PHIL STERN: A Life's Work

Jeff Bridges, Photographer, Peter Bogdanovich, Foreword by, Jeff Bridges, Author
Jeff Bridges, Photographer, Peter Bogdanovich, Foreword by, Jeff Bridges, Author , Nat Hentoff and Herbert Mitgang. PowerHouse $75 (192p) ISBN 978-1-57687-177-5
Reviewed on: 11/24/2003
Release date: 09/01/2006
Hardcover - 978-1-57687-178-2
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From combat photographs of WWII's citizen soldiers, to jazz musicians and movie stars, this lavishly illustrated, 11.75"×14.5" collection of mid-century photojournalistic heavyweight Stern's work allows readers to examine every nuance: 180 crisp duotones and 60 full-color shots. Noted jazz critic Hentoff introduces Stern's groundbreaking photos of jazz greats, including moving shots of an elegant Ella Fitzgerald, an alternately exuberant and sober Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday toward the end of her life. Brett Ratner, director of Rush Hour , describes how Stern appeared on his set and took only five "brilliant" shots. WWII veteran Mitgang (Dangerous Dossiers ) tells how "All our battle-hardened readers knew that when the credit on a picture read 'Photo by PHIL STERN,' it was the real thing." Bosworth, a biographer of Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando, provides engaging background information on Stern's close associations with '50s Hollywood icons Frank Sinatra, James Dean—the famous shot with his sweater pulled up to his eyes is Stern's—and, oddly, John Wayne, whose right-wing politics were in total opposition to Stern's. While Stern, who is in his 80s and living in Los Angeles, is quoted as not caring to know most of the stars because "so many of them were frankly a pain in the ass," and many of his portraits are deliciously unflattering, his portraits of icons Dean, Brando and Monroe are shocking in their unposed intimacy. His photo of Brando strolling down the street in tight jeans and leather jacket is both fresh and classic, while a series of Dean laughing with friends in a diner make the viewer feel as though she or he is sitting in the booth too. Photos of Sammy Davis Jr. leaping on a rooftop are absolutely exhilarating—despite Stern's lack of knowledge of dance, his "uncanny sense of timing" allowed him to capture Davis's leaps and turns, as well as many other turns of the American mid-20th century. (Dec.)

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