Curator Juliet Hacking—former head of the photography department at Sotheby’s, and now program director at the Sotheby’s Institute—has sifted primary and secondary sources to write the thirty-eight short, opinionated profiles in Lives of the Great Photographers (Thames & Hudson, $50). Each begins with a portrait (or self-portrait), and includes one or two representative images as well, beautifully printed on glossy paper. Familiar names are here—Arbus, Atget, Brassaï, Capa, Kertész, and Cameron—but so are names that are less well-known, and whose stories are no less intriguing: Madame Yevonde, Shōmei Tōmatsu, Claude Cahun, Clementina Maude (Lady Hawarden), Gustave Le Gray, and Albert Renger-Patzsch. The biographies have a cumulative power: they are arranged alphabetically, and by leapfrogging decades, formal approaches, historical movements, and changing critical opinion, you can make your own connections between eras, yet also see the hard work of each individual finding his or her own style. To quote Roy DeCarava, from Hacking’s profile: “documentary photographer…people photographer, street photographer, jazz photographer, black photographer…there’s nothing wrong with any of those definitions. The only trouble is that I need all of them to define myself.”
“Striving to define photography as an art-form by a simple and direct presentation through purely photographic methods” exclusive of ideals derived from other fine arts, the seven members of Group f.64 (Bloomsbury, $35) proclaimed the future of photography in 1932. Much in this manifesto seems a given now, but when Adams, Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and others united in the name of the camera’s small aperture setting, what photography could and should do was hotly debated. In her combination history and group biography, Mary Street Alinder chronicles the mainly West Coast “pure photography” movement, revisiting exhibits and arguments as the form came into its own. Her book is as much a chronicle of the 1930s themselves as it is of photography, as she documents the rigors of the Great Depression. Dedicated to making beautiful pictures, the artists also confronted the suffering around them and, inspired foremost by Dorothea Lange, widened the scope of photography’s mission to include social engagement. A photographer herself, Alinder illuminates the technical side of her subject with details about cameras, lenses, exposure times, and paper. She has worked directly with several of the original Group f.64 members, and her portraits convey the wonderfully vivid figures behind the images.
The stunning three-volume National Geographic: Around the World in 125 Years (Taschen, $499) speaks for itself, but here are a few details: a slip-cased set, this limited edition contains some 1,500 pages of images, from autochromes to Kodachromes to digital photos. The featured photographers include Steve McCurry, Frans Lanting, James Nachtwey, and scores of others. The terrain is global, starting in America and the Antarctic, moving through Europe and Africa, and winding up in Asia and Oceania. The truly ground-breaking photo-essays are complemented by no less pioneering and authoritative articles, which as well as covering nature, travel, and culture, chart the constantly changing story of how we view the world. With full access to National Geographic’s archives, Taschen has delivered a fittingly monumental commemoration on this beloved magazine’s 125th anniversary.
(This book cannot be returned.)