Holiday Books For The Traditional Photographer

A gift guide for the photographer in your life (or a hint for those who don't know what accessory you want this holiday season).

Each year we present our annual guide to some of the best photography and imaging books published in the past year. This year's selection spans a wide variety of monographs, essays, and contemplations on the state of the world, all expressed with beautiful images and thoughtful words. Photo books often takes years to complete, and each represents a labor of love, and an incredible amount of focused energy on the part of the photographers and authors. Taken as a whole, they show just how wide-ranging photography and photographers can be. I'm happy to offer a brief look at what I consider to be the best photography books of 2006.

Closely Observed; photographs by Andrea Baldeck; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; 176 pages; $49.95; (ISBN 1-931707-88-X)
Andrea Baldeck has many talents. This accomplished photographer is also a physician and a musician. This beautiful book is a collection of 178 of her close-up tritone images, featuring a wide variety of blossoms, fruits, and leaves. The shots were captured in natural light that transforms these familiar objects into a remarkable study of shape and texture. The effect is a treat for the eye as the artist shares her vision of our fantastic natural world.

Smitten: A Kitten's Guide to Happiness; by Rachael Hale; Bulfinch Press; 162 pages; $21.99; (ISBN 0-8212-5848-6)
Photographer Rachael Hale has gained international fame as being one of the leading artists in the field of animal portraiture. Smitten is a wonderful and witty collection of 70 full color images of adorable kittens.

Work: The World in Photographs; by Ferdinand Protzman; National Geographic; 352 pages; $35; (ISBN 0-7922-6204-2)
Work: The World in Photographs was crafted from the enormous archives of National Geographic. It features an amazing collection of 190 images captured by 80 talented photographers such as Steve McCurry, Bill Allard, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Jodi Cobb. The photographs document a span of over 150 years and reveal the changing face of the world's workforce from farmers and fishermen to manufacturing plant employees, miners, monks, and even working animals. Work keeps the world moving and binds us together and this title does a fine job of illustrating its importance in all of our lives.

Boulevard; by Adam Bartos, preface by Geoff Dyer; Steidl; 120 pages; $65; (ISBN 3-86521-159-3)
This book is an intriguing photographic study of urban life as seen in Paris and Los Angeles during the early 1970s. Adam Bartos chose not to focus his lens on the usual picture postcard shots because his locations were backyards, city streets, parking lots, and gas stations. This book features a collection of 59 color images that reveal the true reality of modern life in two very different cities.

Elephant; by Steve Bloom; Chronicle Books; 224 pages; $45; (ISBN 0-8118-5727-1)
Award-winning photographer and successful author, Steve Bloom embarked upon a 12-year journey to capture the raw power and magic of elephants on film. He traveled from Botswana to India in order to create this amazing body of work. It documents the daily lives of the world's largest mammals in their natural habitat as well as their working counterparts who must interact with humans. The finely crafted images are paired with informative text that serves to educate the reader and provide a far richer experience.

Visual Verse: Art in Nature with Symbiotic Verse; by John Parkinson; Synergy Books; 100 pages; $29.95; (ISBN 1-933538-37-6)
This book from professional photographer John Parkinson is an interesting blend of breathtaking nature images and heartfelt poems. Each graceful verse from poets such as Emily Bronte and Dorothea Day perfectly complement his expertly crafted photographs. Together, they provide the reader with a stimulating treat for the eye and the soul.

Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography; by Stephen Trimble; Northland Publishing; 160 pages; $40; (ISBN 0-87358-894-0)
Known for its awe-inspiring beauty, the Grand Canyon is one of the most photographed natural wonders in America. This book represents 125 years worth of images captured using glass plate negatives, film, and digital imagery. Most of the 115 photographs are paired with lively text that highlights the artist behind the image to provide the reader with a richer experience and deepen their understanding of the place and time in which the photograph was created. Each artist's vision of the Grand Canyon is as different as their feelings for the place, but their love for the subject is plain to see.

Arctic Wings: Birds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Editor Stephen Brown, Ph.D., foreword by Jimmy Carter; The Mountaineers Books; 176 pages; $39.95; (ISBN 0-89886-975-7)
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 190 species of birds from across North America and the world. They visit this peaceful paradise for just a short time each year and award-winning nature photographers like Hugh Rose and Mark Wilson use this fantastic opportunity to preserve the beauty of these animals on film. This title is graced with a fine collection of 200 color images, informative text, and a 60-minute CD of bird songs. Arctic Wings is a visual and audio treat that should not be missed.