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In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 079227363X, Hardcover)Through the years, National Geographic magazine's staff photographers have often elevated stock depictions of "exotic" cultures into haunting glimpses of other lives. In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits presents a century of captivating images of ordinary people from around the world--280 photographs of pleasure, grief, stoicism, shyness and sheer endurance. In thoughtful essays, five photographers frankly assess changing notions of authenticity and discuss their own methods of capturing a stranger's personality on the run. In the beginning, the magazine showed people stiffly posed in their native costumes, viewed as anthropological specimens. Advances in camera technology created a greater degree of intimacy and spontaneity. Then came color film, which ushered in an era dominated by corny themes and perkily posed subjects in brightly hued clothing. The 1970s marked a new honesty in portraiture, a willingness to go beyond the superficial to investigate the small moments that make up daily life everywhere. In Focus draws upon the magazine's complete archives to raise intriguing questions about how editorial choices help define our understanding of the world. For example, in 1981, National Geographic published Sam Abell's elegiac portrait of Rosa--the last of the Yahgan Indians of Terra del Fuego--wreathed in atmospheric smoke against a dark background, in the stately tradition of Edward S. Curtis. We also see one of Abell's unpublished photos of Rosa in her modest home, grimacing as she stands in the blue light of her TV, next to a poster commemorating the restoration of Chile's constitution in 1980. The gallery of portraits in this splendid book includes many memorable faces, from the unnerving grin of the Wodaabe tribesman in Niger (who wears colorful makeup as part of a courtship ritual) to the sunny self-possession of a child in Murmansk who holds up four tiny fingers to indicate her age. Beautiful women abound--they have helped sell the magazine from its earliest days. As the decades go by, people everywhere seem more at ease being photographed. But they remain as fascinating as ever, perhaps because we'll never know what they were thinking when the shutter clicked. —Cathy Curtis
(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 06 Jan 2013 01:16:53 -0500)
This collection photographs tells the story of portrait photography through the eyes and words of five accomplished National Geographic photographers. It showcases images never before seen alongside award winning favorites. New and fascinating text reveals photographers' individual experiences photographing people and their evaluation of NG portraits produced during each decade, from the late 19th century until today. The book opens with a beautiful and surprising look at National Geographic's contribution to the knowledge of the world's peoples through photography. Five chapters follow, each spanning approximately two decades and covering an era in world history and photographic style. The chapters are: Before 1930 (Exploring the power of photography), 1930s-1940s (The Great Depression and World War II), 1950s-1960s (Bright colors and perky smiles), 1970s-1980s (Back to realism), 1990s-Present (Everything is relative). Each of these chapters is a portrait of the world.
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