Picks and Pans Review: Photographers and Their Images

UPDATED 05/15/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/15/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Fi McGhee

McGhee, 25, is an Englishwoman who first started taking other photographers' pictures as a way to meet them and improve her portfolio. To judge from this book, that casual beginning was a case of unconscious inspiration. She ended up with enlightening portraits of 61 photographers—including many of the world's most renowned—along with their choice of their own favorite photograph. The juxtapositions make for an intriguing book.

One reason is that many of the photographers seemed to take delight in choosing uncharacteristic shots from their own work. Longtime chronicler of (and participant in) royal doings, Lord Snowdon, for instance, chose a picture of a natterjack toad he took in 1986, explaining "not many natterjack toads get photographed." Harry Benson, best known for his personality portraits in PEOPLE and LIFE, selected a poignant shot of Coretta Scott King and her children the day of Martin Luther King Jr.'s burial. McGhee also elicited brief but telling comments from the photographers about their choices. Alfred Eisenstaedt, 90, shows an astonishing recall in telling why he chose his elegant picture of a 1934 La Scala premiere: "It was taken with an early model Leica on a rickety wooden tripod. I had no exposure meter and had to guess the exposure, which was about a half a second. The performance was of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitesch." Barry Lategan explains his 1980 shot of his nude, very pregnant wife, Charlene, as "a portrait of my son and his unknown future."

McGhee says some photographers refused to cooperate, her idols Irving Penn and Henri Cartier-Bresson among them. And she, admitting that she doesn't like to be photographed herself, does not appear in the book. Since it would be a rare photographer who could pose for someone else without a major display of self-consciousness, however, what is in this book is fascinating. It is a striking variation on that perennially pleasurable exercise of trying to discern how other people see themselves. (Amphoto, paper, $18.95)

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