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The Sixties [Hardcover]

Richard Avedon , Doon Arbus


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Book Description

Oct 1999
The photographer Richard Avedon and the writer Doon Arbus began collaborating on this book thirty years ago.  The photographs and interviews they did then remain faithful to what was, like the contents of a time capsule.

Meeting somebody and balling them means something, but it doesn't mean near as much as it used to.   --Janis Joplin, September 1969

In a society where there is institutionalized oppression, the thing is to catch government and business in the grass--actually humping.  --Florynce Kennedy, August 1969

I was so afraid of being bad and being caught at it.  --Dr. Benjamin Spock, September 1969

The connection between all the rhetoric and all the poetry, between the words of a Black Panther and those of a rock star or a pacifist, between the scars of a pop artist and those of a napalm victim, have haunted and informed the structuring of this book, with its own peculiar version of a beginning, a middle, and an end.

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The Sixties is the product of a 30-year collaboration between photographer Richard Avedon and writer Doon Arbus, whose images and words combine in this volume to create a compelling portrait of one of the 20th century's most tumultuous decades. Avedon, the celebrated photographer whose portraits of some of the best-known personalities of our age have graced the pages of Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and The New Yorker magazines since the early 1950s, was prolific during the 60s. Looked at together, his images from those years create a visual time capsule. This large book is filled with a cacophony of Yippies, Black Panthers, Weathermen, Hare Krishnas, Andy Warhol Factory Superstars, pop artists, rock musicians, astronauts, pacifists, politicians, electroshock therapists, media correspondents, civil rights lawyers, anti-war activists and more, all shot against his signature white background. Arbus, a novelist and writer for magazines including Rolling Stone and The Nation (and the daughter of photographer Diane Arbus), conducted interviews with many of the subjects. And snippets of those conversations provide an intimate and unforgettable document of the tension, vulnerability, anger, recklessness, hope and empowerment many people experienced during that era. Brief biographies of the portrait sitters and a chronology that spans the first signs of the war in Vietnam in 1960 to its final conclusion in 1973 provide excellent context for the images. The Sixties is riveting. --A.C. Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
56 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There IS photographic truth 28 Oct 1999
By Stephen Linsley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Moments ago this book arrived in the mail. As I sat on my floor and opened it's pages, I came to the photograph of Dorothy Day. I suddenly was overcome and burst into tears. Not from sadness or melancholy or loss, but from the Beauty and Honesty in this picture. It is amazing at a time when we are deluged with images, images that are used to sell and and decieve, to look upon images that merely reveal. Reveal truths which lie in the hearts of men and women. Thank you Richard Avedon ( and Doon Arbus) for following your hearts and making these pictures. For having the faith to pursue them, even if it made no sense to at the time. I feel this book has drawn a line on the wall and said no less than this. As a photographer, as a human being... this book is reminder to find and tell THE TRUTH.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a time, what a time...before we all melted... 22 Aug 2002
By K. Corn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Okay, forgive my purple prose. But this book seems to evoke that kind of emotion, filled as it is with images of people at their most open, their most shocking and their most vulnerable...and yes, their most naked. If you are offended by nudity or just plain horrorific images, pass this one by. But if you want a glimpse of the 60s in all its countercultural glory (and naivete), buy this one. Read it. Look at the images and hear the voices of some of the people who were considered icons of the time. It was truly the best and worst of times (stealing from Dickens). But also a courageous moment in our collective history. I'm thankful that Avedon took photos throughout these years.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing potrayal of the sixties by Avedon 17 Aug 2004
By Muhammad Samarkand - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What I liked about this book is how Avedon capturing glimpse of sixties atmosphere into his photographs. In this book he includes many famous celebrities from musicians to actress. Although this book has full frontal nudity, horrifying image of impact of war, sex and drugs scenes, it's really portraying "the truth" about sixties.

The writings by Doon Arbus also related into Avedon's image, which is really helpful for the audience to understand what happened at those time period. If you really interested to know about rock and roll, politics and celebrities on the sixties, this book might be suited for you.
26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Were They Thinking? 15 Nov 2000
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Before going into the merits of this book, let me caution readers that the book (and back cover) contain many images and written material that will shock and appall many including four-letter words and obscene gestures, undressed people portrayed for their shock value, and people involved in activities not often seen in public. If those things offend you, definitely avoid this book.
In reviewing this book, I found it hard to separate my views of the sixties from my views about the book. I hope I have succeeded.
The book is comprised of photographic images done by Richard Avedon and snippets of interviews with many of the subjects done by Doon Arbus, daughter of photographer Diane Arbus. The people portrayed in the book include the more bizarre public figures of that age. Their photographs speak eloquently about their lives and mental states. Their words have a hard time being as eloquent, because many of the people had few thoughts.
In evaluating the book, I saw two significant weaknesses. First, I looked for who was missing. The book nods much more heavily to the counterculture than to the main culture. As a result, the story of the Sixties is biased by its focus, and misses the opportunity for making more interesting comparisons. If I were to show this to my children (which I would not do because of the material in it), they would get a highly inaccurate view of the sixties. Second, I looked for the quality of the photography. Clearly, there were some great photographs, but there were lots of pretty ordinary ones. Combining these perspectives caused me to grade the book down one star.
The best part of the book was some "before" and "after" photography and interviewing with Bob Dylan. The before and after photographs of Frank Zappa were also interesting. Had the volume developed this theme more, it would have been much more valuable. Those who were the counterculture icons of the age could tell us a lot about the sixties by describing how they have changed.
Midst the images of race, war, protest, sex, drugs, and rock, I would be remiss if I did not point out which Avedon photographs moved me. These included images of Louise Nevelson, Dao Dua, Paul McCartney, Dorothy Day, George Wallace with Jimmy Davis (his valet), Cesar Chavez, James Baldwin, a Napalm victim, and Truman Capote. Avedon drew from their souls into mine very powerfully. These photographs were very impressive. In fact, they were so impressive that they made the others seem more bare and uninspiring, which was undoubtedly part of the editorial purpose.
If you were alive during the sixties, I suggest that you create your own annotated scrapbook of that period to share with your children and grandchildren. They will be enriched by your sharing of the images that were important to you, and what you thought about those images then . . . and what you think about them now. In this way, you may be able to successful transmit what was good about the sixties while discouraging what was not so good.
Peace now!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Startling and Frank than I Expected 15 Sep 2012
By Kelly Hart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Richard Avedon will go down in history as a unique and quirky photographer. He is famous for his black and white portraits that reveal a depth of character of his subjects that is not often portrayed, and this book about The Sixties is no exception. Most of the people in the book are famous for one reason or another, usually because of a radical or counter-cultural point of view or life style. But some of the pictures depict unknown subjects who happen to illustrate an aspect of life during those times, especially those taken in Vietnam. Some of the photos are clearly meant to be shocking, and they often succeed!

I found the snippets of interviews conducted with the subjects of the photos even more revealing than the images. This text was often refreshingly frank and introspective and the combination of image and text powerfully depicts aspects of these personalities not easily uncovered.

As a photographer myself, I find some of his pictures strangely framed and presented. He often seems to intentionally crop off parts of his subject's head or torso for no obvious reason. And the convention of including the frame of the large-format negative as part of the image seems odd to me, but these things do tend to label the images as uniquely "Avedon". The entire layout of the book is unusual, with most pages having full bleeds, almost larger than life; but then there are other pages where the portraits are interspersed as relatively tiny images throughout the text. I would have preferred to have these small pictures enlarged more to be able to see more detail.

I actually bought this book (used) as one of several photographic portrayals of the Sixties in order to compare how they covered this era. I have just published a book of my own photographs taken during the Sixties in the San Francisco Bay Area, titled [ASIN:1479185485 San Francisco's Psychedelic Sixties: A Photographic Trip with Kelly Hart], and I wanted to know how my book might stack up with the others. Mine is much more a look at ordinary life and events than a portrayal of the famous.

All in all I would recommend having a look at Avedon's book as revealing a great deal about these lives and times that have made history. Many folks will be put off by the nudity or grotesqueness portrayed, but I enjoyed the frankness of the entire project. I'm not sure I would spend the $60 for a new copy; I would be more inclined to purchase it used or find it in a library.
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