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Book Review: New York: Portrait of a City by Reuel Golden

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“These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
  Right through the very heart of it — New York New York.” — from the song written by
  Fred Ebb

My wife and I honeymooned in “the city that never sleeps” and what a treat for a Cajun from the bayous of Louisiana!  One of the highlights for me was a boat tour around Manhattan from which I saw many of the landmarks I’d heard and read about and previously only seen on television or in the movies.  Yankee Stadium, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Columbia Pres, Times Square and Madison Square Garden along with the World Trade Center and all the architectural wonders made me marvel and experience a feeling of wonder.

Benedikt Taschen sold comic books from a storefront in 1980 and grew it into a publishing house currently celebrating it’s 30th anniversary.  Taschen now offers art and photography oriented books in categories from architecture to fashion to travel and sex.  My first experience with Taschen’s soft cover books sprang from my interest in famous artists such as Picasso, Salvadore Dali, and Steiglitz.  In a Hot Topics store, I also picked up a collection of post cards featuring the work of famous pin-up artists such as Gil Elvgren.  For an example of how far Taschen has come in 30 years, do a search on Amazon for “books taschen” and the result is more than 6,200 items.

New York: Portrait of a City was written by Reuel Golden, former editor of the British Journal of Photography.  He was also executive editor at Photo District News and has lectured on photography in New York, London, and Los Angeles.  He now lives in Brooklyn and for this project, has assembled a remarkable collection of photographs and artwork of the world’s most exciting city.

The title page credits Benedikt Taschen as the director and producer and the book is divided into five chapters beginning with “City of Reinvention” in 1850.  Then, “Reach for the Sky”, “The World’s Capital” and “Mean Streets” take the reader to the concluding chapter, “Tragedy to Triumph”.  Each chapter begins with a related essay (in three languages) and then a visual cornucopia of incredible photography. Captions for each photo are also in three languages.  Biographies of each credited photographer appear at the end along with recommendations for further viewing, listening, and reading.

Many of the photographs will be familiar to both the student, serious photographers and the casual reader.  Famous images often considered “iconic” grace the pages of New York: Portrait of a City along with never-before-seen shots often from anonymous shooters. Golden and Taschen offer an oversized book that weighs in at eight pounds; it will dominate any coffee table and be the subject of many conversations.  Release date is September 30, 2010 — just in time for Christmas.

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