Top Photo Books Of 2008; Some Of The Best Visual Delights Of The Year

Each year there are many new photographic books covering everything from nature to photojournalism to destination photography. Here are some that came across my desk that caught my eye:

Faces of Sunset Boulevard: A Portrait of Los Angeles; by Patrick Ecclesine; Santa Monica Press; $39.95; (ISBN-10: 1-59580-040-9)
Photographer Patrick Ecclesine provides the reader with a colorful glimpse of life on the streets of Los Angeles. This collection of well-crafted images range from slick iconic shots of noted celebrities like Larry King, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to images that capture the flip side of the glitz and glamour. Ecclesine’s well-trained eye allows him to capture equally beautiful yet candid portraits of street vendors, the homeless, construction workers, police officers, firefighters, high school kids, and eclectic street performers. His work certainly reflects the truly unique diversity of personalities that only L.A. can offer.

Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes; by Michael Benson, foreword by Arthur C. Clarke, afterword by Lawrence Weschler; Abrams; $24.95; (ISBN: 978-0-8109-9546-8)
Hitch a ride with a spacecraft and take a fantastic journey across the dark, unknown expanse of our solar system. Michael Benson devoted years to compiling this stunning collection of 295 crystal-clear images captured by various spacecrafts over nearly 50 years. These missions captured highly detailed photos of Venus, Mars, Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, the moon, and asteroids. The captions include information on the craft that took the photo as well as the date and specific data on the heavenly bodies. Benson’s book offers a unique and beautiful look at the earth’s closest neighbors.

E. O. Hoppé’s Australia; essay by Graham Howe and Erika Esau; W. W. Norton & Company; $49.95; (ISBN: 978-0-393-06611-1)
E. O. Hoppé was one of the world’s premier modernist photographers. This book contains a lovely collection of 212 images that document his exploration of Australia in the early 1930s. During his stay, he traveled to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, and the Outback, capturing more than 3000 photographs ranging from candid portraits to vivid landscapes and artistic cityscapes. At that time, Australia was a work in progress and Hoppé’s images offer a unique look at a growing nation.

Shells; text by Philippe Bouchet, photographs by Gilles Mermet; Abbeville Press; $45; (ISBN: 978-0-7892-0989-4)
For this project, photographer Gilles Mermet provided 120 full-color images of various types of shells captured against stark white or jet-black backgrounds. These somber backdrops reveal the delicate swirls, sinuous contours, and muted colors of each shell in perfect detail. Author Philippe Bouchet uses his scientific expertise to provide in-depth information on the biodiversity of mollusks and their vital role in the eco system.

Flower; photographs by Christopher Beane, text by Anthony F. Janson; Artisan; $35; (ISBN-13: 978-1-57965-352-1)
Photographer Christopher Beane’s images transform plants into highly unusual abstract works of art. This collection of 150 photos was captured against stark black, white, or colorful textured backdrops that highlight the vivid blossoms, seed pods, twisting stems, and curling leaves and reveal nature’s flair for the dramatic. Anthony Janson’s text provides in-depth information on the photographer, his work, and even the plants themselves. This book is certain to be a treasured part of your personal library.

Beneath the Roses; by Gregory Crewdson, introduction by Russell Banks; Abrams; $60; (ISBN: 978-0-8109-9380-8)
Photographer Gregory Crewdson earned fame for his elaborate and darkly moody large-scale images. His street scenes and cityscapes seem to blur the line between reality and cinematic fantasy, capturing moments that evoke compelling emotions in the viewer. This book contains a fine collection of 175 full-color photographs that are certain to spark your imagination and leave you wondering about the dramatic story the artist is weaving.

America Off Track; photographs by Jarret Schecter; Trolley Books; $60; (ISBN: 978-1-904563-60-0)
This book documents Jarret Schecter’s two-year adventure riding Amtrak trains across America. His camera focused on the ever-changing scenery as he passed from state to state, through countless cities and towns. Schecter also captures candid portraits of his fellow passengers as they flow from one train station to the next. The descriptive text provides information on the current condition of America’s train system and explores why this government run means of transportation is never used to its full potential in spite of the energy crisis.

Butterfly; photographs by Thomas Marent, text by Ben Morgan; DK Publishing, Inc.; $30; (ISBN: 978-0-7566-3340-0)
Photographer Thomas Marent documents the dramatic life cycle of various species of butterflies and moths. Captured in their natural habitat, Marent shows us how the insects start life in tiny eggs and hatch into colorful caterpillars of every size and description soon morphing into brittle cocoons to emerge as a new winged being. The captions that accompany this collection of more than 500 images are highly informative and bring the reader a deeper understanding of these delightful creatures.

The Face of Minnesota; by John Szarkowski, foreword by Verlyn Klinkenborg, afterword by Richard Benson; University of Minnesota Press; $49.95; (ISBN: 978-0-8166-5448-2)
The Face of Minnesota was commissioned in 1958 to celebrate the state’s centennial and has been out of print for almost 40 years. This wonderful collection of over 175 images expertly documents the natural beauty of the land and lifestyle enjoyed by the people who call it home. They also reveal how much things have changed since the book was finished and offer the reader a rare glimpse into the past.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 17; edited by Rosamund Kidman Cox; BBC Books; $50; (ISBN-13: 978-1-84607-317-5)
This beautiful book features the winning and commended images from the 2007 Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. The works of over 100 photographers from across the globe are divided into categories that include animal portraits, urban and garden, nature in black and white, and wild places. The colorful captions describe how the image was captured and draw the reader into a story frozen in time.

Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers; by Rebecca Solnit, Mark Klett, and Byron Wolfe; Trinity University Press; $29.95; (ISBN: 1-59534-042-4)
Authors Rebecca Solnit, Mark Klett, and Byron Wolfe explore the many natural wonders of Yosemite with the aid of thought-provoking words and lavish images captured in both black and white and color. The iconic works of such great artists as Muybridge, Adams, and Weston were lovingly recreated by Klett and Wolfe to highlight the stark difference between how a location appeared when it was first captured and how the same spot appears today. Solnit provides a selection of informative essays that reveal the history and reality of this world-famous national park.