April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Through the Lens | Great Books About Photography

Whether documenting historical events and their human impact, showcasing the wonders of the natural world, or pushing their art form in new and thought-provoking directions, photographers use their cameras to tell stories and elicit a response in viewers. The books included here introduce a variety of visual artists and their work, highlight myriad photographic styles and genres, and encourage kids to think about the many different ways that we see our world.

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature. by Cindy Jenson-Elliott. illus. by Christy Hale. Holt. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627790826.

Gr 1-4–Action-packed language and lovely collage artwork draw readers into the story of young Ansel, a boy whose restless nature drove him to explore the outdoors near his San Francisco home, from the “gusting gales” and cheek-stinging “salt spray” of Golden Gate beach to the shimmering serenity of Lobos Creek. Given a camera at age 14 by his parents during a trip to Yosemite Valley, Adams would go on to make images that revealed the breathtaking beauty found in the nation’s “parks,/crystal caverns,/craggy peaks/canyons carved by time,/silver rivers swirling/through wide-open land….” An author’s note and photo reproductions conclude this engaging look at a trailblazing visual artist, dedicated environmentalist, and American icon (1902-1984).

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression. by Carole Boston Weatherford. iIlus. by Sarah Green. Albert Whitman. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807516997.

K-Gr 2–Eloquent text and descriptive illustrations offer a streamlined introduction to the renowned 20th-century documentary photographer (1895-1965). After touching upon the development of Lange’s deep-seated empathy, creative drive, and keen eye, the book focuses on her determination to document the “untold despair” caused by the Great Depression. Traveling the country, she turned her lens on “hunger and poverty” to preserve what “others neglected or ignored.” The account culminates with the story behind Lange’s iconic Migrant Mother photo (“And the nation could not look the other way”). Additional info and photo reproductions are appended.

Dorothea’s Eyes. by Barb Rosenstock. illus. by Gérard DuBois. Calkins Creek. 2016. $16.95. ISBN 9781629792088.
Gr 2-5–Pairing lyrical text with atmospheric illustrations, this picture book biography zooms in on Dorothea Lange’s (1895-1965) ability to use both her eyes and her heart to “see what others miss.” Childhood experiences that shaped the artist’s point of view are effectively outlined, as is her desire, later on, to leave behind her successful portrait studio and photograph individuals impacted by the Great Depression, treating her subjects with compassion and empathy. Her pictures, published in newspapers and magazines, captivated the nation and helped bring relief. A spread displaying six of Lange’s photos, including Migrant Mother, proves to readers that even today, “Dorothea’s eyes help us see with our hearts.”

Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency. by Pete Souza. photos by author. Little, Brown, 2017. $21.99. ISBN 9780316514118.
Gr 3-6–Depicting moments both big and small, historic events and intimate family interludes, instances of both heartfelt compassion and playful humor, this elegant volume presents more than 75 striking images taken during President Barack Obama’s two terms in office. Former chief White House photographer Souza includes brief personal anecdotes and descriptive captions to offer readers a behind-the-scenes look at a man who led by example, treated every individual with kindness and respect, and always made time to interact with kids, emboldening them to “dream big dreams, and work hard to achieve them.”

Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism. by Marc Aronson & Marina Budhos. Holt. 2017. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780805098358.
Gr 7 Up–Multifaceted and methodically researched, this well-written volume introduces Robert Capa (1913-1954) and Gerda Taro (1910-1937), two pioneering photojournalists who defined themselves and their fledgling profession against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and other cataclysmic global events. Packed with contemporary black-and-white photos, this insightful book digs deep into its subjects’ personal stories and complex relationship (both collaborative and romantic), clearly explains historical happenings and period politics, explores fascinating themes (including the juncture between reporting and propaganda), and shows readers how this cutting-edge generation of war photojournalists changed the way we view the world.

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. by Carole Boston Weatherford. illus. by Jamey Christoph. Albert Whitman. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807530177.
Gr 1-3–This reader-grabbing picture book biography provides a poignant and powerful introduction to a world-renowned artist, photojournalist, and social documentarian (1912-2006). Staccato, present-tense text and gorgeously composed paintings offer glimpses at formative moments in Gordon’s childhood; how he purchases and teaches himself to use a second-hand camera at age 25; the instances of segregation, economic disparity, and inequality that inspire him to “lay bare racism with his lens;” and the story behind his most famous photograph, American Gothic. Readers will be inspired to learn more about this groundbreaking photographer and “Renaissance man,” also well-known for his work as a writer, film director, and humanitarian.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph. by Roxane Orgill. illus. by Francis Vallejo. Candlewick. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780763669546.
Gr 4 Up–On a sizzling Tuesday in August, 1958, 57 jazz musicians (and a handful of neighborhood boys) gathered together in front of a New York City brownstone at the invitation of magazine man Art Kane, who snapped a now iconic photo—Harlem 1958. Orgill’s vivacious, rhythm-filled poems and Vallejo’s vibrant, stylishly detailed paintings vividly recount the event, depicting the day’s exuberant hubbub and genial disorder along with the personalities of these jazz greats. The poems culminate with a “click” and a fold-out reproduction of the photo (back matter includes a who’s-who chart and brief biographies of the musicians featured in the verses). This unique book provides a dynamic snapshot of a moment in time—and music, made alluringly relatable through the intersection of imagination and carefully researched history.

Meet Cindy Sherman: Artist, Photographer, Chameleon. by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. Roaring Brook. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626725201.
Gr 4-8–Greenberg and Jordan provide an absorbing and thought-provoking look at a contemporary American artist (1954- ) who has turned the lens of her camera on herself and her society. Filled with primary quotes and full-color photos, the text begins with Sherman’s childhood in Long Island, NY, where she “loved playing dress-up and pretending to be someone else,” and then traces the evolution of an artist who designs and develops characters, puts on makeup and costumes, and stars in her own photos, creating unique images that challenge ideas about society’s view of women, beauty and ugliness, identity and self-image, and much more. The engaging text informs readers about Sherman’s methods and impact while also encouraging them to look closely at the artworks reproduced here and formulate their own opinions.

The Photo Ark: Ones Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals. by Joel Sartore. photos by author. National Geographic. 2017. Tr $35. ISBN 9781426217777.

All ages–From an array of colorful katydids to a closeup of a gracefully horned African buffalo, this handsome volume showcases more than 400 elegant animal portraits. Set studio-style against a black or white background, the handsomely composed images rivet attention on each creature, allowing viewers to discover the majesty and vitality of diverse animals. Selected from the archives of Sartore’s ongoing National Geographic Photo Ark project, which seeks to document the world’s 12,000 species held in captivity (particularly those that are endangered), these spectacular images will dazzle the eye, while also informing readers about the importance of conservation.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. by Isabel Quintero. Illus. by Zeke Peña. Getty Publications. 2018. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781947440005.

Gr 7 Up–A work of art in its own right, this mesmerizing graphic novel biography deftly blends lyrical first-person text, evocative fine-lined illustrations, and reproductions of Iturbide’s stunning images to introduce the life and work of this critically acclaimed Mexican photographer (1942- ). Time is fluid and nonlinear, as life events, critical influences, and personal discoveries are insightfully maneuvered to underscore Graciela’s artistic journey, whether photographing indigenous communities in Mexico, Mexican Americans in East Los Angeles, the wide expanses of “El Norte,” or an ethnobotanical garden in Oaxaca. “What the eye sees is the synthesis of what you are or what you’ve learned to do. This is the language of photography. This is the language Graciela has become fluent in.”

Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee! by Andrea J. Loney. Illus. by Keith Mallett. Lee & Low. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781620142608.

Gr 1-3–James VanDerZee (1886-1983) was a portrait photographer who “saw what was special in everyone and captured each person’s story on film.” Accessible text and glowing acrylic-on-canvas paintings take readers from VanDerZee’s boyhood in Lenox, MA, where he was the second person to own a camera, to his successful portrait studio opened on Lenox Avenue during the Harlem Renaissance, where the images he shot of celebrities and ordinary citizens alike delighted his subjects and were later used to chronicle 40 years of Harlem history. An informative afterword with black-and-white reproductions completes this compelling look at the struggles and triumphs of a talented visual artist and the man who “captured the pride, beauty, and joy of Harlem.”

 

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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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Comments

  1. I really like your reviews, I really think to read some of those books you put summary there. Hope that will be some good time with one of those books. Thanks for the reviews.

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