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At 16 inches across, 9 pounds and $195, architectural photographer
Tim Street-Porter’s Los Angeles (Rizzoli, 240 pages, $195) is a
big book for a big subject. Clear the coffee table — you’ll need 3
feet to lay the thing flat, 5 to support the foldout spreads — and take
some time: This is one to be savored slowly, page by heavy, silken page. After
a short essay by Diane Keaton, it’s all photographs, more than 300 of them,
documenting the buildings and spaces that make Los Angeles great, especially if
you’re rich enough to live in one of them. (If not, there’s plenty
of publicly accessible greatness too: the Disney Concert Hall, the cathedral,
the Getty, Hollyhock House, the Griffith Observatory, the Sunset Strip, the beaches,
the movie palaces, and so on.) All sunshine and sparkle, sans smog, traffic jams
and strip malls, it’s a flattering but nonetheless spectacular portrait
of a city just coming into its own, and a worthy indulgence for any lover of Los
Angeles architecture.
A very different side of the city emerges in Camilo Jose Vergara’s How
the Other Half Worships
(Rutgers University Press, 283 pages, $50), a sociological
exploration of inner-city Christianity here and around the country. Combining
photographs with text drawn from interviews and Vergara’s own observations,
gathered over a 30-year period, the book is a poignant meditation on faith, ritual,
class, race, architecture and folk art, offering a refreshingly evenhanded consideration
of the power of religion at a time when few seem capable of approaching the subject
reasonably.
Sex
Machines: Photographs
and Interviews




For those who like their sociology a little racier, here are two fascinating volumes
devoted to the complicated intersection of sex and technology. WebAffairs
(Eighteen Publications, 144 pages, $40) is a travelogue of sorts in which an artist
who goes by the online name of Show-n-tell shows and tells her own journey into
the world of adult-video chat rooms. The book is a dizzying mess of low-res video
stills, snippets of online conversation, and passages of the author’s own
commentary. Despite the copious genitalia, however — this is definitely
not a book for young readers — the journey turns out to be as much about
friendship, community and the evolving nature of domestic space as it is about
sex. Timothy Archibald’s Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews (Daniel
13/Process, 112 pages, $24.95) is a surprisingly touching glimpse into the “mom-and-pop”
sector of the sex industry, profiling about two dozen independent inventors and
the machines they’ve developed, usually in their own garages. From the self-described
“divorced Christian guy, not promiscuous at all” who requires proof
of marriage from all prospective clients, to the Virginian couple who commissioned
a machine to maintain their otherwise “open and ambitious” sex life
after the husband developed multiple sclerosis, to the 45-year-old voyeur who
uses his machines to entertain hired 19-year-olds in his Kansas City home (because
at his age, he says, you “gotta have a hook”), they’re a diverse
lot sure to challenge any blanket presumptions.
And while we’re on the subject, might as well throw in The Playboy Book:
Fifty Years
(Taken, 448 pages, $40), a dense pictorial history of this peculiar
American institution on the occasion of its 50th birthday. On its 25th, Hugh Hefner
reportedly declared to his playmates (with “undisguised emotion,”
the book notes): “Without you, I’d have a literary magazine,”
and that just about describes what you’ll find here. Smart, sleazy and corny
in relatively equal measure, the book commemorates the brash, winking spirit that’s
made the magazine such an enduring force.
Camilo
Jose Vergara’s
How the Other Half Worships




How many times can a hip cultural phenomenon be repackaged before it becomes tiresome?
If the phenomenon be the Beat poets, perhaps indefinitely. Can you imagine ever
seeing too many pictures of Neal Cassady? So here he is again, in Beats &
Pieces
(Photology, 249 pages, $75), with Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso and the
others, seen through the lens of Allen Ginsberg and paired with the entertaining,
if gossipy, commentary of Italian writer Fernanda Pivano. This isn’t the
first book of Ginsberg’s photographs to be published, but it is one of the
most comprehensive, with 133 images dating from the 1950s into the 1990s (the
“Beat” focus consumes only the first half; the younger artists scattered
through the second — Iggy Pop, David Byrne, Bono — are presumably
the “Pieces”), and it makes a particularly strong case for the poet’s
considerable talent as a photographer.
The Beatles: 365 Days (Harry N. Abrams Inc., 744 pages, $29.95) is a
dense little doorstop of a book documenting the cultural phenomenon transpiring
on the other side of the Atlantic around the time of Neal Cassady’s lonely
demise. Assembled by pop-culture writer Simon Wells from a cache of old press
photographs found languishing in a London archive, the book is a frenetic tour
through the frenetic life of the 20th century’s most famous rock band. It
may not tell you anything you don’t already know, but with 430 mostly unpublished
images, it’ll give fans plenty to chew on. A quieter, more intimate portrait
emerges in John Lennon: The New York Years (Stewart, Tabori and Chang,
176 pages, $29.95), a collection of images taken by Lennon’s personal photographer
Bob Gruen in the decade prior to the artist’s death, 25 years ago this month.
Love and work are the abiding themes, and between them one glimpses the blossoming
maturity of the rock star — a fact that makes the abrupt end on December
8 all the more tragic.
Dylan fans will find much to entertain themselves with in The Bob Dylan Scrapbook
1956–1966
(Simon & Schuster, 64 pages, $45), a curious creation
issued as a companion piece to the recent Scorsese documentary, No Direction
Home
. In addition to text by Robert Santelli, a lively collection of archival
photographs and an audio CD of interviews, both historical and contemporary, the
book includes a plethora of Dylan paraphernalia — facsimiled news articles,
programs, concert tickets, press materials, handwritten notes, song lyrics and
so on — all printed loose and tucked into the Scrapbook’s
many hidden folds and envelopes, or else attached to the page with masking tape,
as if compiled in an actual scrapbook. It would be kitschy if it weren’t
so cool. Or maybe it is kitschy and I’m too smitten a fan myself to know
it. In either case — it’s cool.
Art
Photography Now




Shifting to the realm of the visual arts, this year saw two notable surveys of
photography from Aperture. Art Photography Now (224 pages, $50),
edited by Sarah Bright, a former curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London,
profiles 80 mostly Western photographers who’ve helped to make the field
as dynamic and vibrant as it is today. One of its artists, Katy Grannan, has a
handsome monograph of her own with Aperture, Katy Grannan: Model American
(120 pages, $40), compiling the strange and increasingly unsettling portraits
she’s made over the past seven years, as does David Hilliard (David
Hilliard: Photographs
, 96 pages, $50), who wasn’t profiled in Bright’s
book but should have been.
Nazar: Photographs From the Arab World (Aperture, 251 pages,
$40) is the catalog for an exhibition organized in New York this fall by Dutch
curator Wim Melis, and bills itself as “the largest collection of Arab photographs
ever seen in the West.” Combining the vintage and the
Nazar:
Photographs
From the Arab World




contemporary, documentary
and fine-art photographs, works by Arab and Western photographers, it is a broad,
almost overwhelming, selection and a powerful introduction to a branch of photography
little seen here.
Closer to home we have Masters of American Comics (Yale University
Press, 328 pages, $45), the hefty catalog for the exhibition running now at both
the UCLA Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Combining reproductions
from each of the exhibitions’ 15 featured artists with more scholarly commentary
than at least the earlier of these artists could have ever imagined their work
meriting, it’s both a useful companion to the exhibition and a satisfying
work in itself, offering the added benefit of being able to hold the comics in
your hand, linger over them, and give them the sort of time and attention that’s
hard to manage standing around in a museum.
In a similar vein, though very different stylistically, The Three Incestuous
Sisters
(Harry N. Abrams Inc., 176 pages, $28) is “a novel in pictures”
by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of the traditional novel The Time Traveler’s
Wife
. A fairy tale–ish story of love, death and birth, jealousy, violence
and redemption, told through a series of spare, muted, wonderfully delicate and
beautifully reproduced aquatint prints, the volume is an ideal gift for anyone
with an interest in the art of graphic fiction.

[


Becoming Animal: ContemporaryArt in the Animal Kingdom




Other
notable titles: The Book of Shrigley (Chronicle
Books, 221 pages, $25), a packed collection of random, scrappy, strange and
often hilarious drawings from Scottish artist David Shrigley; Becoming
Animal: Contemporary Art in the Animal Kingdom
(MASS MoCA Publications,
140 pages, $25), an exceptionally creepy exhibition catalog devoted to artists
whose work explores the ties between humans and animals; more quirky animals
in a collection of Jay Ryan’s art, 100 Posters, 134 Squirrels
(Punk Planet Books/Akashic, 120 pages, $21); The Age of Adolescence:
Joseph Sterling Photographs 1959–1964
(Greybull Press, 133 pages,
$65), a beautiful volume of documentary photography devoted to teenagers during
the first explosion of American youth culture; Esther Bubley: On Assignment
(Aperture, 128 pages, $35), a worthy, if abbreviated, introduction
to an underappreciated postwar photojournalist; Anthony Hernandez: Everything
(Nazraeli Press/JGS, 80 pages, $65), a gorgeous monograph showcasing an evocative
body of new work; Linger (Perceval Press, 104 pages, $35),
a quiet, contemplative book of photographs by the ever-restless Viggo Mortensen;
The Weather and a Place To Live (Duke University Press, 122
pages, $40), formally refined and conceptually clever photographs exploring
the desert suburbs of the West; On This Earth: Photographs From East
Africa
(Chronicle Books, 129 pages, $40), highly aestheticized images
of African animals by Nick Brandt; Kings in their Castles: Photographs
of Queer Men at Home
(University of Wisconsin Press, 92 pages, $35),
a book that could have been reductive and gimmicky but isn’t, thanks to
the sensitivity and understated complexity of Tom Atwood’s photographs;
Ladies or Gentlemen: A Pictorial History of Male Cross-Dressing in the
Movies
(Filipacchi Publishing, 408 pages, $65), just what the title
implies: an encyclopedic (though not particularly scholarly) examination of
a long-standing Hollywood phenomenon. The artist Shag has definitely got his
shtick down — if it’s up your alley, Shag: The Art of Josh
Agle
(Chronicle Books, 224 pages, $40) is plenty of it, beautifully
printed.

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Nazar: Photographs From the Arab World


Art Photography Now

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