Holiday Gift Guide 2023 – Photo Books

There was a day when if you came across a dozen new photo books a year, and you had the bases covered. Now, it seems that dozens of good photo books are published every day, so it’s hard to keep up. We reviewed a number of wonderful books this year, and narrowed it down to four that stood out.


Louisiana Lens – Photographs from the Historic New Orleans Collection – John H. Lawrence

I’d never heard of the Historic New Orleans Collection (HNOC) prior to an industry gathering in New Orleans, and discovering that this collection was one of the gems of New Orleans was a great moment. Blessed with a carefully curated collection of art, historical artifacts, books, and photographs, curator John H. Lawrence assembled a history of the Crescent City and the state illustrated by significant images from their extensive collection. Few cities have the history, drama, conflict, and passions as New Orleans has, and this handsome volume so aptly reminds us of its importance to American history, and the unique cultural contributions the region has contributed to the country’s sense of itself.

From music to voting rights, food to architecture, hurricanes and nature, politics and parades, it’s all there, beautifully printed and designed. Lawrence looked back at more than one hundred and seventyfive years of images and carefully constructed a chronological view as well as the major themes that make Louisiana such a worldwide cultural influence. Louisiana has long been an enormous influence on photographers. As stated by HNOC, “In surveying compelling photographs by greats such as Walker Evans, Doris Ulmann, Lewis Hine, Frances Benjamin Johnston, and George Dureau and spotlighting dozens of rare works by unsung or anonymous artists, Lawrence touches on themes of architecture, music, commerce, race, arts and culture, and the changing landscapes and geographies of the US South.” We couldn’t have stated it better ourselves. In love with photography, Louisiana, gumbo, beignets, and New Orleans? We highly recommend Louisiana Lens – Photographs from the Historic New Orleans Collection – John H. Lawrence.

For more information on Louisiana Lens – Photographs from the Historic New Orleans Collection visit:


Countdown – Jeanine Michna-Bales and Adam Reynolds – A Visual Exploration of the Cold War’s Opposing Nuclear Architecture

Countdown, a powerful new book by Jeanine Michna-Bales and Adam Reynolds and published by Yoffy Press, of Atlanta, deftly explores how the two opposing nuclear superpowers prepared for nuclear Armageddon. The book is split into two photo essays, each one starting at the cover, and moving toward a finality in the center, suggesting the standoff that nuclear weapons have imposed on the planet. This book is designed with one cover and following photo essay belonging to each author, so the reader must flip the book over to read both sections. This took me by surprise the first time I held the book in my hand, the longer we spent with it, the more brilliant a design conceit it represented. Michna-Bales and Reynolds split the photographic duties, with a consistent point of view although very different forms of expressions. Michna-Bales’ images are straightforward documentary; Reynolds’ images are similar, however have a composited layer of faux computer code.

It’s a beautifully printed and designed book, thin, easy to hold and read. The engineering logic between MAD(Mutually Assured Destruction) aims to enforce a balance to impulse, yet also means that the level of destruction goes beyond anything that the planet can endure. This is carried through in images that reinforce the level of madness, that survivability after such a conflict has some inherent value to it. This is a carefully constructed narrative that isn’t imbued with bias, but rather an examination of the bizarre madness that nuclear war-related decisions embody.

According to the publishers, “Michna-Bales’s series, “Fallout: A Look Back at the Height of the Cold War, circa 1960" (2013-2022), explores various Cold War-era fallout shelters throughout the United States, while Reynolds looks at now-dormant nuclear missile silos that have been converted into tourist sites in his photo essay “No Lone Zone” (2017-2022). These quiet architectural spaces, devoid of people, allow us to come face to face with present nuclear dangers while offering a look into the collective psyche of the American people during the Cold War.” This book achieves those goals, and is an important addition to the literature and photographic record of the impact of the delusions that surround nuclear war. Highly recommended.

For more information on Countdown – Jeanine Michna-Bales and Adam Reynolds visit:


Jamey Stillings – ATACAMA: Renewable Energy and Mining in the High Desert of Chile

I met Jamey Stillings years ago while reviewing portfolios at Houston FotoFest, and again during Photolucida in Portland, Oregon. At that time, he was working on documenting the construction of the new bridge designed to divert traffic off the top of the Hoover Dam. The work was lyrical, driven by texture and pattern, and adept in his technical mastery and aesthetic organization.

Stillings' work is evidenced by discipline. There aren’t any wasted motions, space is used carefully and precisely, yet with reverence for the landscape and all that occupies that space. In many ways, Stillings is still obsessed with energy and travel. The Bridge project was about the intersection all that energy represents, although seemingly about a highway project, albeit in a storied location. He continued with work on the solar energy fields of Ivanpah in Southern California, and his latest book, Atacama takes place in yet another rarefied environment, the high deserts of Chile.

Stilling calls the overall project “CHANGING PERSPECTIVES: Renewable Energy and the Shifting Human Landscape” and according to him it “is a long-term aerial- and ground-based photography project documenting global renewable energy development." Chile is the world's leading copper exporter and the second-largest lithium producer. We use Chilean copper and lithium daily in our cars, computers, and smartphones. Chile's mining industry historically depended on imported coal, diesel, and natural gas for its energy.

“Yet, the geography of the Atacama Desert offers excellent solar and wind potential. Since 2017, when I first photographed over the Atacama, the country has tripled its renewable energy capacity. New solar, wind, and storage projects supply electricity to the grid, transmit power to population centers in the South, provide electricity and solar thermal energy to mines, and reduce mining's dependence on fossil fuels. Over the past five years, many mines have transitioned to 100% renewable energy for their electricity needs. With the cost of solar and wind electricity production below that of coal, renewable energy provides a viable economic opportunity for mines with the added benefit of reducing the industry's carbon footprint. Chile's innovative approach offers hope and inspiration to other countries.”

The resulting book, “ATACAMA: Renewable Energy and Mining in the High Desert of Chile” is quite simply put, a stunner. Gorgeously printed with silver paper on the cover and endpapers, this large, expertly designed and produced book by Steidl Verlag, is precisely the type of book we used to give Gold Awards to when I was a judge for the NAPCO Gold Ink Awards that rewarded printing of the highest caliber. It’s that good.

It treads the line between an honest unflinching look at the impact of mining, which is, after all the destruction of the earth that others might profit by its riches, and at the same time, it’s also a highly aestheticized result that references William A. Garnett, the pioneering aerial photographer whose work deliberately blurred the line between accurate and neutral topographical captures, and whose abstracted forms transformed the environment into emotional statements of wonder. It’s in that vein that Stillings' attention to energy production causes us to question the insatiable hunger of the human race, and in Atacama, he looks to how much cleaner that production can be. “ATACAMA: Renewable Energy and Mining in the High Desert of Chile” by Jamey Stillings comes highly recommended.

For more information on “ATACAMA: Renewable Energy and Mining in the High Desert of Chile” visit:


Declutter Your Photo Life – Adam Pratt

Coming from academic backgrounds, we have tremendous respect and passion for the preservation of culture, be it the tombs of ancient Egypt, photographs of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, or family histories. Adam Pratt has spent his career with similar goals. Formerly at Adobe for more than 22 years, as well as a Peachpit Press author, he now runs a business, Chaos to Memories, dedicated to helping people preserve their memories, and digital lives.

Understanding that the best way to help his clients and the public is through education, which his recent book, “Declutter Your Photo Life” does so, tackling the myriad of often overwhelming tasks, breaking them down into a series of chapters, so it's not so threatening. The book contains the following chapters.

Chapter 1: Overwhelmed by Photos, Chapter 2: Workflow Overview, Chapter 3: Software and Hardware

Chapter 4: Gathering Digital Photos, Chapter 5: Deduplicating Photos, Chapter 6: Creating Your Photo Archive, Chapter 7: Gathering Physical Photos

Chapter 8: Preserving Photos, Chapter 9: Converting Digital Formats, Chapter 10: Scanning Physical Photos

PHASE 3: ORGANIZE Chapter 11: Curating Photos, Chapter 12: Organizing Photos, Chapter 13: Dating Photos

Chapter 14: Sharing Photos, Chapter 15: Accessing Your Photo Archive

Chapter 16: Maintaining Your Photo Archive, Resources

Unlike many practicum books, Declutter Your Photo Life, looks good. Beautifully designed, it even includes a photo of one of my favorite cameras, that legendary bright yellow Minolta 110 Weathermatic A, waterproof instamatic, which was Pratt's first camera. Unlike many books this is both detailed, yet not difficult to follow. I showed it to colleagues with expertise in the subject and to a person they all praised it's design, level of knowledge, and recommendations. Because it's illustrated with personal photos, it doesn't have the feel or look that stock photography imparts. Because of this, Pratt's text and illustrations are up-to-date, meaningful, and most importantly, personal. You have the sense that he's been in the same quagmire, which is reassuring. Plus, he knows his stuff on the tech level, so there's that. 

This is a logical, straightforward approach, full of solid advice borne out of experience, and we think that it’s the perfect gift for anyone trying to sort out their family archives, or someone with strong computer skills seeking to clarify their archival mission. “Declutter Your Photo Life” by Adam Pratt comes highly recommended.

For more information on “Declutter Your Photo Life – Adam Pratt” visit:


Harris Fogel, Nancy Burlan, and Frank Schramm, posted 12/6/2023