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This is my second annual holiday gift guide for photographers (and friends of photographers). My intention is not to provide any kind of comprehensive list or to promote any particular companies or brands. This list is simply just stuff that I think is cool and relevant to photography. As a photographer, I'd be more than happy to find any of these things under my tree this year. So, if you're looking for a stocking stuffer for that photographer in your life, check out this list. I hope it helps inspire your shopping.
- Black and White Magazine subscription - I love this magazine. The photos are good, the writing is good, and the price is right. My favorite feature is that most of the photos are contest winners - emerging amateur photographers. This magazine is responsible for putting more amateur photographers into international print than any other magazine in the world. Kudos to B&W. Any photographer will love this and it's a gift that gives all-year round.
- Photography Retro Poster - This will be a hit with lovers of old-school photography! Digital may be the thing today, but many photographers still have a special place in their heart for the analog age. So, I bet they could find a special place on their wall too! The best part, this print is hand-made by a US-based artist. Available in two sizes on canvas.
- The Q Camera - No, I'm not talking about that over-priced 28mm from you know who - this is the digital version of a little 80's pocket camera. It's small, light, connects directly to social media, has all those "analog" filters, and it's even waterproof. And that's not even the best part! This little camera comes with an on-board ring flash for superior lighting - even up close, so get your Martin Parr on! It's a pretty amazing and unique little camera. It even comes in a variety of colors and oh, has a f2.4 wide-angle lens to capture all the action in any scene.
- Photography By Name Stamp - This is cool! Not only is this a nice personalized gift, but it also features a camera logo to make sure that everyone knows that special someone in your life is a photographer. Another US hand-made item. Go ahead, they'll love it!
- Polaroid Camera Toilet Paper Roll Holder - Okay, this item is TOTALLY COOL! For some reason a photography-themed toilet paper holder seems to make my list every year! Who knew there were so many to chose from. This one has got to be the best I've seen. This is totally going to sell out, so get yours now - before I get mine! You'll score big with this gift, trust me. Who doesn't love Polaroid?
- The Evolution of the Photographer T-Shirt - How cute and unisex too! Indeed it does seem as though humans quickly evolved into wanting to make images. This t-shirt seems especially fitting given the overwhelming visual culture we live in today. And, given that it is classic black and white, you can even wear it to formal events - like grandma's birthday party.
- An Iconic Photographic Print - Yes, a real photograph, well a reproduction, of course. But seriously, this is a cool service offered by the Library of Congress. You can search their database of photographs and then order a real photographic print. There are some very famous images in their data bank too, such as Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother. Of course, the photo is not a signed edition, but it is still pretty cool to have an actual photographic print of such famous images. Add a nice frame and you have a unique gift, thank you government of the United States.
- Moleskin Photo Books - Okay, so, if you're up for a more "engaging" project here's an idea. Collect all those old snapshots, scan them (or get them scanned) and then make your special someone a Moleskin photo book from Milk Books. These books are exceptional in quality and are, in my opinion, the very best way to archive (or re-archive) all those old snapshots or negatives. The color reproduction in these books is exquisite and the process to make one is easy as pie, actually easier. Go to their site, open the bookmaker and then drag and drop images from your computer and add text. The book is a genuine Moleskin, just like the legendary notebooks, except with your photos printed inside. Quality, quality, quality. That's all I have to say.
- Jonathan Higbee Photography 2016 Calendar - Everyone likes calendars, even in this age of all things digital. This fine art calendar from Jonathan Higbee features exquisite New York City urban photography. Unlike much of the street photography out there today, which is shocking and even grotesque (like much of my own work), Higbee produces wonderfully subtle images of those elusive decisive moments. A master color photographer and emerging star in urban photography, Higbee has assembled some truly iconic images of this wonderful city I call home. This is a rare opportunity to own some of his work for mere pennies. Display a Higbee image on your wall every month for a whole year! Just do it, it's sure to spark a conversation with your guests every time. And, unlike a book which is shelved after purchase, these images will be consumed and enjoyed daily by you and all your friends.
- The Polaroid Instant Snap Camera - This neat little camera prints out an instant print, which also doubles as a sticker. More a novelty than a serious camera, it is serious fun! You get 20 prints from a pack of paper, which costs about $10. The camera will print in color, of course, but also in sepia and black and white too! It even has a popup viewfinder to help you compose your shot - as there is no LCD to distract you. Just good old fashioned fun, almost like the real thing, but without the cost of impossible film at more than $3 a photo! The camera comes in white or black and is under $100. Go ahead, bring back that joy of seeing an instant photo print out right before your eyes - there's nothing quite like it.
- Lomo'Instant Wide Camera - Okay, I'm excited now! enough of those little Instax mini prints! I've always been partial to the Instax wide because it most resembles the old Polaroids, not to mention a real photograph! The problem: Fuji's Instax wide cameras are too damn big! Why can't they figure out how to get the film pack in the bottom horizontally (like an SX-70, for example). Anyway, Lomo is making a camera that uses Instax wide film and, while still big, it doesn't quite look like a clown camera. Also, this camera offers a wide array of creative features - like a built-in 35mm equivalent wide-angle lens with a 21mm equivalent adapter. I've not been this excited about a camera for a while. It looks like pure fun! Now available for pre-order with shipping in December.
- The Camera Lamp - What a cool idea! Using old cameras various artists are upcycling them into very decorative and charmingly cute desk lamps. This one is my favorite, but a search for camera lamps on Etsy will return dozens of options for you to chose from in all price ranges. Any photographer is sure to appreciate this neat piece in their studio, study, or even the living room!
- Lomography Diana F+ (MEG Edition) - I love a ring flash! I've long been a fan of Martin Parr's photography and this is how he get's much of his signature look - by using a ring flash. Now, lomography has added one to the new medium format Diana F+. What a sweet deal! This camera is a special order item from our friends at B&H Photo, but would totally be worth the effort and wait. Definitely a toy camera, this camera is sure to bring even the most serious photographer back to the basics of photographic enjoyment.
- The Disposable Camera - Believe me when I tell you the photographer in your life will love this simple stocking stuffer. Who shoots 35mm film in snapshot style anymore? (Besides me, that is) Disposable cameras are so much fun because there is nothing to think about, no exposure control, no focusing - nothing. Just aim and shoot. You also only get 27 frames to try and create a masterpiece. The best part: the images are on 35mm film and will likely outlast any digital photographs on your photographer friend's hard drives. Long after the computers are sold and hard drives fried and thumb drives lost, these photos will likely still be in the shoe box under the bed. So go ahead, put a disposable in the stocking this year and make Christmas morning one to truly remember - analog style! Better hurry too, these are already discontinued by the manufacturer and 35mm film is dying - it's not longer a debate.
- Personalized Wooden Toy Camera - Little boys and girls like to be photographers too! Why not get them this cute little wooden camera? You can even get it personalized with their name on it! So fun, and traditional too. No Chinese plastic here friends, just good old fashioned wood and a US-based artist.
- The Human Fragment - This is my own book, full disclosure. It's also not really part of my list. However, I am offering my blog readers a holiday special gift. With every purchase of The Human Fragment we will include two 6X8 signed prints. The prints are of my early street work and are signed in silver ink. This book is surely different when it comes to street photography books! The collection contains over 60 unique street photography images from the sidewalks of New York City and the beaches of Coney Island.
Happy Holidays! Best of luck in finding that something special for the photographer in your life!
Michael Ernest Sweet is a Canadian writer and photographer. He is the author of two photography monographs, The Human Fragment (voted one of the most unique street photography books of 2013) and Michael Sweet's Coney Island. Michael lives in New York City.