My Brilliant Career: Collections of Solo Work


By Irving Penn

Bulfinch Press

192 pp., $60


A Retrospective

By Gordon Parks

Bulfinch Press

360 pp., $65



336 pp., $50


By Francesco Scavullo Harry N. Abrams

224 pp., $60

A monograph is a book that contains the works of a single artist. It can be a body of work executed during a limited period of time, or a collection of works done throughout a career.

Each of these kinds of monographs presents different challenges. In the first type, the individual image is locked into place by its relation to the others. The author-artist carefully sequences the images to convey his or her idea.

In the latter, the works displayed in the book are not necessarily meant to go together, and therefore new meaning is created by the editorial decisions made. The challenge resides in discovering new relationships without wiping out the artist's original goal.

The collection of images in Irving Penn: A Career In Photography, takes us through the career of arguably the most recognizable style in American fashion photography. But the beauty of this book lies in the fact that it breaks from a chronological grouping in order to present the reader with a thematic continuum of his aesthetic vision.

Photographs from every period of his life surface intermittently throughout the book, thus allowing a portrait of his wife taken in Morocco, (1951), to mimic "Man with Pink Face" (New Guinea, 1970), or a still life taken in New York in 1980 to echo "Harlequin Dress" (1950). It is as if Irving Penn decided to quote himself.

The name Gordon Parks is always associated with his landmark image: "American Gothic" (1942). This retrospective collection of his work, Gordon Parks: Half Past Autumn A Retrospective introduces this image early on, allowing viewers to move on to his long and rich career.

The photos take us along with Parks from his hometown in Kansas, through his assignments for Life magazine, to his late work. They remind us that despite all the glamour that accompanies fame, Parks never lost perspective on who he was: an African-American photographer with a social vision. His first-person recollections make this book rich and elegant.

- Alfredo Sosa

What sort of pictures come to mind when someone mentions National Geographic photography? If your first thoughts are Chinese river valleys or Egyptian pyramids or exotic plants in the Brazilian rain forest then this book will be a surprise. Here in National Geographic On Assignment USA, are striking photographs of the United States - from the summit of Mt. Hayes, Alaska, in 1941, to Nevada cowpunching in 1973, to disappearing Florida wetlands in 1992. And if you enjoy behind-the-scenes stories from photographers and writers, then this book will be a delight.

More than 200 of the yellow-bordered magazine's best images are reproduced and discussed by the photojournalists who created them. An additional bonus is that we get to see the pictures larger, as much as twice the size, than when originally published.

Scavullo Photographs 50 Years is a large-format collection of 225 of Francesco Scavullo's photographs (100 in color). It surveys his work from his first years at Vogue and Seventeen magazines through his years as Hollywood's favorite photographer.

Here you'll find glamorous and flattering portraits of the world's most beautiful women - there's Cindy Crawford, Brooke Shields, Isabella Rossellini, Candice Bergman, and Jessica Lange. You'll also find Janis Joplin in a revealing series of six previously unpublished portraits that capture both the singer's energy and vulnerability.

- Tom Toth

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