films. This is the first book to showcase the work of this accomplished visual artist who is certain to be a star of significant and enduring renown.

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Rock and Roll Stories by Lynn Goldsmith / Abrams, $42.80

The story of rock lives in Lynn Goldsmith’s photographs. After coming of age in the Midwest in the tumultuous 1960s, she crashed the music scene in New York and emerged as one of its leading image-makers. She chronicled Bruce Springsteen’s passage to glory, the Rolling Stones’ legendary stadium tours, Michael Jackson’s staggering ascent, U2’s arrival in New York, and the brooding force of Bob Marley. Culture heroes like Bob Dylan and Patti Smith became frequent subjects for her lens. The range of her work is staggering.
In Rock and Roll Stories, she shares the best of this work. Her commentary takes the reader into the studio, the tour bus, the concert hall, and the streets where the pictures were made, offering revealing perspectives on her subjects and herself. A greatly expanded and newly designed edition of her very successful book PhotoDiary (1995), this volume captures the story of a generation’s loyalty to rock and roll.

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Shinan by Michael Kenna / Nazraeli, $75

Shinan, an archipelago of 1,004 exquisite and unspoiled islands situated in the South West of Korea, is also known as “The Island of Angels”. Michael Kenna photographed there over a period of two years. The resulting monograph, “Shinan”, is comprised of sixty-two black and white images in which the artist emphasizes suggestion rather than description; sparse and graphic elements evoke a whole world. Elegantly printed with our special Daido black ink and tinted spot varnish on Japanese matte art paper, this first printing of Shinan is limited to 3,000 slipcased copies. A special edition of 250 signed and numbered copies, presented in a custom clamshell box, is also available. “Breathtakingly beautiful” – it sounds like a cliché, but the phrase encapsulates the feeling that echoed in my mind the moment I saw Michael Kenna’s work… It is as if Mother Nature is trying to show off her creation through the medium of these images. – Lee Chuyoung, Curator of National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea.

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Snapshot Photography by Catherine Zuromskis / MIT Press, $35

Snapshots capture everyday occasions. Taken by amateur photographers with simple point-and-shoot cameras, snapshots often commemorate something that is private and personal; yet they also reflect widely held cultural conventions. The poses may be formulaic, but a photograph of loved ones can evoke a deep affective response. In Snapshot Photography, Catherine Zuromskis examines the development of a form of visual expression that is both public and private.

Scholars of art and culture tend to discount snapshot photography; it is too ubiquitous, too unremarkable, too personal. Zuromskis argues for its significance. Snapshot photographers, she contends, are not so much creating spontaneous records of their lives as they are participating in a prescriptive cultural ritual. A snapshot is not only a record of interpersonal intimacy but also a means of linking private symbols of domestic harmony to public ideas of social conformity.

Through a series of case studies, Zuromskis explores the social life of snapshot photography in the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century. She examines the treatment of snapshot photography in the 2002 film One Hour Photo and in the television crime drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit; the growing interest of collectors and museum curators in “vintage” snapshots; and the “snapshot aesthetic” of Andy Warhol and Nan Goldin. She finds that Warhol’s photographs of the Factory community and Goldin’s intense and intimate photographs of friends and family use the conventions of the snapshot to celebrate an alternate version of “family values.”

In today’s digital age, snapshot photography has become even more ubiquitous and ephemeral—and, significantly, more public. But buried within snapshot photography’s mythic construction, Zuromskis argues, is a site of democratic possibility.

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Storms by Mitch Dobrowner / Aperture, $50

Mitch Dobrowner has been chasing storms since 2009, traveling throughout Western and Midwestern America to capture nature in its full fury. Making photographs in the tradition of Ansel Adams, to the highest standard of craftsmanship, Dobrowner creates extraordinary black-and-white images of monsoons, tornados and massive thunderstorms conjure awe and wonder. As Dobrowner states in the book’s afterword, “I experience storms as living beings, organic things, both rational and unpredictable in the way they look, how they move, grow and die. Every storm is different; each has a unique character. My job is to capture a ‘portrait’ of each storm I encounter, an image that does each one justice as if the storm was a person.” Dobrowner’s photographs been published widely by magazines, including National GeographicTime and the Los Angeles Times. They are introduced here by Gretel Ehrlich, the American travel writer and poet, who creates her own images, in words, that evoke the stormy spirit of the American West.

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The Actor by John Gossage. $55

The response to why he robbed banks “That’s where the money is” often misattributed to renowned bank robber Willie “the actor” Sutton provides the backdrop for this series of photographs of saving instituions by John Gossage. A book of view camera, photographs of banks from 1975, presented these many years after they where shot. For Gossage 2012 provides a perfect moment to review the conceits of vernacular bank architecture and the concept of thievery. A book dedicated to the artist’s father.

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The Big Picture by Josh Sapan / Princeton, $30

At the turn of the twentieth century, photographic technology and an American culture of optimism and self-celebration combined to create what Luc Sante calls the “strange and compelling medium” of panoramic group photography. Organizations famed and obscure—from the Anti-Saloon League of America and the troops at Camp Sevier during the Great War to the members of the Midget Swing Review—commissioned photographers to produce images that sometimes encompassed a full 360 degrees. No public event—a circus, a train wreck, or the Army-Navy football game—was too grand or eccentric to deserve its own wide-angle commemoration. The photographs compose a portrait of a society on the cusp of sweeping change, as their details preserve the enduring humanity of their subjects: a bathing beauty tosses her curls; a group of cross-dressing women smile enigmatically at an off-camera friend; children at play on a summertime lawn appear only as blurs behind an Ohio town meeting. The Big Picture gathers nearly one hundred of these fascinating images, most never before published, bringing the shared experience of American history from the late nineteenth century to the WWII era to life.

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The Enclave by Richard Mosse / Aperture, $80

For the last three years, Richard Mosse (born 1980) has photographed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a region in which a long-standing power vacuum has resulted in a horrifying cycle of violence. The Enclave is the culmination of Mosse’s recent efforts to radically rethink traditional representations of conflict photography, drawing on artistic and documentary strategies in equal measure. Shooting with both still and 16 mm cameras, he uses a discontinued military surveillance film, which registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light. Mosse has captured the landscape in disorienting psychedelic hues of scarlet, lavender, cobalt and puce, creating images that are deceptively seductive and alluring. Ultimately, however, the resulting images and film map the otherwise invisible edges of violence, chaos and incommunicable horror of isolated, jungle war zones. At the heart of the project, as Mosse states, is his exploration of the contradictions and limits of art’s ability “to represent narratives so painful that they exist beyond language–and photography’s capacity to document specific tragedies and communicate them to the world.” The Enclave has been printed in a total of 1,000 copies, 250 of which have been released as part of a limited-edition boxed set. The boxed set includes a 45 rpm record with sound and music design by Ben Frost; a poster featuring an image by Richard Mosse (depicted at left) and a transcription from the film; and a signed and numbered copy of the book, released to coincide with an installation of the work at the Venice Biennale.

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The Last Roll by Jeff Jacobson / Daylight, $40

“A few days before Christmas, 2004, I was diagnosed with lymphoma,” writes photographer Jeff Jacobson (born 1946) in his preface to The Last Roll. “Some present. After each chemotherapy session I retreated to our home in the Catskills to recuperate. I began photographing around the house as I was too sick to go anywhere else. As my strength returned, my photographic universe slowly expanded.” Shortly thereafter, Kodak discontinued production of Kodachrome, the stock that had shaped Jacobson’s vision as a photographer. He bought up as much remaining Kodachrome film as he could, and exposed his last roll a few days before Christmas, 2010. The compelling body of photographs made on Kodachrome provides a nuanced, first-person depiction of a cancer patient’s changing perspectives on life, death, art and the world at-large.

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This Is Happening by Bridget W. Payne / Chronicle, $13

Over 100 million people use the Instagram app to take beautiful, lo-fi photos of the special moments in their lives, and then instantly share them with the world. The first-ever crowd-sourced book of Instagram photos, This is Happening highlights that single, fleeting moment that makes us happy and just begs to be photographed—the perfect cup of coffee, a scenic moment on the morning commute, the joy of new shoes, a loved one’s shy smile. Featuring over 200 stunning shots by many distinctive photographers, this petite yet chunky volume is an inspiring showcase of the easily overlooked details that fill us with wonder each day, all captured through the dreamy lens of Instagram.

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This is Mars / Aperture, $100

This Is Mars offers a previously unseen vision of the red planet. Located somewhere between art and science, the book brings together for the first time a series of panoramic images recently sent back by the U.S. observation satellite MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter). Since its arrival in orbit in 2006, MRO and its HiRISE telescope have been mapping Mars’ surface in a series of exceptionally detailed images that reveal all the beauty of this legendary planet. Conceived as a visual atlas, the book takes the reader on a fantastic voyage–plummeting into the breathtaking depths of the Velles Marineris canyons; floating over the black dunes of Noachis Terra; and soaring to the highest peak in our solar system, the Olympus Mons volcano. The search for traces of water also uncovers vast stretches of carbonic ice at the planet’s poles. Seamlessly compiled by French publisher, designer and editor Xavier Barral, these extraordinary images are accompanied by an introduction by research scientist Alfred S. McEwen, principle investigator on the HiRISE telescope; an essay by astrophysicist Francis Rocard, who explains the story of Mars’ origins and its evolution; and a timeline by geophysicist Nicolas Mangold, who unveils the geological secrets of this fascinating planet.

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Understanding a Photograph by John Berger / Aperture, $18.51

John Berger’s explorations of the relationships between the individual and society, culture and politics, and experience and expression through the written word, films, photographic collaborations and performances are unmatched in their diversity, ambition and reach. His television series and bookWays of Seeing revolutionized the way that art is understood. Now, Understanding a Photographgathers the photography writings of one of the most internationally influential authors of the past 50 years. Understanding a Photograph is arranged chronologically, leading the reader on a thought-provoking journey through selected essays from hallmark works such as “About Looking” and “Another Way of Telling,” as well as previously uncollected pieces written for exhibitions or catalogues that discuss a wide range of artists–from August Sander to Jitka Hanzlová. This collection of some 25 texts has been carefully selected by novelist and essayist Geoff Dyer, who has also written a critical study of Berger’s oeuvre.

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Vietnam, the Real War / Abrams, $25.30

To cover the Vietnam War, the Associated Press gathered an extraordinary group of superb photojournalists in its Saigon bureau, creating one of the great photographic legacies of the 20th century. Collected here are images that tell the story of the war that left a deep and lasting impression on American life. These are pictures that both recorded and made history, taken by unbelievably courageous photojournalists. In a moving essay, writer Pete Hamill, who reported from Vietnam in 1965, celebrates their achievement.
As we begin to look back from the vantage point of half a century, this is the book that will serve as a photographic record of the drama and tragedy of the Vietnam War.

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Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits /Powerhouse, $50

For the first time, Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits reveals the fullest and most intimate portrait of the artist to date with approximately 60 never-before-seen black-and-white and four-color self-portraits culled from the extensive Maloof archive, the preeminent collector of the work of Vivian Maier and editor of the highly acclaimed Vivian Maier: Street Photographer (powerHouse Books, 2011)—bringing us closer to the reclusive artist than ever before.

There is still very little known about the life of Vivian Maier. What is known is that she was born in New York in 1926 and worked as a nanny for a family on Chicago’s North Shore during the 50s and 60s. Seemingly without a family of her own, the children she cared for eventually acted as caregivers for Maier herself in the autumn of her life. She took hundreds of thousands of photographs in her lifetime, but never shared them with anyone. Maier lost possession of her art when her storage locker was sold off for non-payment. She passed away in 2009 at the age of 83.

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Waits/Corbijn by Anton Corbijn / Schirmer/Mosel, $199.99

WAITS/CORBIJN 77-11, a collectors edition linen slipcase book limited to 6,600 copies in the US and Europe by renowned German publisher Schirmer-Mosel. The coffee table art book not only features over 200 pages of Waits portraits taken by Corbijn over four decades, but also includes over 50 pages of the first published collection of musings and photographs taken by Waits himself.

Waits/Corbijn is the celebration of an artistic collaboration that reaches back more than 35 years, to those first black-and-white photographs of Tom Waits taken by a young and virtually unknown Anton Corbijn in

Holland in 1977. Corbijn would go on to acclaim for his iconic, enigmatic portraits of musicians and other artists from U2 and Miles Davis to Robert De Niro and Clint Eastwood to Damien Hirst and Gerhard Richteralso becoming a pioneer in music video and more recently, an award-winning director of feature films.

By 1977, Tom Waits was already known worldwide for a series of stunning, timeless albums, filled with songs of a noir-tinged Los Angeles that owed as much to writers like John Fante and Jack Kerouac as

it did to the jazz, blues, and tin-pan alley that had soaked into Waits pores from childhood. Ahead of Waits lay his partnership with Kathleen Brennanleading to such touchstone recordings asRain Dogs and Mule Variations his film work with the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and Jim Jarmusch, and his stage projects with legendary director Robert Wilson. In

those first photographs, then, are the seeds of these two intertwined careers, feeding off each other. Waits vibrant persona helped Corbijn define his narrative, cinematic style of still photography: images that felt as if you were coming in on the middle of some unfolding drama. In turn, Corbijn helped Waits evolve his visual style into a new theatrical self that synced beautifully with the experimental music he was making with Brennan. And lead him to his own photography, collected here for the first time under the title Curiosities, a visual handle to the artistic intelligence millions of fans know only through his music. Photographs of Tom Waits by Anton Corbijn, photographs by Tom Waits of the vivid quotidian, stretching down through the years, and presented for the first time in a beautiful clothbound book; side by side, these 226 images record one of the longest and most fruitful collaborations in the careers of both artists.

The Waits-Corbijn ‘77-‘11 book also features additional forewards by Jim Jarmusch and Robert Christgau.

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Water by Edward Burtynsky / Steidl, $128

There is no life without water. Burtynsky’s new and highly anticipated book Watertells us the story of where water comes from, how we use it, distribute and waste it. Often using a bird’s-eye perspective, the photographer shows us its remote sources, remarkable ancient step-wells and mass bathing rituals, the transformation of desert into cities with waterfronts on each doorstep, the compromised landscapes of the American Southwest. Furthermore, Burtynsky explores the infrastructure of water management: the gigantic hydroelectric dams and terraced rice fields in the heart of China, the vast irrigation systems of America’s bread basket and the use of aquaculture. The colour photographs in this book are poetic and at the same time highly relevant: they reveal another vital component of our life on earth that drives the bloom of civilization, and foreshadow the extent to which our future depends on our everyday behaviour in dealing with this increasingly scarce resource.

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Weegee: Murder is My Business by Brian Wallis / Prestel, $50

Drawn from the International Center of Photography’s archives, this book highlights the incomparable style and fascinating career of Weegee, one of New York City’s quintessential press photographers. For a decade between 1935 and 1946, Weegee made a name for himself snapping crime scenes, victims, and perpetrators. Armed with a Speed Graphic camera and a police-band radio, Weegee often beat the cops to the story, determined to sell his pictures to the sensation-hungry tabloids. His stark black-and-white photos were often lurid and unsettling. Yet, as this beautifully produced volume shows, they were also brimming with humanity. Designed as a series of “dossiers,” this book follows Weegee’s transformation from a freelancer to a photo-detective. It explores his relationship with the tabloid press and gangster culture and reveals his intimate knowledge of New York’s darkest corners. It provides readers with a rich historical experience–a New York City “noir” shot through the lens of one of its most iconoclastic figures.

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Why Photography Matters by Jerry Thompson / MIT Pres, $14.95

Photography matters, writes Jerry Thompson, because of how it works — not only as an artistic medium but also as a way of knowing. It matters because how we understand what photography is and how it works tell us something about how we understand anything. With these provocative observations, Thompson begins a wide-ranging and lucid meditation on why photography is unique among the picture-making arts.

Thompson, a working photographer for forty years, constructs an argument that moves with natural logic from Thomas Pynchon (and why we read him for his vision and not his command of miscellaneous facts) to Jonathan Swift to Plato to Emily Dickinson (who wrote “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”) to detailed readings of photographs by Eugène Atget, Garry Winogrand, Marcia Due, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank. He questions Susan Sontag’s assertion in On Photography that “nobody” can any longer imagine literate, authoritative, or transcendent photographs. He considers the money-fueled expansion of the market for photography, and he compares ambitious “meant-for-the-wall” photographs with smaller, quieter works. Forcefully and persuasively, Thompson argues for photography as a medium concerned with understanding the world we live in — a medium whose business is not constructing fantasies pleasing to the eye or imagination but describing the world in the toughest and deepest way.