For me books are a Christmas failsafe. I am always happy to be given one and there’s so much pleasure to be had in finding a great book for someone who also loves the printed word… or a beautiful picture.
The problem is handing them over rather than keeping them for myself…
FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY – the story in 180 pictures
By EUGENIE SHINKLE
£39.95 (Thames & Hudson)
This big, glossy tome does just what it says on the tin. Shinkle traces fashion photography’s history back to the 1860s (although she points out that from the 14th century onwards dress became an important means of self-expression and in the 17th century magazines reported on fashions in Paris).
With appropriate and stunning examples by key, legendary photographers, she charts the story era by era, moving through the decades. She discusses social and aesthetic conventions, model choices, poses, economic influences, editor influences, film developments, sexual freedom and, eventually, the decline of print… but not of fashion publishing.
Each photographer, taken in turn, from Man Ray and Cecil Beaton, to Helmut Newton and Steven Meisel, is accompanied by lavish photography, short biography, style and working methods. Fabulous, and maybe one to keep!
JEWELRY FOR GENTLEMEN by JAMES SHERWOOD
£29.95 (Thames & Hudson)
With so many books on so many jewellery topics, why has it taken so long for men’s jewellery to be tackled? It’s hardly a modern concept, as numerous kings, counts, and dandies would remind us if they were around now to do so. In fact, as this new book’s foreword explains, fascination with gems started with men.
But masculine adornment has been rather in the doldrums over the past few decades and is only now – perhaps in the last 10 years – emerging into the spotlight. And Sherwood’s book aims to make sure it’s no longer neglected.
Of course, unless there is a major shift in fashion trends, there are some jewelled accoutrements that will never rise to dizzy heights of popularity. Gem-set dress studs and matching cufflinks are not much seen outside of the royal circle; stick pins are as rare on the high street as cravats, and as double-cuffs are an endangered species, even humble cufflinks are on borrowed time.
On the other hand, says Sherwood, look around now and bracelets, pendants, signet rings and even earrings for men have never had it so good. And he says, while hip-hop bling may have kickstarted things, it’s increasingly about refinement, especially as style icons and tastemakers are rocking elegant jewellery – particularly on the red carpet.
This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of men’s relationship with jewellery and while delving into the 20th century archives of key jewellery houses and auction houses, it also reveals the contemporary craftspeople who keeping the art alive.
ALL ABOUT SAUL LEITER
With texts by Margit Erb, Pauline Vermare and Motoyuki Shibata
£19.95 (Thames & Hudson)
One of the names in the Fashion Photography book is Saul Leiter, but it turns out that there was much more to him. I feel less stupid for not being aware of him when I learn that Leiter fell off the public’s radar in the 1980s and that wasn’t rectified until the publication of his first collection in 2006. Nonetheless it’s joyous to discover him now.
If you start (as you should) at the beginning of this book, you get to know him image-by-image, random-quote-by-random-quote. It’s not until almost the end that you find a couple of enlightening essays and discover, for instance, that he is (and was) big in Japan, despite having lived and worked in New York’s East Village for 60 years of his life. Born in 1923, he quit rabbinical college to come to New York where he became passionate about art – in particular that of Bonnard as well as Japanese art. The influences of both can be seen in his photographs as well as his very many watercolour paintings.
Although he started to photograph for Harper’s Bazaar in 1958, fashion was not seemingly at the forefront of his mind. “I had the hope that the result would look like a photograph rather than a fashion photograph” he once said and he always thought of himself as a painter. His beautiful images – street scenes, portraits, captured moments – are testament to this view. Even the fashion images can be flashes of life as it’s happening and sometimes just blurs of colour. Rain-smeared, steamed up windows and snow-covered New York streets become works of art, with photographs being “fragments and souvenirs of an unfinished world”. Beautiful.