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LOST | Calcutta

Photographs by Laura McPhee / Kris Graves Projects, 2018 / 6.5” x 8" perfect-bound softcover / 48 pages, 25 plates / First Edition - Limited to 125 copies

Nothing had changed.... The paanwallas still ruled the street corners, perched on stoops with their bottles of soft drinks and neatly arrayed cigarette packets. On the streets, the pushers and pullers of various types of carts still transported most of the city’s goods. The footpaths were still overrun by hawkers selling bulbous sidebags, shirts, combs, peanuts in minuscule sachets, onion fritters and vegetable chow mein. The mildewed concrete buildings, the bowl-shaped Ambassador taxis, the paintings on the backs of buses, the ubiquitous political grati, the posters stuck onto any at surface, the bazaars full of squatting sh sellers, the tea shop benches on the sidewalks, the caged balconies of the middle classes, the narrow entrails of corrugated slums, nothing had changed, not even the impassive expressions on the faces of the clerks. The city was in its own time zone.

—Kushanava Choudhury, The Epic City

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The Home and the World: A View of Calcutta

Photographs by Laura McPhee / Foreward by Amitav Ghosh / Essay by Romita Ray / Yale University Press, 2014

Photographer Laura McPhee, noted for her stunning large-scale landscapes and portraits of the people who live and work in them, has been traveling to eastern India for over a decade. There she has devoted her perceptive vision to picturing layers of history, culture, religion, and class as they appear in private heritage homes and public markets, in lively street festivals, and in the faces of city dwellers in Calcutta (also known as Kolkata). This exquisitely produced book features a selection of McPhee’s works made in and around India’s former capital. Here we glimpse courtyards, living spaces, temples, and altars as both vestiges of the past and elements of contemporary urban existence. McPhee’s images sensitively penetrate the surface to show the blurred boundaries between social classes, the blending of public and private life, and the resonance between India and other parts of the world. Also included are a foreword by Amitav Ghosh on the historical divisions inherent in the city’s culture and on the nature of McPhee’s work, and an essay by art historian Romita Ray on the ways McPhee captures and distills the remnants of colonial Calcutta in her photographs of the contemporary city.

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Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park

Photographs by Laura McPhee / Edited by Alexander Brash, Jamie Hand & Kate Orff / Princeton Architectural Press 2011

Gateway National Recreation Area is one of the most diverse and underused parks in the national park system. Spreading across the coastline of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey, it includes wildlife estuaries, bird-nesting areas, salt marshes, historic military forts, beaches, and NYC's first municipal airport, to name just a few of its exceptional features. It also contains sewage treatment plants, sewer outfalls, landfills, and acres upon acres of "black mayonnaise." Due to neglect and misuse, this extraordinary natural and national resource is at risk. Ninety percent of the salt marshes in Jamaica Bay one of the most biologically productive habitats in the region will have disappeared by 2011. This book presents the collaborative efforts of the Van Alen Institute, the National Parks Conservation Association, and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation to investigate and document the diverse ecology of the park and re-envision a more sustainable future for it.

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Guardians of Solitude

Photographs by Laura McPhee / Limited Edition Large Format Book / Iris Editions, London, 2009

The images in this series were made in three canyons in the White Cloud Mountains of central Idaho in 2008. About three years earlier, on a windy early September day, a man burning a cardboard box in a burn barrel watched helplessly as sparks escaped and ignited the dry brush at his feet. Over the next two weeks, 40,838 acres of forest burned in a wildfire that was ultimately extinguished by snowfall.

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River of No Return

Photographs by Laura McPhee / Foreward by Robert Hass / Essay by Joanne Lukitsh / Interview with Dabney Hailey / Yale University Press, 2008

The idea of the American wilderness has long captivated artists fascinated by the ways in which its unspoiled natural beauty embodies the nation’s identity. This beautifully produced volume celebrates the unsurpassed splendor of a fabled region, while also presenting the environmental complexities of managing a vast landscape in which the needs of ranchers, biologists, miners, tourists, and locals seek a finely delineated balance. Photographer Laura McPhee follows in the tradition of 19th-century artistic approaches toward the sublime, relying on a large-format view camera to capture images of exquisite color, clarity, and definition. In images spanning all seasons, McPhee depicts the magnificence and history of the Sawtooth Valley in central Idaho. Her subject matter includes the region’s spectacular mountain ranges, rivers, and ranchlands; its immense spaces and natural resources; the effects of mining and devastating wildfires; and the human stories of those who live and work there. Featured texts set McPhee’s photographs in the context of the work of American predecessors including Frederick Sommer and J.B. Jackson, and discuss her working methods and experiences photographing the evolving landscape.

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No Ordinary Land

Photographs by Laura McPhee and Virginia Beahan / Aperture, New York, 1998

In 1987, Laura McPhee and Virginia Beahan began their photographic work together using a large-format camera. For more than ten years they traveled the world--from Iceland to Costa Rica, Sri Lanka to New York --exploring the ways people interact with the landscapes in which they live. In Costa Rica, for example, healing waters are enshrined in frescoed concrete; in a Hawaiian garden, mangoes and oranges are protected against the cold in brown paper bag jackets; in Iceland, children play in hot springs created by the runoff of a power plant; in Las Vegas, an artificial volcano erupts on cue. Each of Beahan and McPhee's extraordinary images captures a point of collision between natural and constructed worlds. 

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Eye on the West: Photography and the Contemporary West

by George Miles / Yale University Press, 2018

The histories of the North American West and photography have been intertwined since photography reached America. From the middle of the 19th century, images of the West have continuously played a significant role in defining the ways the region is perceived not only within America but around the world. Eye on the West presents the work of seventeen contemporary photographers of the West, including David Plowden, Laura McPhee, Miguel Gandert, Karen Halverson, Toba Tucker, Richard Buswell, John Willis, David Ottenstein, Lauren Henkin, and Will Wilson. Beautiful reproductions of 34 photographs are accompanied by brief essays by George Miles and by the artists themselves, contributing to multiple conversations about how visual art continues to reflect and shape our understanding of Western American society, culture, and politics.

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The Photographer in the Garden

by Jamie M. Allen & Sarah Anne McNear / Aperture, 2018

This book explores our unique relationship with nature through the garden. From famous locations, such as Versailles, to the simplest home vegetable gardens, from worlds imagined by artists to vintage family snapshots, The Photographer in the Garden traces the garden’s rich history in photography and delights readers with spectacular photographs. The book explores gardens from many angles: the symbolism of plants and flowers, how humans cultivate the landscapes that surround them, the change of the seasons, and the gardener at work. An informative essay from curator Jamie M. Allen and picture-commentaries by Sarah Anne McNear broaden our understanding of photography and how it has been used to record the glory of the garden. The book features photographers from all eras, including Anna Atkins, Karl Blossfeldt, Eugène Atget, Edward Steichen, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, Robert Mapplethorpe, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Collier Schorr, to name a few. This sublime book brings together some of the most stunning photography in the history of the medium.

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here be monsters

Poems by Colin Cheney / University of Georgia Press, 2010

Considering John Mark Karr with Laura McPhee’s Photographs of the River of No Return | read here

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Girls: Ordinary Girls and their Extraordinary Pursuits

Laura, Jenny and Martha McPhee / Random House, New York, 2000

"We drove across America to talk with girls--girls from a variety of landscapes and communities and backgrounds....We traveled through the rolling golden hills of the Palouse of eastern Washington, along the shaded banks of the San Antonio River, onto the trading floor of a brokerage firm in the dizzying heights of a Dallas skyscraper. We spoke with a girl who competes in the dying sport of sidesaddle riding; a Hmong girl who became an American citizen. We talked with a blues-rock musician, ballerinas, surfers, an ice skater, a girl who makes and plays with dolls....In this book, we wanted to look at ordinary girls and record both visually and verbally the extraordinary things that girls do and the drives and desires that lead them to do those things." So begins Girls, a radiant collection of original photographs and life stories by Jenny, Laura, and Martha McPhee, sisters who know a great deal about being girls (they were raised in the sixties and seventies, at the height of the women's movement) and about being around other girls (there were five sisters in the family, not to mention a mom, a stepmom, and four stepsisters), and who are now raising girls of their own. But what is it like to be a girl in America today? What constitutes a normal girl's experiences? How do girls talk about themselves and define themselves?  How do they set themselves apart, and how do they fit in?  These are the questions the McPhees asked on their cross-country odyssey, which spanned more than two years. Girls is the illuminating, thought-provoking, and ultimately triumphant look at the answers they found. Girls will introduce you to a rich and diverse population--extraordinary girls pursuing their passions and "normal" girls discovering creative ways to define themselves. We meet young poets, novelists, musicians, unicyclists, football players, philanthropists, activists, chess players. Beautifully written by novelists Jenny and Martha McPhee and illustrated with the striking black-and-white images of award-winning photographer Laura McPhee, Girls reveals the astonishing scope of girls' lives today, and indicates the spirit, energy, and determination with which the women of tomorrow will fashion the future.

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Forces of Change: A New View of Nature

Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, 2000

Forces of Change takes readers on an unforgettable tour of truly global proportions. In this single volume, more than 20 of the world's most innovative and visionary scientists, writers, and scholars -- including Stephen Jay Gould, John McPhee, Lynn Margulis, Daniel Botkin, and David Quammen -- illuminate the forces that define and continue to profoundly transform our planet and all of its inhabitants. Taken together, these essays represent a dramatic range of new views and understandings about nature that have emerged over the last century. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society, Forces of Change brings together for the first time the matchless resources of two world-renowned institutions in order to present a bold new vision of the world, which stresses the diversity, interrelatedness, and interdependence of all natural phenomena. In this vision the Earth can be viewed as a grand network of life-supporting forces operating within a single dynamic system. Powerfully punctuated by epic photographs, eloquent illustrations, and a wonderfully dynamic design, Forces of Change is at once highly accessible and deeply thought-provoking. Full of sidebars that lucidly unpack the latest field research, the essays take readers around the world -- from the peaks of the Himalaya to the mysterious depths of the sea, and from the Ladakh cultures of northern India to the A'ani and Assiniboine tribes of Montana. Published in conjunction with a new permanent exhibit program at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Forces of Change is a timely and vitally important consideration of science and fate at the dawn of the 21st century.

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Flesh and Blood: Photographers' Images of Their Own Families

Picture Project, New York, 1992

Flesh & Blood dramatically reveals family life- intimate, joyful, and poignant - through the personal family pictures of many of the world's finest photographers. Selecting from wallet snapshots, private albums, and museum walls, the editors viewed a wealth of emotional and insightful images taken by more than 500 photographers. Because of the intimacy that is evoked by family events and family members, these are the images that photographers ( like everyone else) usually consider their most dear. This extraordinary collection represents a broad range of contemporary photography. Included are images by both the very famous, and the younger, less known photographers who will emerge in the next generation. Among the sixty-sic photographers whose work is included are Tina Barney, Bill Burke, Raymond Depardon, Elliott Erwitt, Ralph Gibson, Emmet Gowin, David Hockney, Annie Leibovitz, Sally Mann, Mary Ellen Mark, Sheila Metzner, Joel Meyerowitz, Eugene Richards, Stephen Shore, Clarissa T. Sligh, Larry Sultan, Carrie M. Weems, and William Wegman. The deeper definition of family that emerges from this unique and beautiful work is one of involvement and complexity. Flesh & Blood expands the way we see our own families.

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Mothers & Daughters: An Exploration in Photographs

by Tillie Olsen & Julie O. Edwards / Aperture, New York, 1987

In this extraordinary volume, Mothers & Daughters: An Exploration in Photographs with essays by Tillie Olsen and Estelle Jussim, the most basic and the most mysterious of relationships -- as experienced in contemporary America -- is explored in all of its variety, nuance, and ambivalence. Nearly ninety photographers contributed penetrating images of mothers and their daughters -- women of every shape, hue, and social station. The result is an emotional mosaic of depth and detail and also a pioneering accomplishment in the history of photography.

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