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In this rollicking account of fashion photography’s golden age, the New York Times bestselling author of Model and House of Outrageous Fortune, Michael Gross, brings to life the wild genius, ego, passion, and antics of the men (and a few women) behind the camera.
Before Instagram was an art form, fashion photographers and the models they made famous were pop culture royalty. From the postwar covers of Vogue to the triumph of the digital image, the fashion photographer sold not only clothes but ideals of beauty and visions of perfect lives. Even when they succumbed to temptation and excess—and did they ever—the very few photographers who rose to the top were artists, above all.
Focus probes the lives, hang-ups, and artistic triumphs of more than a dozen of fashion photography’s greatest visionaries: Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Melvin Sokolsky, Bert Stern, David Bailey, Bill King, Deborah Turbeville, Helmut Newton, Gilles Bensimon, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, Corinne Day, Bob and Terry Richardson, and more. From Avedon’s haute couture fantasies and telling portraits to Weber’s sensual, intimate, and heroic slices of life, and from Bob Richardson’s provocations to his son Terry’s transgressions, Focus takes readers behind the scenes to reveal the revolutionary creative processes and fraught private passions of these visionary magicians.
Tracing the highs and lows of fashion photography from the late 1940s to today, Gross vividly chronicles the fierce rivalries between photographers, fashion editors, and publishers like Condé Nast and Hearst, weaving together candid interviews, never-before-told insider anecdotes and insights born of his three decades of front-row and backstage reporting on modern fashion. An unprecedented look at an eccentric and seductive profession and the men and women who practice it on the treacherous shifting sands of pop and fashion culture, Focus depicts—perhaps most importantly—the rewards and cost, both terribly high, of translating an artist’s vision of beauty for an often cold and cruel commercial reality.