I was happily and enthrallingly fooled. When I purchased this book, I thought it would be basically Lynes’s photography with some accompanying essay. I was wrong. Sometimes I love being wrong, I certainly welcome being wrong in this case.
Author: Steven Haas – Editor
Cover Artist: George Platt Lynes
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
The elegant male nude photographs of George Platt Lynes, many never before published, from a newly discovered archive of negatives. George Platt Lynes was the preeminent celebrity portraitist of his day, shooting for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and creating distinctive photographs of iconic cultural figures such as Diana Vreeland, Salvador Dalí, and Orson Welles. But he also produced a separate body of work, kept largely hidden during his lifetime: photographs of the male nude. Many of these photos were shot in the studio and, like his fashion and dance work, were painstakingly posed and lit. They have a cinematic allure that evokes 1940s Hollywood and the lost era of New York’s café society. Many seem to illustrate some unwritten mythology. Others reveal private obsessions of the photographer, who was always alert to the sculptural qualities of a young man at his most vital. This is the only Platt Lynes book to focus on the male nude images in a comprehensive and carefully considered manner. It is the first book to be published with the cooperation of the artist’s estate, which has provided unprecedented access to institutional and private collections, including the Kinsey Institute and the Guggenheim Museum. The result: a trove of unpublished images that are sure to cause a sensation
This book starts out with a forward by George’s nephew and namesake and then turns into a biography of sorts. Yes, there are definitely photographs, but most pages in the first third are filled with passages from surviving letters, telegrams and notices from various publications and exhibitions. There are much more informal photos mixed in with the portraits, both of others and of George himself.
It all begins in the late 1920’s when George is about eighteen and moves through his entirely too short life. It moves from there through the Depression and World War II and its aftermath. His circle of friends and colleagues included many names of people I did and most of us would recognize and hold some knowledge of: Gertrude Stein, Alfred Kinsey, Alice Guinzburg, Dorothy Parker and Christopher Isherwood.
George had great successes and periods of serious struggle, both personally and professionally. In his photography he experienced the tides of change that always occur in any mode of expression, styles and trends changing. If you don’t move with them, it gets tough to make things work. Personally, he may have had a number of lovers to varying degrees of seriousness but it feels like he had two real loves. Unfortunately and fortunately, they arrived and thrived in his life at the same time.
His photography is earthbound, even in purposeful pose and setting. He experimented with shadow and light, natural and produced. Given what’s relayed about his personality, his charm, he must have had a great talent for creating a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for his subjects, often of who were friends and lovers. Some of my favorites are the portraits taken during World War II (for the Army) and the much more personal photos of returning Airmen after the war finally ended. Other favorites are of couples, very loving in embrace.
This is from 1934: the look in his eyes is desire, satisfaction, with a bit of daring…
After about seventy pages of mostly text with the smaller images on most of those, the remaining two hundred or so are of George’s work. Some are full page, some half and quarter. In this image, I love the softness, the gentleness. The tension is in the ropes but not in him.
Scott Douglas, 1952:
His are a case of me unable to sufficiently describe. Using words like beautiful, thoughtful, quiet, confident, erotic, dramatic… they’re not enough but hopefully give you a sense of what a treasure this book is. George and his photography, his life, they’re all treasures.
This is a forever book. The full page images are crisp and simply perfect, every detail with the intent of reveal a success. All are black and white. Some solo, some duos and groups. Beautiful. Dark skin and light skin and everything in between. Freckles and alabaster.
Robert (Buddy) X. McCarthy and John Leapheart, 1952: This one of my favorites…
During his lifetime, images of this type couldn’t be mailed for fear of discovery, confiscation and possible incarceration. For the many letters George mailed in his lifetime, few of them included images, with most of them describing the models, friends and photos to his recipients, also friends and models. The fact that a book like this can be put together, published, offered, advertised, mailed and enjoyed is such a gift. It makes me sad to think that George didn’t have this same experience. He made it possible for a day like today to exist.
This is printed on heavy stock paper and properly bound. Every image is beautifully produced. An image index is provided at the end which is a fantastic reference.
I highly recommend this to anyone interested in photography, history, personal letters and having a unique experience of connection.
~ ~ All images are used for review purposes only and are included in this volume. ~ ~
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
|This post may contain affiliate links.
|Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews. The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.|