With Christmas just around the corner, we present a handpicked selection of photo books, focusing today on celebrities: Greg Gorman, Peter Lindbergh, Neal Preston, and Mick Rock. These books reveal how photography has helped to turn stars into legends and forge new icons.
It is original sense, an icon is an image of the divine. Over the centuries, however, the meaning of the word has expanded to encompass human beings. How to define an icon today? Whether it’s an image or a person, one glance and we know what we’re looking at. It is this referential capacity of an icon in the collective imagination that defines its power; in other words, its function as the emblem or the symbol of an era or a phenomenon. This applies as much to the world of music and fashion as it does to images.
Mick Rock, The Rise of David Bowie: a mythical odyssey
Focusing exclusively on the years 1972 and 1973, when David Bowie’s alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, exploded onto the scene, this book combines backstage photographs, album covers, and intimate portraits. We are plunged into the color and black-and-white of the Glam Rock era, embodied by a set of characters shaking up the rules of the genre. The book opens with an interview with Mick Rock, an emblematic 1970s’ photographer who also traced the careers of Lou Reed, Queen, Iggy Pop, Roxy Music, and Blondie. This beautiful tribute to Bowie, who passed away two years ago, also shows how much photography helped shape the myth of Ziggy Stardust.
Neal Preston’s photographs: Queen forever
“Neal is one of my oldest and closest friends”: this is how Brian May, Queen’s guitarist, introduces the American photographer. Neal Preston has assembled pictures taken between 1977 and 1986, during the band’s golden years marked by concerts in packed stadiums. The photographer takes us backstage, to rehearsals and stage performances, both in black and white and color. The book revolves around seven tours, including the mythical Wembley performances: Live Aid in 1985 and the Magic Tour in 1986. It was during one of those concerts that Neal Preston captured the famous image of Freddie Mercury ecstatic before the crowds. This is one of landmark images in the history of rock.
Peter Lindbergh, On Fashion Photography: From Azzedine Alaïa to Yohji Yamamoto
Peter Lindbergh worked his magic in black and white, bringing his models outdoors, and painting a portrait of a free, natural woman. Retracing the journey of the photographer who died last year, the book will also appeal to fashion addicts with its non-chronological organization, arranged alphabetically by the name of the designer, from Azzedine Alaïa to Yohji Yamamoto. It offers twenty-five ways of looking at Peter Lindbergh, master fashion photographer who immortalized top models of the 1990s, starting with Kate Moss who features on the book’s cover. The 300 images, some published for the first time, sum up a forty-year-long career marked by publications in leading fashion magazines, from Vanity Fair to Harper’s Bazaar.
Peter Lindbergh, On Fashion Photography. Trilingual edition: English, French, German. Taschen. Pp. 512. €20.
Greg Gorman, It’s Not About Me: 50 years in portraits
For more than fifty years, Greg Gorman has worked for major international magazines, from Life to Time to Rolling Stone, and has photographed everybody in Hollywood. In addition to actors and directors, Greg Gorman has also captured the souls of singers, sportspeople, and other artists present in our daily lives. Sometimes graphic and skillfully composed, like the picture of Grace Jones on the cover, other times taken on the spot, Gorman’s black-and-white and color portraits bear witness to the passage of time. This 416 page-long retrospective, introduced by Elton John, has a few surprises in stock, such as portraits of very young Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp.
Greg Gorman, It’s Not About Me: A Retrospective. Texts by Elton John and John Waters. In English. TeNeues. Pp. 416. €80.
By Sophie Bernard
Sophie Bernard is a journalist specializing in photography. A regular contributor to La Gazette de Drouot and the Quotdien de l’Art, she is also an exhibition curator and a faculty member at the École de Photographie (EFET) in Paris.