If the cover of People of the Twenty-First Century makes an immediate visual statement, the rest of this book is the ensuing manifesto. Each page captures between fifteen minutes and three hours in the life of a variety of global street corners, during which time Dutch photographer Hans Eijkelboom does more than merely chronicle the parade of humanity. He observes very particular recurring forms with unnerving precision, from Parisian women in leopard-print coats to Amsterdam men in trademark "Rolling Stones tongue" t-shirts to Shanghai commuters biking in ponchos. Unlike in his precursor August Sander’s People of the Twentieth Century, Eijkelboom never defines these archetypes, as they’re not immediately meaningful categories that he creates. The arrangements of people do nag at you, though, whether that twinge is uneasiness or witty pleasure at the repetitions of collective, consumer life. Either way, the book is a remarkable act of hypnosis.
“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 power and grace of Vanity Fair is that it celebrates the iconic beauty and intelligence of the moment while priming us for the next cultural wave to look out for. From jazz-juiced America to a land mourning Camelot, from the first moments of hip hop to the social-media era, Vanity Fair has mapped every trend, personality, and moment of significance in the last century. Combining witty, well crafted narrative and the sweeping, gorgeous images the magazine is known for, editor Graydon Carter has given us a time capsule in book form with Vanity Fair 100 Years (Abrams, $65). Fans of the magazine will delight in the detail of the creative process behind the scenes, while more casual observers will marvel at the scope and depth of what Vanity Fair has captured. Here’s to another century of visual dynamism and fascinating stories.