Book Review: 50 Photo Icons

Picture the story

The book has gone through various editions since it was published as two digest-sized paperbacks in 2002. Reprinted in 2005 and now in 2011, each edition has had minor changes in the named photographers but essentially it looks at the background to great photos. I think it's worth pointing out that Koetzle's book doesn't consider the technical aspects of the photos he chose.

Rather predictably the pages open with a look at Nicephore Niepce's 1827 `View from the study window' and Daguerre's 1838 `Boulevard du Temple'. Both are generally considered to be the beginnings of photo art. The fifty photos continue up to Thomas Hoepker unusual shot five folk talking amongst themselves on the Queens side of the East River while across the water lower Manhattan burns away on September 11.

What gives these pages extra punch are alternate and other related photos, either from the same assignment or showing how others were used in books and magazines. These printed reproductions, in my view, are the best part of the book.

Each of the fifty photos opens with a large version, either over a spread or single page. The text explores the background to the photo, other versions and the photographer's viewpoint. Nicely the author has included some social history which makes the images accessible and not something to be considered as elitist art. Fortunately many of these photos are what could loosely be called documentary or news.

The pages are a handsome print job using a three hundred screen on matt art, though I thought the text, because of not quite adequate line spacing, gets a little hard to read at times. A nice touch is reproducing the fifty as thumbnails on the Contents spread so the reader can dip into particular image easily.

For the price this is another Taschen bargain.

50 Photo Icons is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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