Then and Now

20 Sep

The great utility and splendor of anthologies like Harper’s Bazaar: Greatest Hits (Abrams) is,of course, that one doesn’t have to wade through the morass of banalities and self-serving commercial tripe that make up a good part of a fashion magazine’s content. No doubt future anthropologists will gain great insights into our culture as represented by that material, just as archeologists find valuable artifacts sifting through past civilizations’s garbage. And it goes without saying, that readers seem to follow such stuff…

A quick glance at the current state of affairs of fashion slicks evidences a,uh, lull in inspiration. Gone are the days when Avedon was doing covers for the short-lived Mirabella under the guidance of smart and adventurous editors like Amy Gross and Gay Bryant(I have never forgotten a shoe feature shot by Elliot Erwitt, the perspective from ground level, featuring the models walking dogs—so all you saw were the shoes and the various hounds). Or the regnant elite of photography like Irving Penn (and Avedon)shooting all manner of editorial for Vogue.

Harper’s Bazaar claiming to be America’s longest-running fashion magazine has for the most part stood as Chicago to Vogue’s New York.But that’s another story—for another time. Glenda Bailey, Stephen Ganz (founder of the Visionaire) and Elizabeth Hummer, Harper’s creative troika, culled a decades worth of content to include 300 photographs of the usual array of super models and bankable celebrities. Its a creditable presentation, well-designed and superbly reproduced (as you might expect from this publisher).

For those of you truly dedicated to, well, whatever it is Harper’s Bazzar represents(rampant consumerism?,bourgeois decadence? a paean to narcissism?) there are some wonderful photographs to be viewed at the International Centre of Photography in New York Harper’s Bazaar: A Decade of Style runs until 8 January 2012

Currently reading The End by Ian Kershaw (Penguin Press)

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