Great photobooks of 2011

AMERICA’S GREAT RAILROAD STATIONS

By Roger Strauss III, Hugh van Dusen and Ed Breslin (Viking Studio, $40)

It’s hard to step into one of America’s great train stations without feeling enhanced — those lofty ceilings and elongated perspectives can jazz up even the most frivolous day-trip. Architectural photographer Roger Strauss and railroad buffs Hugh van Dusen and Ed Breslin pay homage to these living monuments, celebrating how they have endured even as times have changed. Among the stops on their cross-country trip: Philadelphia’s 30th Street station, New York’s Grand Central and a multitude of Union Stations: St. Louis, Los Angeles, Portland and our very own. — Dennis Drabelle

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VOGUE: THE COVERS ,

By Dodie Kazanjian (Abrams, $50)

At 272 pages, this glossy compendium of 500 Vogue cover illustrations is more compact than your average September issue. Together, these superstars, supermodels, furs, felines and bright-red lips form a technicolor carousel of fashion history. Kazanjian’s vignette of each decade gives the covers clout and a cultural relevance that even non-subscribers will appreciate. — Marie Elizabeth Oliver

THE SPLENDOR OF CUBA : 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors ,

By Michael Connors (Rizzoli, $85)

As this lavish book makes clear, Cuba’s aesthetic encompasses far more than the images we so often see — colorful, decaying buildings; vintage American cars rumbling through the streets; verdant fields of sugar cane. The remnants of Spanish colonial life remain intact in all their splendor: well-preserved palacios and luxuriant villas whose architectural elements embrace styles from the early Renaissance and Mudejar to Gothic and Baroque. Connors and photographer Brent Winebrenner offer a guided tour of these hidden, previously un-photographed architectural gems. — Chris Schoppa

TRUE BRITISH

by Alice Temperley (Rizzoli, $65)

Temperley, the British designer who catapulted from ownership of a humble Notting Hill shop to being a designer of note with a worldwide empire, celebrates a decade of success in this beautifully illustrated fashion book. Each chapter of this personal reflection corresponds to a business year and is enlivened with intimate snapshots, studio shots and images of inspiration. — CS

PREPPY: Cultivating Ivy Style , by Jeffrey Banks and Doria de La Chappelle (Rizzoli, $45)

Can a look of nonchalance bred by snobby social groups at top-tier colleges really be considered meritorious? Judge for yourself by leafing through this lively look at the evolution of preppy through hundreds of stunning, often vintage, photographs of the all-American style. — CS

STYLE BOOK: Fashionable Inspirations

By Elizabeth Walker (Flammarion, $29.95)

Aside from the pithy introduction, there’s almost no text in this charming block of a book, stuffed with more than 400 photographs of men and women in all manner of garb representing fashion at its best, worst and just plain ridiculous. The photographs from different eras come from sources as diverse as ad campaigns, formal portraits, Hollywood studio shots and the runway. — CS

COUTURE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Edited by Deborah Bee and Rankin (A&C Black, $59.95)

Rankin, the acclaimed photographer known for his celebrity portraits as well as the innovative “Dove for Beauty” campaign, supplies the visual backbone of this slender, stylishly designed volume that corrals 30 first-person essays from the world’s most prominent designers, offering insight into their conception of haute couture. Is the medium best for creating one-of-a-kind garments for the entitled few, or for a flamboyant marketing campaign to create a brand and sell something else entirely? The designers’ answers, biographical sketches and a slew of runway photographs and design sketches make finding out all the more pleasurable. — CS

THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW: Reflections on an American Legacy

By Deborah Davis (Abrams, $50)

The final “Oprah Winfrey Show” may have aired in May, but the legacy of Oprah endures. This sumptuous tribute to the talk-show icon is divided into chapters focusing on Oprah’s passions: women’s issues, equality, philanthropy and healthy living. Each section features essays from celebrity heavyweights, with Vanity Fair-worthy photographs and images from the Harpo Studio archives. — CS

HARRY POTTER PAGE TO SCREEN: The Complete Filmmaking Journey

By Bob McCabe (Harper Design, $75)

Much has been written about the Harry Potter series and the amazing unemployed British mom who created it, but this is the first comprehensive look at the films they spawned, from the initial greenlighting of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in 1997 to the final wrap of “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows, Part II.” The first part of this hefty volume covers the making of each of the eight films; the next delves into the artistic conception for translating the characters and fantastical locations to the big screen. Hundreds of photographs and illustrations, many never seen before, make this a visual delight. — CS

REMBRANDT IN AMERICA: Collecting and Connoisseurship

By George S. Keyes, Tom Rassieur and Dennis P. Weller in collaboration with Jon L. Sedyl (Skira Rizzoli, $60)

This collection of images and essays is the companion to an exhibition that will travel to three cities in the United States: Minneapolis, Cleveland and Raleigh, N.C. The exhibition seeks to set the record straight by showcasing 30 of Rembrandt’s works alongside about 20 by his followers and imitators, paintings once attributed to the master but now reclassified. All of the paintings are reproduced in vivid color, along with scholarly (yet accessible) essays. — CS

ART NOUVEAU

By Norbert Wolf (Prestel, $75)

The gorgeous images in this weighty volume — from textiles to buildings, sculpture to paintings — are alone worth the price. Wolf, a respected art historian, states up front that this endeavor is not meant to be a comprehensive history of the movement, is not arranged chronologically and has relied on third-party sources that would be easily accessible to the reader. The book explores the origins of art nouveau, possible theories as to its demise, and the all-important quandary that has plagued art historians for over a century: Is art nouveau a true artistic period? Discovering the answers is all the more delightful because of to this plethora of awe-inspiring photographs. — CS

TIBET: A Culture on the Edge

By Phil Borges (Rizzoli, $45)

Award-winning photographer Phil Borges, who has made the plight of indigenous people a focus of his work, assembled this collection of vivid photographs and interviews with ordinary Tibetans in 2009. He had been there 15 years earlier, and was shocked at the seismic changes that had taken place in the interim. His book focuses on these shifts — how, for example, climate change and intense development by the Chinese government have affected the people and the landscape — while also noting what has remained steadfast: Tibetans’ Buddhist faith. Borges’s gorgeous images, combined with the residents’ heartfelt observations, offer dramatic documentation of the truth of this sacred region. — CS

THE ART MUSEUM

By Phaidon editors (Phaidon, $200)

The goal of this book, 10 years in the making, is to provide a complete overview of the world’s art, rounding up the most exceptional works (sculpture, painting, manuscripts, porcelain and much more) from the past three millennia under one roof. Not only does “The Art Museum” showcase rarely seen works from private collections, it also benefits from the wisdom of 65 of the world’s most respected curators and art historians. The book features more than 2,500 works of art from 650 institutions or private collections spread across 1,000 pages. Divided into 25 “galleries” — color-coded sections devoted to a particular region or artistic movement — this extensive compendium is easy to digest. — CS

VISIONS OF EARTH: Beauty, Majesty, Wonder

(National Geographic, $40)

Inspired by National Geographic’s “Visions of Earth” feature that begins each issue, this is the ideal book for those who love what the magazine does best: provide bold, evocative photography from all corners of the globe. It showcases wildlife, people at work and play, striking landscapes and the wonders of nature. — CS

OCEAN SOUL ,

By Brian Skerry (National Geographic, $50)

The sea entranced Brian Skerry as a teenager, leading to hours spent watching underwater documentaries, imagining adventures swimming with marine life and exploring the ocean’s depths. Skerry is today a renowned underwater photojournalist for National Geographic with an impressive portfolio. His passion for the ocean and its myriad creatures has led him to focus primarily on marine life and ocean ecosystems that are under serious threat. The images here are wondrous and enthralling, but can also be unsettling when depicting man’s brutality to nature. Skerry’s hope is that his portrayal will raise awareness about the plight of our oceans and their inhabitants. — CS

TEMPLES OF CAMBODIA:

The Heart of Angkor .

Photographs by Barry Brukoff; text by Helen Ibbitson Jessup (Vendome, $65)

For most, the term “Angkor” conjures up images of Angkor Wat, the magnificent temple complex deep in the Cambodian jungle, built at the apogee of the Khmer kingdom. But this splendid volume makes clear that the temples of Cambodia have a history that long precedes Angkor Wat. Photographer Barry Brukoff first visited the various temple sites in Cambodia in the late 1960s and went on to photograph numerous other ancient ruins around the world. The fall of the Khmer Rouge allowed Brukoff to return, capture new images and marvel all over again at the temples’ beauty, but he was discouraged by the decay and damage the sites had suffered in the interim. Accompanying these images is text by renowned Khmer scholar Helen Ibbitson Jessup, who was in Washington not long ago as curator of the Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia at the National Gallery. — CS

MONUMENTAL PARIS ,

By Herve Champollion and Aude de Tocqueville (Vendome, $150)

Measuring 18 by 12 1 / 4 inches, this monumental book has been produced in a limited number. Photography buffs, not to mention those enchanted with Paris, will be drawn to this stunning assemblage of panoramic images taken by Champollion. There are also several amazing gatefolds, photographs that fold out to three times the size of the book itself, such as one of the Pont Neuf. Every corner of the city, from formal buildings to palace gardens, residential neighborhoods to busy markets, falls under the photographer’s gaze, giving the observer a fresh perspective on some of the most photographed buildings in the world. — CS

THE INVENTION OF THE PAST : Interior Design and Architecture of Studio Peregalli

By Laura Sartori Rimini and Roberto Peregalli (Rizzoli, $75)

Glorious, detailed photographs lend insight into the work of the Milan-based Studio Peregalli, an architectural and interior design firm run by Laura Sartori Rimini and Roberto Peregalli. Chapters are arranged by room — entranceway, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom — with sumptuous shots of the firm’s commissions along with text describing design decisions. — CS

CARRÈRE & HASTINGS:

The Masterworks

By Laurie Ossman and Heather Ewing; photographs by Steven Brooke (Rizzoli, $75)

Even if you don’t recognize the name of the prestigious architectural firm Carrere & Hastings, you’ve no doubt seen its work, which includes the New York Public Library in Manhattan, the Carnegie Institution on 16th Street in Washington and the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. Between 1885 and 1929, the firm, known for its beaux-arts style, also designed private mansions and boasted a client list with some of the most heralded names of the Gilded Age: Carnegie, Rockefeller, du Pont. Architectural historians Ossman and Ewing provide insightful commentary to accompany the spectacular photographs — rare glimpses into some of America’s most important homes. — CS

ENGLISH COUNTRY

HOUSE INTERIORS

By Jeremy Musson; photography by Paul Barker and Country Life

(Rizzoli, $60)

The country house style — a relaxed, slightly worn look replete with elegant ornamentation — has been emulated by American designers from Mark Hampton to Ralph Lauren. In reality, that faded-glory patina was unique to the upheaval that followed World War II, when taxes and a distressed economy left country house owners very little with which to decorate. Author Jeremy Musson, a scholar of the country house, has selected 14 of Britain’s most illustrious country houses, a panorama that reflects all the significant periods in the style, from Jacobean to baroque, Palladian and regency. The images that accompany each chapter are primarily the work of Paul Barker, a noted architectural photographer in Britain who was given rare access to many of the residences represented here. — CS

VERSAILLES:

A Private Invitation

By Guillaume Picon; photography by Francis Hammond (Flammarion, $95)

For those wanting a cursory history of the world’s largest chateau, the pride of French King Louis XIV, this is not the right book. But it does take the reader on a tour of exquisite rooms and corridors that are off limits to most of the thousands who descend on the site each year. — CS

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