Alfred Stieglitz grew up in an upper Fifth Avenue brownstone with a view of empty lots and dirt roads—not the usual image of New York City, and not the ones he captured so magnificently in his many photographs of his home town. After some 78 years, the full collection of Stieglitz’s Gotham pictures has been put on exhibit; if you miss the show at the Seaport Museum (it closes January 10), savor these shots at your leisure with the handsome catalog, ALFRED STIEGLITZ NEW YORK (Skira Rizzoli, $25). Edited by the show’s curator, art historian Bonnie Yochelson, the book reprints pictures taken between 1893 and 1938, but these images—of the Flatiron building, of winter on Fifth Avenue, of a rainy night—are truly timeless.
Photographs often serve as the main link between a president and the public. Images burn into our collective memory and become part of history. The companion book to the National Geographic special, THE PRESIDENT’S PHOTOGRAPHER (National Geographic, $35) presents images by the nine men who have captured historic events and private moments in the lives of the presidents from Kennedy (who hired Cecil Stoughton as the first professional White House photographer) through Obama. Complementing images both iconic and intimate, John Bredar has conducted personal interviews with the five living presidential photographers for this stunning, behind-the-scenes peek at the life and work of the presidents.
A historian and a photographer from a family of photographers, Deborah Willis is one of the foremost authorities on African-American photography. In her new volume, Posing Beauty: African-American Images, 1890s to the Present (W.W. Norton, $49.95), she explores the concept of black beauty and how it has been presented in the past century. The book’s first portraits show how careful photographers were to pose their subjects in dignified ways, to counter stereotypical images fostered by Jim Crow laws and minstrel shows. As society changed, the images reflected that, first in ads for goods directed at black consumers, and then in representations of beauty, as blacks entered beauty pageants and become models for magazines like Ebony and Jet. When black photographers offered new images, eventually the larger society followed and began to change their portrayals of the black community, as can be seen in work by white photographers like Eve Arnold, Gary Winogrand, and Annie Leibovitz—though that doesn’t mean they erased all the stereotypes.