12 March 2013
It is good to see a new monograph being published of the work of the great photographer Arnold Newman. He was one of the most productive, creative and successful portrait photographers of the 20th century. I first came across his work about 35 years ago and it made a big impact on me at that time. This new book titled Masterclass by William A. Ewing is a selection of over 200 photographs from Newman's archive. It is the first to be published since his death in 2006. A good insight, by the author into this collection, which is the basis of touring exhibition can be seen here.
I also have in my collection the book published by Taschen, mine from 2000, but it has been updated since. Comparing both there is some overlap of material but not as much as you would think. One has only to look at the covers. My Tachen copy has Woody Allen on the cover. That photo is not even included in the Thames and Hudson book. But equally the Masterclass cover of Robert Doisneau is not in the Taschen book!
These are carefully structured highly controlled portraits. Spontaneity is not a feature of his work. As Newman himself has said, "For me, I am interested in what motivates individuals, what they do with their lives, their personalities, and how I perceive and interpret them. But of equal importance, or of perhaps even greater importance is that, even if the person is not known or already forgotten, the photograph itself should still be of interest or even excite the viewer. That is what my life and work is all about."
I'm really happy to have both books as they compliment each other. Apart from the excellent essays which gives good insight into Newman’s life and work, there are also short biographies of the people, mostly artists, whose portraits feature in the book. But if I was to have to choose only one I would go for the Taschen. In scale it is larger but more importantly I prefer the reproductions, which have in general a lower contrast then Masterclass, with better mid tone and highlight detail. Some may prefer the slightly higher contrast, cooler blacks and perceived sharper detail of Masterclass. To me the Taschen reproductions have a greater 'stillness' quality about them and serves the portraiture style better. In either case look, learn and enjoy from a master.
Arnold Newman Foundation website