Review: Arnold Newman - Five Decades


Book Reviews, Photobooks

There is a reason why Arnold Newman is one of the most renowned American portrait photographers. Newman died in 2006, at the age of 88, looking back to a career that spanned six decades. If the name does not ring a bell, you will certainly be familiar with at least some of his work, be it his portrait of composer Igor Stravinsky or his portrait of industrialist and convicted war criminal Alfried Krupp. Alfred Newman - Five Decades, originally published in 1986, contains over one hundred of his images, most of them environmental portraits, but also other work.

Alfred Newman - Five Decades has just the right number of images to allow the reader to trace the evolution in Newman’s portraiture. A photographer like Newman, covering many decades, surely must feel the influence of earlier masters and then, later on, of peers and of how the portrait and its use are changing in the magazine environment. Alfred Newman - Five Decades allows to see just that. It’s hard to put this into words without giving any examples; and I think there is a lot to be discovered, some of which I have probably missed so far.

There are quite a few fellow artists depicted in the book, photographers as well as painters, filmmakers, writers and many others, and while some might be relying maybe a tad too much on visual gimmickry, there are plenty of real treasures, many of which I had never seen before.

Alfred Newman - Five Decades is a softcover book, which can be had very cheaply (if you buy it used and depending on what state you prefer for used books - “good”, “acceptable”, …). The print quality of the book leaves nothing to be desired - the duotone printing produced wonderful results. If you can’t decide whether to buy the book, check out the PDN Legends page - many of those photographs are in the book (in the book, the colour ones are reproduced in b/w). For not much money you can add a beautiful book, an important note on portraiture, to your collection.