ELLE
THE ELLE 25: AVEDON, MARK, LEIBOVITZ, LA CHAPELLE
October 1999
SUSAN MORGAN


103U-067-001

The eyes have it. Four contemporary photographers‑whose stunning pictures have illuminated and mirrored our times‑are each the subject of major monographs due out this fall. Their diverse collections create a compelling and unpredictable montage of late-twentieth‑century America. In The Sixties, Richard Avedon and writer Doon Arbus's remarkably fresh pictorial and oral history captures that edgy decade's nuances‑from the giddy pugnaciousness of Janis Joplin to the resolute gaze of Martin Luther King, Jr. An inquiry into human vulnerability is at the heart of Mary Ellen Mark's sharply rendered scenes. In a municipal swimming pool, an airborne pair of splayed legs appear to torpedo a blasé little girl adrift in an inner tube. "How we look and what we do" is the simple premise investigated by Annie Leibovitz and cultural critic Susan Sontag in their collaborative book Women, a dynamic album filled with iconographic portraits of the famous and the unfamiliar (a contemplative Hillary Rodham Clinton edits a typescript as the columns of the White House portico loom ominously behind her). Orchestrated with energy and abandon by David LaChapelle, Hotel LaChapelle plays host to antic Technicolor fantasies (blue Arctic images‑penguins, snowdrifts, polar bears‑provide the backdrop for a scantily clad model proffering a trophy fish). The camera, these books remind us, is capable not only of lies but also of disturbing truths and marvelous tales.

‑SUSAN MORGAN

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