Saturday, September 13, 2008


Landscape and wildlife photography can be quite beautiful, but there is something about portraits that capture your attention. Perhaps it's the ability to stare into someone's eyes without causing offense, or perhaps you're searching for the flicker of soul. One of our newest books looks at the history of portrait photography, while another focuses on one of the masters of the art.
The Theatre of the Face: portrait photography since 1900 is by Max Kozloff. Beginning with the carefully arranged group portraits popular at the turn of the 19th century and ending with the artistic interpretation and digital manipulation of the present, Kozloff takes the reader through the various styles and uses of portraiture. Social commentary, historical record, artistic expression and sly humor are capable of coming off these images. Mostly black-and-white, the lines and shadows dry the viewer into the lives of the subject. Not simply a gallery of images, Theatre also includes an in-depth analysis of the form and its history.
Richard Avedon is a renowned photographer whose work with models Veruschka, Twiggy, Suzy Parker and Dovima set the standard for fashion photography in the 1950's and 60's. At the same time, his portraits of influential politicians and artists are stark and uncompromising. Crisp black and white images, without the distraction of background, are his hallmark. In Richard Avedon photographs: 1946-2004, you can examine some of his most powerful pieces. This is a companion volume to an exhibit of his work at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and it makes me wish I was able to go see the exhibit in person (it will be in San Francisco starting October 2009, in case you're interested).

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