Gift ideas: The best of the season’s coffee-table volumes
Joel Meyerowitz: Where I Find Myself
by Joel Meyerowitz (Laurence King, $65)
“There are few if any photographers as versatile as Joel Meyerowitz, and none who make that versatility look so effortless,” said Malcolm Jones in TheDailyBeast.com. Ever since he left advertising to pursue his true calling in 1962, the Bronx native has been a shape-shifter, building a peerless portfolio of street photography before demonstrating equal mastery of portraiture, landscapes, and formalist still lifes. As you flip through the book, “prepare to experience a sense of nostalgia,” said Mariah Tyler in TravelAndLeisure.com. The work appears in reverse chronological order, so haunting images of Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks are followed by quiet evocations of pre-1990 St. Louis, Manhattan, and sunny Cape Cod. “There is an essential American-ness in his photographs during this time, when America was changing and taking on a multiplicity of new identities.”
Bodys Isek Kingelez
(Museum of Modern Art, $35)
Forget the bland grays and browns of the typical city, said The Economist. Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez (1948–2015) envisioned brighter surroundings, then made his dreams real by creating city models so exuberant in color and form that 33 of them were shown this year at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Yet even though Kingelez’s mini utopias are visual treats “first and foremost,” they are also “radically hopeful about the possibilities of cities.” The exhibition catalog includes more than 33 of these urban visions, and “to call them astonishing would be an understatement,” said Jonathon Keats in Forbes.com. Kingelez fabricated each maquette from cardboard, bottle caps, Coke cans, and other throwaway materials, implying that utopia can be achieved with the materials we have at hand.
by Scott Kelly (Knopf, $40)
Scott Kelly’s record-long stay aboard the International Space Station generated useful information about space travel’s impact on the human body. “But it also allowed Kelly to take a year’s worth of stunning photographs,” said Claire Reilly in CNET.com. Flying 250 miles above Earth’s surface and shooting mainly with a handheld camera, the U.S. astronaut was often struck by the abstract beauty of our planet’s varied terrain, producing images that “lose their sense of place and become works of art.” Kelly is perhaps our first great orbital photographer, said Steven Poole in The Wall Street Journal. In his photos, “huge geological patterns look like seashells, and mountain ranges resemble the branches of cherry trees.” His book is a celebration, but “also a warning of what we stand to lose.”
by Vikki Tobak (Clarkson Potter, $40)
Hip-hop’s look is “as indelible as its sound,” said Oliver Wang in the Los Angeles Times. In this brilliant book, music journalist Vikki Tobak honors the community that produced that look by gathering the contact sheets and stories behind many of the genre’s most iconic photographs, from Run-DMC in their Adidas to A$AP Rocky wrapped in an American flag. The conceit allows us to see hundreds of before-and-after moments, illuminating both the humanity of the artists and the art of the image-making. The pre-2000 photos are the most revealing, said Robin Givhan in The Washington Post. In one outtake of Barron Claiborne’s 1997 portrait of the Notorious B.I.G., taken just before his death, the Brooklyn icon wears “a full, toothy grin.” Biggie, we understand, “was more than his PR image and, ultimately, his obituary.”
by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher (Rizzoli, $150)
The human history captured in this book is fading fast, said Carrie Seim in the New York Post. For four decades, photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher have crisscrossed sub-Saharan Africa capturing the rites and ceremonies of the continent’s many ancient cultures, and they estimate that 40 percent of the rituals they’ve documented have already vanished as modernity erodes tradition. Though “much has been lost,” said Lucia van der Post in the Financial Times, “what is left is to be cherished.” In Beckwith and Fisher’s new two-volume work, the longtime collaborators focus on initiation, courtship, and death rites practiced by some of the world’s oldest cultures, and the results are “hauntingly beautiful,” often because of the participants’ elaborate masks, body paint, costumes, and jewelry.
From the Earth
by Peter Gilmore (Hardie Grant, $60)
Chef Peter Gilmore knows his way around heirloom produce, said Caitlin Petreycik in FoodAndWine.com. In his new book, the Australian culinary celebrity invites you to marvel at Brett Stevens’ photographs of dozens of the world’s “rare and almost forgotten” vegetables, then learn of their traditional culinary uses and even how to prepare them yourself—“should you be lucky enough to come across Aztec broccoli or Umbrian wild peas at your local farmer’s market.” But the book has a truly practical side, said Robin Powell in The Sydney Morning Herald. Gilmore, the chef at two of Sydney’s top restaurants, has made a practice of hunting down seeds in order to cultivate such vegetables in his own garden, and he encourages readers to do the same. “The payoff is deep satisfaction and maximum deliciousness.” ■