Whitney Houston radiates in new tribute photo book

Whitney Houston in 1990, New York City. Andrea Blanch

For someone who was described as camera-shy, the late Whitney Houston was very photogenic. Had she not become one of the greatest singers in pop music, she definitely could have had a career as a fashion model. Whatever situation or setting she was in, Houston radiated a combination of happiness, charm and confidence with tremendous ease in front of the camera.

Cover of "Whitney: Tribute to an Icon"
Atria Books

Those qualities of Houston are evident in "Whitney: Tribute to an Icon," a new coffee table sized photo book (published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is a part of CBS Corporation). Assembled by photographer Randee St. Nicholas and dedicated to the singer, the 192-page book features photographs of Houston that spans almost 30 years of her professional career. Among the photographers whose works are featured in the book include St. Nicholas, David LaChapelle, Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, Norman Seeff, Sheryl Nields and Neal Preston.

In the book's foreword, St. Nicholas said that Houston didn't like to spend a lot of time when being photographed, but then she added: "Fortunately she was so beautiful and charismatic that when she got in front of the camera the passionate way she expressed herself transcended her camera shyness, making her a fascinating subject..."

"Whitney's smile was absolutely infectious," said record impresario and Houston's mentor, Clive Davis, also in the book's foreword. "When she was happy her face would light up with joy and her radiance would fill the room. Whitney could also be vibrant, she could be intense and she could be seductive. She could also be the young ingenue experiencing certain feelings for the first time or she could be the wise teacher giving advice on life itself."

Whitney Houston in 1990, New York City.
Andrea Blanch

As far as its presentation, "Whitney: Tribute to an Icon" doesn't follow a chronological order -- the earliest photograph here dates back to 1984 with Houston -- then a relative newcomer to the music scene -- performing one of her hits, "Saving All My Love For You." Instead, the book is a random collection of dazzling and stunning images of the singer via promotional shoots and live performances; Houston appeared quite alluring in many of the stylish outfits that she wore like a glove. Equally noteworthy are the shots of her in concert -- her facial expressions of emotion and grace as she sang in front of the microphone -- reaffirms what a captivating and confident performer she was.

There are also photos of Houston's career highlights, including her memorable performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl in 1991, and the music videos she did for the 1992 film, "The Bodyguard," for which she also acted in. Some of the images also show Houston in some spontaneous and relaxed moments, whether it's her reclining with a guitar in her hand, or sitting in a folded chair and contemplating alone while backstage. Perhaps the most poignant photo that closes out the book is the one of Houston holding her then-baby daughter Bobbi Kristina in 1994 -- it's both touching and kind of heartbreaking to look at.

Houston's final years, marked by issues in her personal life, had drawn much attention, so in a way, this photo book serves as an antidote to all of that. Aside from the music, "Whitney: Tribute to an Icon" is probably the best reminder of this artist's talent and humanity.

  • David Chiu