As the official White House photographer, Pete Souza spent countless hours during eight years with President Barack Obama. He captured the famous Situation Room meeting in which Obama, surrounded by senior national security aides, monitored the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. And he caught the president in many lighter times as well, whether with children, friends, or family members. In all, Souza took nearly two million photos. Obama: An Intimate Portrait (Little, Brown, $50) reproduces 300 of the most representative ones, documenting consequential moments of decision and official action alongside numerous less scripted occasions. The result is an historic photographic record of a landmark presidency and an intimate portrait of a man who occupied America’s most powerful office.
Curator Juliet Hacking—former head of the photography department at Sotheby’s, and now program director at the Sotheby’s Institute—has sifted primary and secondary sources to write the thirty-eight short, opinionated profiles in Lives of the Great Photographers (Thames & Hudson, $50). Each begins with a portrait (or self-portrait), and includes one or two representative images as well, beautifully printed on glossy paper. Familiar names are here—Arbus, Atget, Brassaï, Capa, Kertész, and Cameron—but so are names that are less well-known, and whose stories are no less intriguing: Madame Yevonde, Shōmei Tōmatsu, Claude Cahun, Clementina Maude (Lady Hawarden), Gustave Le Gray, and Albert Renger-Patzsch. The biographies have a cumulative power: they are arranged alphabetically, and by leapfrogging decades, formal approaches, historical movements, and changing critical opinion, you can make your own connections between eras, yet also see the hard work of each individual finding his or her own style. To quote Roy DeCarava, from Hacking’s profile: “documentary photographer…people photographer, street photographer, jazz photographer, black photographer…there’s nothing wrong with any of those definitions. The only trouble is that I need all of them to define myself.”
The Scent of a Dream: Travels in the World of Coffee (Abrams, $75) is every coffee-table’s dream book. The gorgeous chrome-hued cover signals Sebastião Salgado’s rich black-and-white photography within, and through the course of three-hundred pages and two-hundred-plus images, Salgado sings a visual love song to coffee plantations from Brazil to India to Tanzania to China, to name a few of these lush landscapes, and to the workers who harvest the fruit. The Scent of a Dream is brilliantly curated, edited, and designed by Salgado’s wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado. The collection testifies that this photographer’s heart and lens are steeped in their subject. Born in Brazil, Salgado grew up watching his father transport coffee to neighboring coastal ports, and eventually joined him in the family business. Later, Salgado worked as an economist for the International Coffee Organization, then let his passion for photography find its muse among the plantation fields of his youth. Salgado began crafting this book in 2002, and with it he hopes to teach café aficionados that coffee beans begin cultivation in vibrant lands and cultured hands, far from the grind of baristas and espresso machines. Marc Powers