A Richard Avedon portrait is instantly recognizable; as a fashion photographer and as a chronicler of political and cultural figures, he had few peers. Avedon: Murals & Portraits (Gagosian/Abrams, $100) centers on four gigantic works (from 20 to 35 feet wide) created between 1969 and 1971. Each is a charged subject: The Chicago Seven; the members of the Mission Council in Saigon—“the eleven men who ran the Vietnam War”; Andy Warhol and the film stars of his Factory; and the extended Allen Ginsberg family (including father, poet Louis Ginsberg). The oversize, beautifully produced catalog includes working prints, magazine layouts, contact prints, and four-paneled foldouts of the murals. Informative essays by historian Louis Menand, journalist William Shawcross, Corcoran curator Paul Roth, and Ginsberg authority Bob Rubin add vital contextual contributions, and photo-historian Mary Panzer’s essay, “State of Emergency,” immerses you in Avedon’s work in the 1960s and 1970s.
Frequently on assignment for Vanity Fair in the past few years, Annie Leibovitz has given us some of the most spectacular and theatrical shots of celebrities, royalty, and world-changers ever captured on film. In Pilgrimage (Random House, $50), however, Leibovitz is after a different sort of spectacle, bringing her eye for personality and detail to the sites where literary and cultural creators did their work. The subjects of these photographs range from Louisa May Alcott’s writing desk to the tumult of Niagara Falls. While many of these places are familiar, Leibovitz has captured them in ways that renew their relevance.
Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand are among the greatest photographers in the history of the art. Stieglitz was also well known for his gallery, An American Place, the first New York showcase for the art of modern Europeans like Monet and Picasso. He was an avid photographer as well as promoter of the work of other photographers. Among the images included in STIEGLITZ, STEICHEN, STRAND (Yale Univ., $35), edited by Malcolm Daniel, photography curator at the Metropolitan Museum, are Stieglitz’s landscapes, New York scenes, and portraits, including those of Georgia O’Keeffe. Edward Steichen, a fashion and celebrity photographer, was a friend and collaborator of Stieglitz’s. This catalog of the Met’s Steichen holdings also features his studies of the Flatiron building and of Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac. Paul Strand, who gained attention by being featured in the final issue of Stieglitz’s magazine, Camera Works, signaled a shift to a grittier, more powerful graphic style. What a treat to have so much in one volume.