Photo Ops

A Last-Minute Guide to Holiday Picture Books

He's a rebel: Karlheinz Weinberger’s accessories study, Zurich 1962.
photo: From Karlheinz Weinberger: Photos 1954–1995, Scalo
He's a rebel: Karlheinz Weinberger’s accessories study, Zurich 1962.

Finally, there are two fat compendiums to pore over at your (postholiday) leisure. You don't have to be a jock to fall for Sportscape (Phaidon, $49.95), a massive slab of sports images from two British photo archives. Though the sources skew this mix toward English and European events and athletes, the range is far less myopic than the average American sports book, and the images have been chosen with an eye trained on art as well as action. The art quotient is highest in the book's early sections, where sports history takes a backseat to great photography, here again with a rich vernacular bent. Sportscape's designers get a bit carried away with the graphics at times, but they establish a headlong and marvelously varied pace, and many of their spreads are truly killer. Raymond Merritt and Miles Barth's A Thousand Hounds (Taschen, $29.99) is also something of a design triumph. The biggest and best of all the dog photo books out there, it rounds up work from photography's earliest days to the present, including anonymous, kitsch, and fine-art images of mutts in every possible attitude. The proliferation of historic and stylistic divisions, each repeated in three languages, can get distracting, but the pictures are so thoughtfully chosen it's easy to sail through the text. There are photos here by Larry Clark, E.J. Bellocq, Bill Brandt, Man Ray, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Sally Mann that I've never seen before, and at least one sobering shot: Charles Moore's picture of police dogs attacking civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama. Of the many quotes compiled here, I'll leave you with one from Maria Bashkirtseff: "Let us love dogs; let us love only dogs! Men and cats are unworthy creatures." Now get back to work.

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