One of our favourite Christmas gift ideas this year is a new book from Te Papa Press featuring the work of the late photographer Brian Brake.

Brake explored the world as a star contributor to LIFE, National Geographic, Paris Match and other publications in the golden age of photo magazines from the 1950 (his 'Monsoon' series, an image from which is featured below, became perhaps his best-known works); later, his images showed New Zealanders a dazzling, cinematic version of their country. His world-wide success (including his acceptance into the renowned Magnum agency) made him a household name at home, and to some extent, a tall poppy. The book has an accompanying exhibition is at Te Papa that runs until May 8, 2011.
Our only (very minor) quibble with the book is that it doesn't show images of Brake's very well-known house in the bush in west Auckland, designed by architect Ron Sang. We were lucky enough to have our Home of the Decade award announcement at the house in 2005. It's a magical box that appears to float over the surrounding greenery while the city glimmers in the distance. Its owners at the time had great respect for the home's pedigree, and had kept it in impeccable condition (they have since sold the house to new owners).

These photographs of the house were taken by Becky Nunes. The view here is from the home's tatami room, looking over the magnolia branches to the main deck and living area. It's a significant New Zealand house and was a homecoming of sorts for Brake, as it was the place he settled back in New Zealand after many years abroad.