Archive for September, 2007

Some of the most influential books to have been published over the past 100 years

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

…is the title of an article on fashion and photographic influences published in the COS catalogue and written by: Jonathan Heaf, Senior Commissioning Editor at GQ Magazine.

Cover of the COS catalogue: Natasha Poly and Eddie Klint photographed by Alasdair McLellan

The article is actually titled: ‘Strike a Pose’ to which ‘the list’ is appended.

In the concluding two paragraphs of the article Mr Heaf says:

In the list below are some of the most influential books to have been published over the past 100 years. Although mostly visual works, without exception they are viewed as classics of either their time or style, and all have had a profound and lasting effect on the 20th-Century literary and visual culture. Not only did they impact designers, artists, authors and thinkers during their own cultural lifetime, but many still continue to do today.

Of course, there are yawning gaps – this is meant as merely an introduction, a winking overview and some, I dare say, you may not agree with. But then, provoking a reaction is exactly whtat it’s all about. Please, read on and get angry: if it’s any comfort, in most cases, it’s exactly what the authors would have wanted.

The list of titles in the article are reproduced below:

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald: 1925
Cowboy Kate and Other Stories, Sam Haskins: 1964
Box of Pin Ups, David Baily: 1964
White Woman, Helmut Newton: 1976
Don’t Look Now, Daphne du Maurier: 1966/1971
The Bikeriders, Danny Lyon: 1967
Jungle Fever, Jean Paul Goode: 1981

Here is what Jonathan Heaf said about Cowboy Kate.

Sam Haskins’ dreamy book has gone on to become one of the most recognisable and most referenced photographic books ever published. Cowboy Kate & Other Stories is often regarded as the first creative black-and-white book of the 20th century; its brilliance laying not so much in the technical aspect of the images themselves – although they are certainly not without merit – but rather in the groundbreaking way the series was presented and ‘designed’ to form an extended visual narrative. Almost unheard of at the time, Sam Haskins wasn’t just a photographer but an art director to boot, skills he honed while working as an advertising photographer in his hometown of Johannesburg in the early 1950s. Published slap bang in the middle of the cultural earthquake of the 1960s, the blond girl shot and art directed by Haskins in this book captures and personifies everything exciting and revolutionary that was happening to women at the time. Beautiful, sexy, in control, playful and mesmerising in front of the camera, the peek-a-boo eroticism that skips and winks from every page lifts the reader up into a brand new world where sexual barriers are being torn down and youth, beauty and free will triumph. The book was immensely popular at the time and went on to sell nearly a million copies worldwide: today, every art director’s shelf looks empty without it.

Sam’s footnote:

I would like to qualify one statement in this review. I don’t think Cowboy Kate was the ‘first creative black-and-white book of the 20th century – many great black-and-white books preceded Kate. The pioneering ‘firsts’ with Kate were conscious use of grain as an expressive even abstract technique for making images with a camera, the pure visual narrative and finally, layout (which I explored further in November Girl and African Image). The other aspects of Kate that have received critical acclaim such as liberating the nude from clich√©, styling, lighting, darkroom techniques and playful subtle humour, all saw their debut in Five Girls and Kate was really a further iteration of those creative ideas.

The image used to illustrate the article was the cover of Cowboy Kate which I think has become over-exposed at the expense of the more than 100 images in the rest of the book. So here, just for a change, is a shot of Kate getting dressed.


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Memories of Summer

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

The first days of autumn are here – filled with the instinctive joy that the seasons bring continual renewal but tinged with the melancholia of summer’s passing.

Individual images from the following two spreads are repeated below for clarity.







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