AFTERMATH JOEL MEYEROWITZ In the days just after Sept. 11, when photographers were barred from the site of the World Trade Center, Meyerowitz managed to get authorization to document the cleanup. Long famous for his work in the abiding light of Cape Cod, he would find himself for the next nine months in the floodlit, dusty pit, where his constant subject would be tangled wreckage and weary work crews as they struggled to scour the site and subdue the horror it represented. His book commemorates a powerful undertaking, when a grievous wound was cleaned with cranes, steam shovels and human hands.
AFTER THE FLOOD ROBERT POLIDORI To penetrate the tragedy of Katrina, it's necessary first to grasp its sheer, murderous extent. Mile after mile of houses splintered and submerged, worlds turned upside down. To say that Polidori is a great architectural photographer, though true, doesn't quite get at what he does in this book. His pictures, full of shock and awe, tell us something we need to know about the suffering of people who never appear in them.
WILLIAM CHRISTENBERRY WILLIAM CHRISTENBERRY Like Walker Evans, Christenberry grasps the great paradox of the camera--that the most economical images can yield the richest complexities. Working mostly in rural Alabama, he plants himself squarely before decaying storefronts and abandoned houses, the steadfast residue of a world subsiding into the past. While this is material that offers endless temptations into sentimentality, there's not a whiff of magnolia in what he does. His pictures are dry-eyed and straightforward, and all the more moving for it.
GALEN ROWELL GALEN ROWELL By the time he died in a small-plane crash four years ago, Rowell was photography's great mountain man, a skilled climber who had mastered the camera and took pictures that only a skilled climber who had mastered the camera could take. He also worked, magnificently, in deserts, along seashores, anyplace where the world offers itself in its most splendid registers. In the wrong hands, the high rhetoric of grand nature photography can get tiresome, but even his grandest pictures have their lyrical grace notes. He was a man who gave power and glory a good name.
SWEET EARTH JOEL STERNFELD With his magical 1987 book American Prospects, Sternfeld announced himself as a canny reader of the national psyche, that much examined jumble of recklessness, calculation, hope and anxiety. This book, shot around the U.S. at the sites of 60 past and present Utopian communities--a term Sternfeld defines broadly--is mostly about hope: the things it builds, like an encampment of fiberglass igloos, above, for the homeless in Los Angeles, and the things it abandons, like the rusting geodesic domes of a former commune in Colorado. If there's such a thing as deadpan empathy, he has it down.