Picks and Pans Review: Life Classic Photographs

updated 11/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by John Loengard

Most of the 102 photographs reproduced in this volume are familiar, from recent LIFE retrospective books if not from the memory of their original appearance in LIFE or various other magazines. A new dimension, however, is added with the brief reminiscences and interpretations provided by Loengard, former picture editor of both the weekly and monthly versions of LIFE and first picture editor of PEOPLE. He explains, for instance, what seems to be Rita Hayworth's sultry expression in a 1941 Bob Landry shot of her kneeling on a bed wearing a nightgown. LIFE LOS Angeles bureau chief, Richard Pollard, who was working with Landry, had just asked Hayworth to take a deep breath—the better to show off her chest. What appears to be a sexy gaze was probably closer in meaning to you've-got-to-be-kidding. Next to Margaret Bourke-White's photograph of prisoners just liberated from Buchenwald in 1945, Loengard quotes the photographer's comment that "using the camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me." He notes that the Buchenwald picture didn't appear in LIFE until 1960 and that Larry Burrows' widely reprinted photograph of a group of wounded, dazed Marines on a muddy hilltop in Vietnam was originally discarded by LIFE editors in 1971; it surfaced only when Burrows was reported missing in action and a tray of slides he had used in lectures was found in the magazine's picture department. The square format of this volume is a problem—many horizontal photographs are spread over two pages and split in the middle. But that shortcoming doesn't significantly reduce the rewards of looking at the book, an experience akin to visiting an art museum in the company of an astute guide whose way with the language is as telling as the pictures. (New York Graphic Society, $24,95)

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