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Icons of Photography: The 20th Century [Paperback]

Peter Stepan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Mar 2005
Ninety seminal images by the world's greatest artists provide a stunning tour of the twentieth-century's greatest photographs. From the first image, Heinrich Zille's "Nine Boys Practising Handstands" to the final, Nan Goldin's backstage portrait of transvestite performers, this generously illustrated volume explores photography's impact on the way we experience the world. Every major photographer is represented in double-page spreads, which feature one full-page image, a brief essay on the artist, and additional images of note. Presented chronologically, photographs testify to the evolution of an art form that is continually reinventing itself. From portraiture, photojournalism, and abstraction, to landscape, fashion, and works that transcend genre labels, the selection of masterworks presented here demonstrates the beauty of photography in all its variety.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel; 2nd Revised edition edition (7 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791333364
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791333366
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 19.8 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 311,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This book provides an excellent overview of the great photographs of the 20th century and the men and women who created them...this new edition retains its power to delight and inform. --Black and White Photography, August 2010

About the Author

Peter Stepan is an art historian, author and editor of numerous books on twentieth-century and ethnographic art. He lives near Munich, Germany.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good overview 7 Aug 2008
By Dood
The icons to which the title refers are the photographers of the 20th century rather than, necessarily, the images they make, though the two are closely linked of course. And overall I would say the book does a rather good job of identifying key photographers and typical examples of their work.

As it says on the cover of the book, there are a total of 160 images that cover some 95 photographers, presented chronologically through the 20th century. The majority of the examples are black and white, which is not surprising since that is the history of the medium.

The book starts with Heinrich Zille (pre 1900) and goes through to Martin Parr (2000). Each photographer is represented by a large example of their work and a number also get a smallish thumbnail as a second example. Good biographical sketches accompany each work and there is a short essay on photography in the 20th centruy by Peter Stepan, the book's editor. Difficult to think of anybody they have missed, though I note that they did not include Harry Callahan, something of a favourite of mine, nor Andreas Gursky, who might be too late of course.

Almost all the photographs chosen are of a very high standard, and some are outstanding examples. There are, perhaps, slightly too many German photographers that I have never heard of but, on the other hand, some of their work I really enjoyed and want to find out more about them. And that probably is the best way to regard this book, a good overview that will allow the reader that does not have a comprehensive knowledge of the history of photography and its practitioners to identify someone that they would like to know more about. It worked for me on this basis.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good starter 16 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book as a basic intro to 20th Century photographers and it does this very well. Any photographers that are of interest can then of course be studied in depth. This is a personal account of what are generally accepted as the best practitioners so a few are missing but that is not a problem and should not detract from its usefulness.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century "Photographers" Who Have an Iconic Status 11 Sep 2007
By SJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think the book's title actually meant to refer to 20th century "photographers" that are viewed as icons by their peers, and not famous photographs of the 20th century.

As a follow up to some previous comments, I live in the US and I have previously heard of most of the German photographers mentioned in this book. The ones I hadn't previously heard of (a little more than half a dozen) are mostly early 20th century photographers.

These are the German & Austrian photographers mentioned in this volume: Ellen Auerbach (born 1906), Herbert Bayer (born 1900), Bernd & Hilla Becher, Ilse Bing, Karl Blossfeldt, Chargesheimer, Gisele Freund, Robert Hausser (born 1924), Heinz Hajek-Halke (born 1898), Horst P. Horst, Lotte Jacobi, Stefan Moses (born 1928), Helmut Newton, Walter Peterhaus (born 1897), Albert-Renger Patzsch, Thomas Ruff, Erich Salomon, Otto Steinert (born 1915), Umbo (born 1902), Wols (born 1913), Heinrich Zille (born 1858).

I do have to note though the absence of Japanese photographers like Hosoe & Moriyama, and also of Robert Frank, Harry Callahan, Eliott Erwitt, Andreas Gursky, etc. Also, as another follow up to a previous comment, Martin Parr does not appear in this book.

I find the book to be a succinct survey of Westerners that have shaped 20th Century photography.

If you're looking for a more comprehensive survey of important photographers and their full biographies see the 1200+ pages 3rd edition of "Contemporary Photographers", ISBN 1558621903 (or wait for the supposedly soon-to-be-released 4th edition, ISBN 1558623183).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Half iconic; poorly edited and proofed 13 Nov 2006
By H. Sansom - Published on Amazon.com
I have to echo what others have said -- many of the photos in this book do not bear the title "iconic". Moreover, in the case of several of the truly outstanding photographers, less-than-the-best has been chosen as "iconic".

More specifically, the book (like so many books published in continental Europe, in my opinion) is badly edited and proofed. In particular, some photos are badly reproduced. At least one is reversed.
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 23 Jun 2013
By Danielle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What can go wrong with a book that shows a bunch of 20th century artists?
This book is a classic table top book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleased 27 Oct 2011
By Beau Stiles - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Book was very comprehensive and full of useful, interesting information as well as stunning imagery. I highly recommend this title for any photographer or enthusiast.
5.0 out of 5 stars Icons of Photography 8 April 2010
By Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Top rate mini-bios of photographers from its beginning to contemporary artists. Many noted photos too.
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