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made by Arnold Newman, the first published since his death, contains familiar works as well as several previously unpublished pictures.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
© 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