Masterclass: Arnold Newman

Thames & Hudson, $60.00, (272p), ISBN-10: 0500544158, ISBN-13: 978-0500544150
Text by William A. Ewing with a preface by Todd Brandow

Published to coordinate with a touring exhibition, this handsome new book of images made by Arnold Newman, the first published since his death, contains familiar works as well as several previously unpublished pictures.

Because Newman occupies such a secure position in the photographic firmament, the book doesn't need to argue the case for his achievements, it simply adds to the heft and depth of his legacy. Newman's shots are hard to miss, and many of them are by now ubiquitous. From books and magazines to postcard racks and dorm room posters, his images of Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Salvador Dali, and Martha Graham, among many others are among the most widely reproduced and recognizable portraits of the last century.  

Salvador Dali, 1951
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images
David Hockney
© Arnold Newman / Getty Images
 

Newman was expert in many of the sub-skills of portrait photography (composition lighting, posing, eliciting revealing expressions) mastery of any one of which would have led to an impressive career. His particular niche was the 'environmental portrait' in which the subject is placed in an familiar environment, i.e. studio, office, workplace, that further elucidates their character. Newman is quoted as saying that if he hadn't become a photographer, he’d have been a psychologist, and his sincere curiosity for his subjects is apparent in the complexity of his images.

Martha Graham, NYC, 1961 © Arnold Newman / Getty Images

Again and again, Newman's genius seems to be one of essentialization. His carefully arranged frames contain just enough elements to be aesthetic, informative, and symbolic - Stravinsky's head and arms visible in the open grand piano, for example, or David Rockefeller against the dramatic lines of a skyscraper. He could nearly deify a subject - JFK appears arcehetypally presidential within the classical architecture of the White House. But if he so chose, he could also vilify a sitter, as he did in the eerie, grotesque, and harshly lit portrait of notorious German industrialist and convicted Nazi war criminal Alfried Krupp.

Given the high number of figures that Newman captured over the years, any curated selection will have omissions that some viewers will miss, and this book is no exception, skewing heavily towards artists over world leaders and other notables. But why quibble with beauty?

Newman took so many wonderful images and the 200+ here are as representative a selection as any. The photographs, mostly in monochrome, are printed on a decent stock and have good tonal range. For fans of portraiture I highly recommend giving Masterclass a close look.

'Masterclass: Arnold Newman' is available on Amazon.com


Adam Koplan is head of the Performance Department at the Dreamyard Project which brings arts programs to NYC schools. He is also Artistic Director of The Flying Carpet Theatre Co. Follow him on Twitter @FlyingCarpetNYC  

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 20
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Sep 10, 2012)

Wish I could afford this, and about 20,000 other books! :'( (weeps) Oh, why are books so bloomin' addicting to collect??

0 upvotes
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (Sep 10, 2012)

I've got 7,000 books in the house, but I'm still unable to answer your question. Every now and then I read one. It's a dog's life.
I always liked Newman's 'environmental portrait' approach, since my own preference is life photography. This includes some cats.

0 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Sep 10, 2012)

I confess to having a good half dozen cat care books on the shelf here, hehe. But I can only imagine what 7 thousand books looks like! I have no clue as to how many books I own, but well under a thousand, I am sure.
I just bought my first ebook reader, so I can now try to (greatly) supplement my collection with books from Project Gutenberg and other sources. I guess art books and bios and guides like this could be a good reason to go patronise my public library more often, and just sit there and gaze..

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
MarkInSF
By MarkInSF (Sep 11, 2012)

Many libraries let you check out e-books online. I doubt there are many photography books in their collections and they wouldn't look like much on your e-reader, but you can also read their books on computers and tablets with the right software. I often borrow books to save money and push back the day I acquire my four-thousandth book.

0 upvotes
Tape5
By Tape5 (Sep 10, 2012)

In a post post post modern world where Instagram rules, the term Masterclass is surely a bit passè.

These guys manufactured genius faster than doing lines. Faster than a 1950s factory making cream biscuits. Contrived a bit. They owned the definition of genius back then (and Salvador's tache to prove it).

Comment edited 24 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (Sep 10, 2012)

You have a point. They rolled their own definition of genius. They practiced boosterism. But take away the puffery and poseury, and I like the stuff, except for some goofy contrived examples. Weegee and Feininger suit me fine. Call me plain. But I learn a lot from Newman. He is indeed a prodigy.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
amiamika
By amiamika (Sep 12, 2012)

My website is a new web. I have about camera detail and picture product. please click link http://www.camera-shot.com/ for the sake of Visit and give an opportunity to me, Thank you. ^^

1 upvote
Felixography
By Felixography (Sep 10, 2012)

I found the Getty interview very informative. See the link to Alfried Krupp. above. The Alfried Krupp. picture is #11 in the series.

0 upvotes
dark goob
By dark goob (Sep 10, 2012)

Selling books much?

Yep, owned by Amazon.

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Sep 10, 2012)

Aw, bless you. You think we can afford to employ a team of people, plus freelancers, on the proceeds from a tiny percentage of a very small number of book sales that result from a couple of reviews a month?

I want to live in your world - it sounds much nicer than this one.

15 upvotes
Sunny15
By Sunny15 (Sep 10, 2012)

Barney Britton 1-0 dark goob

2 upvotes
CarlosNunezUSA
By CarlosNunezUSA (Sep 10, 2012)

I for one appreciate the article about this book, otherwise I probably wouldn't know about the release. If you like or work in portrait photography he is one of the guys to study and learn about. I don't care if the book is sold at amazon or somewhere else.

0 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Sep 10, 2012)

goob = pwnd

0 upvotes
MarkInSF
By MarkInSF (Sep 11, 2012)

Goob has been flicked away with nonchalance. As an untrained flea, his primitive brain directed him to bite the biggest beast in the room. Alas, he missed Jeff Bezos and tried to bite Barney. Foolish little Goob.

The image appealed to me. As an image, it must belong on a photography forum. At least as much as baseless attacks on the dpr staff.

0 upvotes
amiamika
By amiamika (Sep 12, 2012)

My website is a new web. I have about camera detail and picture product. please click link http://www.camera-shot.com/ for the sake of Visit and give an opportunity to me, Thank you. ^^

0 upvotes
sanjja
By sanjja (Sep 9, 2012)

Newman was certainly one of the greats. His work is both inspirational and instructive. See, e.g., The Environmental Portrait as Visual Metaphor: Select Photographs from Arnold Newman and Alfred Eisenstadt -- http://lubowphotography.com/2011/12/the-environmental-portrait/

2 upvotes
fad
By fad (Sep 9, 2012)

A good editor to get rid of the superfluous fanboyism would have helped.

But there is otherwise some good information in this review.

1 upvote
four under
By four under (Sep 9, 2012)

?

1 upvote
oneANT
By oneANT (Sep 10, 2012)

You should hire him for your own photographic history, he'll likely invent something nice and perfumed to say.

...lol, awesome fad.

0 upvotes
amiamika
By amiamika (Sep 12, 2012)

My website is a new web. I have about camera detail and picture product. please click link http://www.camera-shot.com/ for the sake of Visit and give an opportunity to me, Thank you. ^^

0 upvotes
Total comments: 20