Cecil Beaton: The Art of the Scrapbookby James Danziger
As one of the 20th century's most important photographers, Cecil Beaton documented lives both famous and quotidian in dozens of scrapbooks now held by Sotheby's London. In the course of his decades-long career as a photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, as well as a British war correspondent, Beaton helped invent the cult of the celebrity image. In these pages,… See more details below
As one of the 20th century's most important photographers, Cecil Beaton documented lives both famous and quotidian in dozens of scrapbooks now held by Sotheby's London. In the course of his decades-long career as a photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, as well as a British war correspondent, Beaton helped invent the cult of the celebrity image. In these pages, reproduced here for the first time, you will enter a fabulous and surreal party where Tallulah Bankhead rubs shoulders with a bust of Voltaire and a portrait of Stravinsky, and where Beaton's first trip on the Queen Mary coincides with Queen Elizabeth's coronation.
by Charlotte Moss
Scrapbooks are diaries of a sort. While I have yet to come across a scrapbook with scandalous confessions or incriminating evidence, a private collection of pictures and ephemera can reveal volumes about the creator's life. Scrapbooking does not have a reputation as cool, which has always struck me as odd. Few other art forms invite you to employ your taste and wit as you mash up your favorite images and ideas.
It is the most democratic and accessible art, and according to the Craft & Hobby Association, it is the top-selling category in the country's $27 billion craft and hobby industry. I remember creeping into my grandmother's attic and finding a trunk with my mother's scrapbook of valentines. I felt as though I had met my mother in a different time. All of my life, I have created scrapbooks and collected others from inspiring women such as Elsie de Wolfe, Pauline Trigère and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Weighing in at 14 pounds, "Cecil Beaton: The Art of the Scrapbook" (Assouline) offers reproductions from the iconic Vogue and Vanity Fair photographer's personal scrapbooks. It showcases images that Beaton took as well as pictures taken by others that he admired. They're arranged in idiosyncratic collages and spreads, ironic juxtapositions and "once in a while just a great picture," New York gallerist James Danziger wrote in his forward to the book. In an interview I asked Mr. Danziger about the collection of images chosen from Beaton's scrapbooks for this volume. He said they are like a "valentine to a liberal arts education, from Greco-Roman statues to pop stars."
The photo spreads selected were distilled from approximately 40 scrapbooks and over 8,000 photographs from the Cecil Beaton Archive. Beaton started collecting postcards when he was three years old. Later on, his country house weekends were not complete without a session of "cutting and pasting," comparing notes and reviewing the pages of a previous weekend's accomplishment. In his diaries, Beaton describes a scene at Wilsford, the home of his great friend Stephen Tennant. "We looked at scrapbooks of old photographs and [Tennant] rhapsodized suitable texts," he wrote. These were gatherings one would have paid to observe.
From bullfighters, bodybuilders, dancers, society figures, the Royal family, actors and artists, there is a commonality that struck the book publisher Martine Assouline as she edited the scrapbook pages selected for the book. She described it to me as a "lesson in elegance."
“Memories are precious. Protect them. Be creative, add, subtract, layer, annotate.”
Some might say the proliferation of digital cameras and the attendant Facebook and Flickr pages have rendered physical scrapbooks less relevant than they used to be. But why not see them as newfangled iterations of an age-old artform? Witness the creativity that users are unleashing on Polyvore, the scrapbook-y fashion website that lets users mix and match pictures of clothing, accessories and arty backgrounds to create one-of-a-kind "sets."
As in all, endeavors that become systematized, CAVEAT EMPTOR.... Homogeneity lurks. Proceed with caution.
Memories are precious; protect them. Personalize them. Be creative, add, subtract, layer, annotate. My favorite quote from David Hockney says it all: "The thing about high tech is that you always end up using scissors."
--(Charlotte Moss is a designer based in New York)
A chic form of of nostalgia can be found in Cecil Beaton: The Art of the Scrapbook (Assouline) with an introduction by James Danziger, a visual diary from the man who brought arch sophistication to the cult of celebrity.
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- Product dimensions:
- 12.10(w) x 15.15(h) x 2.40(d)
Meet the Author
James Danziger began his career in the photography world in 1977 as the youngest Picture Editor of The London Sunday Times Magazine. In the 1980s he became Features Editor of Vanity Fair where he was instrumental in repositioning the magazine and in championing Annie Leibovitz, now the magazine's chief photographer. From 1989 to 2000, Danziger founded and ran the James Danziger Gallery in New York City, one of the world's top photography galleries, representing such established photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibovitz, Mario Giacomelli and Joel Meyerowitz. He later became Director of Magnum Photos' American operations and now runs Danziger Projects, a contemporary projects office and gallery in the Chelsea district of New York City.
ABOUT Assouline: Renowned for their highly original graphic concept, Assouline books and luxury gift items are works of art that capture culture and bring it to life. The spirit and 'savoir faire' of the company have contributed to the creation of a unique and eclectic, chic and elegant brand that is immediately identifiable. ASSOULINE publications have been translated into more than ten languages and are available in the most exclusive retail destinations worldwide. Assouline's Paris boutique opened in 2005, Assouline at The Plaza Hotel, in New York City opened its doors in 2008 and the Los Angeles and Las Vegas stores both opened in December 2009.
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