Lens Master

In today's Covershot, Kuchar Swara remembers a highly collectible book by Avedon and Brodovitch, which had a profound effect on him as a young designer, and still does.

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Book: Observations, Photographs by Richard Avedon, with comments by Truman Capote
Design: Alexey Brodovitch
Date: 1959

I was working for Simon Esterson when I first came across some reproduced images of Observations; it was the first time I can say I discovered who Richard Avedon and Alexy Brodovitch were. I did a search online to buy a copy of the book but it was too expensive for me at the time so I spent the following Saturday at the British Library where they had a copy. I spent the whole day with it.

Printed in Switzerland using photogravure; every page is an example of fine artisanal printing at its best and it pretty much sums up the book; it’s a tour de force of the greatest artists; both from the point of view of creators and subject matter. The book is a collection of Avedon’s portraits of the great and the good, Coco Chanel, Hitchcock, Monroe, Sinatra, Cocteau, etc. (most of the images were originally commissioned by Brodovitch for Harper’s Bazaar). The text is written by Truman Capote and the book is designed by, perhaps, the greatest art director of editorial design.

While studying this book, I can say it’s probably the first real moment I fell in love what the job of being an editorial designer. The pages, while displaying 2D imagery, take on a magical third dimension in this book. I don't know exactly how, but it feels magic every time I look through it to this day.