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Book Review: Exposed: 10 years in Hollywood by Mark Liddell

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As one of the most sought-after photographers in Hollywood, Mark Liddell has spent the last 10 years discovering the ins and outs of the industry. In Exposed, we are promised a trip behind the scenes to understand where the ideas for the photoshoots come from and what inspires the photographer.

The premise to this book is very interesting, and so is it’s large size; I picked up Exposed with high expectations that were not quite met.
On the one hand, the pictures truly are a work of art. You can easily understand why Mark Liddell has become one of the most sought-after photographers in Hollywood. His pictures are different but not always in the way you think a picture would be, and reflect how Mark Liddell’s different take on things give him that much sought edge.

Take for example Pamela Anderson’s picture with a closed (i.e. no cleavage) sweater, and Janet Jackson’s picture with fishnets and, again, her ample and usually exposed (ha!) cleavage covered. Both of these women’s edginess is often correlated to the fact that they let it, er, all hang out, but here he manages to make it about another part of their bodies that is just as beautiful but doesn’t typically get as much attention.

I also really liked the section about Avril Lavigne’s doll shoot; Mark Liddell explains a little how the idea came from Avril and how he worked with it and managed to make it edgy.

The paper the pictures are printed on is thick and glossy and the quality of the pictures is high, which is a lot when a book measures over 11 by 13 inches – which makes up for the lack of ‘behind-the-scenes’ moments. The size of the book is large, which might seem a little bit annoying at first – try hauling that in public transportation! – but it’s really worth the hassle as we get to see amazing pictures taken at high quality and printed in large dimensions, something we are usually not privy to.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer, but I didn’t find the available text nearly enough to understand where the concepts really came from and how they were developed. While the pictures shared their story really well, I finished the book with a sense of vague displeasure at a promised plane ride that barely took off. Perhaps it’s only a reflection of the fact that, as Mark explains, he doesn’t need to communicate only in words with his subjects, but that much of the communication is done through non-verbal communication; unfortunately the readers are not with him and he has to make use of more than his pictures to share his experience with us.

I got excited when I turned to one of the last pages and saw there was a two page Q&A. But, again, it was more about the same rather superficial aspects of photography rather than the journey Mark Lidell took, and emphasized yet again how Exposed seems to be more about how great Mark Liddell is rather than to be about his journey as promised. While this doesn’t take away from the beauty and artistry of the photographs, it leaves a rather disappointing taste in one’s mouth, especially since the premise held a lot of potential. After all, Mark Liddell does have a lot of talent and went from having no contracts and no money to having a schedule filled with contracts from the industry’s biggest names.

In short, if you want a great collection of amazing portraits for your coffee table, then Exposed is the book for you. It’s a fantastic collection of breathtaking pictures in high quality, printed on thick paper at a large size which is something we don’t often see (hello magazines). But if you are looking for the story of a photographer’s journey into Hollywood, exploring how he discovered the various tricks to the trade, how he uses his instincts, how Hollywood has changed him, how he protects himself against the negative aspects of life as a photographer of big stars, then perhaps you should look for something else.

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