CHARLIE CHAPLIN: A Photo Diary

Michel Comte, Editor . Steidl $50 (480p) ISBN 978-3-88243-792-8

The jacket on this compelling, weighty collection of Chaplin photographs shows the out-of-costume comedian looking at a doll modeled on his most famous character, "The Little Tramp." As he regards the small porcelain version of himself, Chaplin's expression is complicated, rife with introspection, curiosity and an undercurrent of resignation at his pop culture fate. It's an apt choice, since the photographs inside inspire the same kind of mixture, letting viewers bask in wonder at such a treasure of previously unpublished photographs and marvel at how Chaplin's personality and zeal for life seem to burn through, even in black and white. Edited from a family archive by photographer Comte, the collection is arranged chronologically, from 1909 to 1977, and nicely balances Chaplin's film work with his intriguing off-camera life. They also give a view into a world on the brink of making movie actors into heroes and idols. Snapshots of the artist's trip to Asia with girlfriend Paulette Goddard capture not just the long vacation of two vivacious people, but also document a time when dinners with geisha were experienced by the very few who ventured to the East. Alongside photographs taken by Chaplin's friends and children are official studio photographs, indicating the challenge in combining a public persona with a private life. Comte arranges the photos with thoughtful visual articulation and lets them stand on their own. The text is limited to a brief introduction followed only by spare captions, allowing the images to stand as a photographic chronicle of an extraordinary life. And with 18 fully restored Chaplin films set for release this spring on DVD, look for renewed interest in all things Chaplin. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 01/27/2003
Release date: 06/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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