If the rows of vendors at Paris Photo are any indication, photo books aren’t going away anytime soon. Diehard fans of the photo book don white gloves to inspect pages of pricey limited editions, while even casual observers can’t resist thumbing through an attractive tome lying in repose on a coffee table. Here are a few that caught our eye this year.
Looking for Alice
The psychotherapist turned photographer swept up the award circuit in the past year with a stunning rise to prominence. Sian Davey’s intensely personal images of her daughter Alice, born with Down Syndrome, feel both intimate and contemporary.
Miami-based Andrew Kaufman started documenting the new Panama Canal in 2006 when the country decided to pursue a 10-year, $5.5 billion expansion plan. Using only film, the resulting work not only covers the massive construction project, but the people in and around the site whose lives are inextricably tied to the vital passageway.
Out of Fashion
We called him fashion’s “It” photographer because Landon Nordeman’s distinctive images have become ubiquitous with the fashion industry. Nordeman pops his flash behind-the-scenes of various fashion haunts to come up with his cleverly titled Out of Fashion.
The Naming of a River
Last year, the quirky Jiazazhi Press in Ningbo, China published Thomas Sauvin’s “Until Death Do US Part” – a selection of smoking-related images from his “found negatives” projects on the outskirts of Beijing. This year, Jiazazhi published a beautiful gatefold-style book by former Ph.D. chemist Xinhao Cheng, who photographed scenes from the Panlong River in his hometown of Kunming.
Summer Days Staten Island
Time will tell whether we hold the same nostalgia for photos from the digital era. But for now, we still love Christine Osinski’s large format photos from Staten Island taken between 1983 and 1984. The clothing, hairstyles and attitudes take us back to a time when Madonna ruled the airwaves and there was nary a selfie stick in sight.
What do you get when you cross a chemist with astronomy and a penchant for photography? Astronaut Don Pettit found some spare parts aboard the International Space Station and build himself a barn door tracker to capture some of the most exhilarating images from space. All of his favorites are captured in a beautiful book from PSG.
Kuwait. A Desert on File. Art Edition
During the first Iraq War, as Saddam Hussein’s troops were driven out of Kuwait, they set numerous oil wells ablaze. World-renown photographer Sebastiao Salgado traveled to the Middle East to capture photographers trying to tame the conflagrations. The heat was so intense at times that it partially melted one of his lenses. The resulting work, first published in The New York Times Magazine in 1991, went on to win the Leica Oskar Barnack Award.
Sharks, Face-To-Face with the Ocean’s Endangered Predator
This isn’t a National Geographic-style essay on one of the earth’s fiercest predators. Celebrity photographer Michael Muller used underwater strobes to capture highly stylized portraits of sharks around the world. And if the $69.99 version isn’t enough for you, there’s always the $3,000 collector’s edition the comes delivered in a cage. No, really.
My Last Day at Seventeen
Doug Dubois extended a one-month residency into a five-year project documenting a group of young people around Russell Heights in Ireland. Dubois’ contemporary portraits and spontaneous images shot in both medium and large format film were combined with the illustrations of cartoonist Patrick “Paddy” Lynch to create an intimate look at the lives of teens on the cusp of adulthood.
Kids in Love
Perhaps there will come a time when 22-year old Olivia Bee’s work will no longer be considered youthful and authentic. That time is not now. Since she was a teen, brands have lining up to work with her and get a little taste of that je ne sais quoi that transports you into the dreamlike vision of a precocious ingenue.
Total Excess: Photographs by Michael Zagaris
We’d be remiss to exclude Michael Zagaris’ rock ‘n roll retrospective. Zagaris worked as a speech writer for Robert Kennedy, but ended up becoming a photographer in San Francisco during the heyday of punk rock in the 70s and 80s. We live in a time of excessively curated celebrity, and Zagaris’ book is an honest departure from faux authenticity.
Update: Added Total Excess