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The Logan Collection Highlights & Shadows: Books on Photography from the Reva and David Logan Collection


Since the 1839 invention of the daguerreotype—the first commercially viable photographic process—portraits and pornography represent photography’s oldest genres. The camera’s unparalleled representational ability to portray the human body at a given moment in time was, and remains, one of photography’s strongest characteristics and most powerful draws. From a single mirror-like image, to multiple prints made from film, to multitudinous digital files floating in the “cloud,” to the ubiquity of the “selfie”: the possible variations on the camera portrait seem as various as humanity itself, and as vast as cyberspace. Two titans of the photoportrait, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, both came from the world of fashion, where their photographs were reproduced in magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Vanity Fair. Penn was the more “classical” portraitist of the two, and the more technically versatile photographer; his subjects also included product photography, ranging from colored Jello cubes to ashtrays. Avedon, by contrast, brought a street photographer’s aesthetic to his fashion shoots. His photographs were as much about atmosphere and theater as they were about couture. Observations, with a text by Truman Capote and published in 1959, was Avedon’s first book. Irving Penn’s first monograph, Moments Preserved: Eight Essays in Photographs and Words, came out the following year and was published in English, German, and French. These books preserved their legacies, brought attention to their work beyond the world of fashion, and solidified their reputations in the art world. David Logan’s interest in portraiture was deep and varied, and we are fortunate that he collected numerous books by the photographers Imogen Cunningham, Cecil Beaton, Philippe Halsman, Karsh, and others. It is primarily through their books that their work is remembered and remains accessible.