I love books of all kinds and always have, going back to kindergarten, when I would sit in the book corner (once I brought a frog to school and he (she? how do you tell with a frog?) got loose and leapt nimbly from shelf to shelf) and open up the big new picture books to the exact middle, bring the book to my nose, and inhale deeply. My five-year-old version of cocaine. To this day there’s nothing like that particular smell.
Anyway, these days the books I most love are photo books. I got turned on to them in the last year, and I’m semi-obsessed at this point. My favorite photo books tend to be the ones which begin with a foreword or an essay and then let the photos tell the story. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are my current top three.
1. Suburban World, by Brad Zellar, foreword by Alec Soth. This is an astonishing book of photos by a man named Irwin Norling, all taken in a suburb of Minneapolis in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s the range of subjects, clarity, and lighting which make these photos so amazing, especially when grouped together. From linoleum salesmen (one of my favorites) to a bucking bronco (yes, they had rodeos in suburban Minneapolis back then) to a murder-suicide scene to a ladies’ tea to a model house exploding in flame, these photos put the lie to that whole Leave It to Beaver shtick. This is a wonderful book.
2. Beneath the Roses, by Gregory Crewdson. This guy’s photos are amazing. He approaches each one as if he were filming a movie, with a full crew, and meticulously sets up each shot. It’s an enormous book, as befits the oversize nature of the photos themselves, and simply beautiful. For those of you lucky enough to live in NYC, go down to the Luhring-Augustine gallery in Chelsea and check out the exhibit before it disappears.
3. The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings, by KayLynn Deveney. This is one of the loveliest books (of any kind) I’ve ever seen. The photographer took photos of Mr. Hastings, an elderly man living alone, and he himself wrote captions for each photo. Heartbreaking and unforgettable.