Past, present and future collide in glorious ways in these art and photography books, whether it’s a modern photographer witnessing history come alive on Civil War battlefields or a discussion of why the Yellow Brick Road was yellow in The Wizard of Oz.
When photographer Paul Mobley was working on his book American Farmer, he noticed that many of his subjects were age 100 or more, and was inspired to begin his next project: traveling to all 50 states and photographing at least one centenarian in each. After crisscrossing the country with his wife in an Airstream trailer, Mobley created a lively look at their lives in If I Live to Be 100: The Wisdom of Centenarians.
His black-and-white portraits reveal plenty of spunk, personality and spirit, while Allison Milionis writes an accompanying profile of each subject. We meet Irving Olson of Tucson, Arizona, who was profiled in Smithsonian magazine at age 98 for his unbelievable photographs of colliding drops of water. Meet Margaret Wachs of Stratford, Connecticut, who swam 10 laps to raise money for her church on her 100th birthday.
“Along the way,” Mobley notes, “I discovered a treasure trove of ideas and lessons on how we can all live gracefully and with meaning as we travel toward our final sunset.”
A Civil War enthusiast since his childhood, photographer Michael Falco set out on a four-year, battlefield-to-battlefield odyssey coinciding with the war’s 150th anniversary. The result is the wonderfully haunting Echoes of the Civil War: Capturing Battlefields through a Pinhole Camera. “Soldiers’ journals and memoirs describe the battlefields as dreamlike,” Falco writes, “and that is how they appear through the patient eye of the pinhole camera.”
While exploring major battle sites from Bull Run to Appomattox, Falco became not just a chronicler but a re-enactor himself, dressing in period clothing as he set up his primitive wooden box camera, using modern film but no lens, viewfinder or shutter. Along with these evocative photos, Falco interweaves past and present through his narrative as he “tumbled down the rabbit hole of Civil War history.” Echoes of the Civil War will hold great appeal for history and photography buffs alike.
DANCERS ON DISPLAY
One day, 12-year-old Sarah asked her photographer parents, Ken Browar and Deborah Ory, for pictures of her favorite dancers for her bedroom walls. They could find images of famous dancers of the past, but few, if any, of current stars. The couple rectified the situation through the NYC Dance Project, photographing a variety of dancers in the loft studio space of their Brooklyn home.
The Art of Movement is the spectacular result, a large book filled with arresting images of more than 70 dancers from companies that include the American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Royal Danish Ballet and London’s Royal Ballet.
As Ohry writes: “The images focus on capturing emotion through movement, which at the core is what I feel dance is about: it’s a language that is spoken through movement.” And what movements they are, as dancers soar through the air, draped in colorful costumes or couture clothing. Browar and Ory capture the rare blend of athleticism and grace in dancers like Misty Copeland, Bill T. Jones, Xin Ying and Robert Fairchild as they transform their bodies into art.
WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
In A History of Pictures, renowned British artist David Hockney and art critic Martin Gayford explore a sweeping variety of pictures, including those on canvas, paper, cinema screens and even smartphones, showing how our ongoing artistic narrative “is still unfolding.” The result is a lively, dynamic conversation between Hockney and Gayford, written in alternating commentary. Pages juxtapose, for example, a Titian portrait of Mary Magdalene with a film still of Ingrid Berman in Casablanca, or Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe images with a Manet painting. In a chapter on “Movies and Stills,” they show how the Bates Motel in Psycho was based on Edward Hopper’s painting “House by the Railroad.” (As for the aforementioned Yellow Brick Road, it’s because early Technicolor was good with yellow.)
This book is an unexpected delight.
BRING ON THE BUNNIES
Brimming with over 200 photographs, paintings and sketches, The Art of Beatrix Potter provides an in-depth look at the creative process of one of the world’s enduringly beloved storytellers, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of her birth. Organized geographically by writer and image researcher Emily Zach, this volume explores how different places Potter lived affected not only her life but also her art, beginning with a London schoolroom filled with rabbits, mice, bats, guinea pigs and hedgehogs. A natural scientist at heart as well as a gifted observer, Potter became fascinated by a variety of things she encountered, such as fungi and their colors. Readers see examples of the “picture letters” that Potter wrote to friends that inspired The Tale of Peter Rabbit and the many books that followed.
Lovers of art and children’s literature will get lost in this intriguing compilation of a lifetime of art.