“This thoroughly absorbing narrative dazzles with the most profound investigation and research. Focus is an enthralling and riveting read.” —Tim Gunn
“Smart, well-researched…engaging…canny” (New York Times Book Review), Focus is a “fast-paced—and clearly insider—look at the rarefied, sexy world of fashion photography” (Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada). New York Times bestselling author Michael Gross brings to life the wild genius, egos, passions, and antics of the men (and a few women) behind the camera, probing the lives, hang-ups, and artistic triumphs of more than a dozen of fashion photography’s greatest visionaries, including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Bill King, Helmut Newton, Gilles Bensimon, Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel, and Bob and Terry Richardson.
Tracing the highs and lows of fashion photography from the late 1940s to today, Focus takes you behind the scenes to reveal the revolutionary creative processes and fraught private passions of these visionary magicians, “delving deep into the fascinating rivalries” (The Daily News) between photographers, fashion editors, and publishers like Condé Nast and Hearst. Weaving together candid interviews, never-before-told insider anecdotes and insights born of his three decades of front-row and backstage reporting on modern fashion, Focus is “simply unrivaled…a sensation….Gross is a modern-day Vasari, giving us The Lives of the Artists in no small measure” (CraveOnline).
Gross (Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women) opens this paradoxically unfocused book with an interesting exegesis on the grandfathers of fashion photography, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. These men practically invented the oeuvre, with technical and stylistic innovations, including seamless backdrops and candid snapshots, "in direct contrast to what was being done" by others in the industry. Their segue from portraiture and penury into successful careers as fashion photographers is a study in upward mobility in America. But after a strong start, the text devolves into an endless litany of photographers, models, photo shoots, and magazine layouts. Far too much attention is given to magazine publishers and the various editors at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, including Edna Chase, Carmel Snow, Diana Vreeland, and finally Anna Wintour. The parts involving art directors Alexei Brodovitch and Alexander Liberman are fascinating in their own right, but they dim the book's already faltering emphasis on fashion photography.