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Focus: The Secret, Sexy, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers Hardcover – 5 Jul 2016
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"I thought I knew practically everything about the fashion industry, but Michael Gross has corrected me. His thoroughly absorbing narrative dazzles with the most profound investigation and research. Focus is an enthralling and riveting read!"--Tim Gunn
"FOCUS is the House of Cards of fashion."--Nino Cerruti
"Amazing... a phantasmagoria of gossip, history, fabulous times, terrible times; the men (and a couple of women) who turned their creative lenses onto runways, clothes, models and (as in the case of Richard Avedon) onto America itself... If you love fashion and/or the art of photography, this book is for you. Focus gives us page after page of down and delicious dish... Gross captures the bizarre hot-house intensity of an industry that is both ever-changing but eternally the same... This is a big, intelligent, exhaustively researched, lovingly written book... Focus finds the fire beneath the ice of glossy magazine pages, and does it without burning down the house."--Liz Smith "New York Social Diary "
"Michael Gross's FOCUS is that rare thing: an equally delicious and deeply informative book, a news-breaking romp through the world of fashion photography, from its beginnings early in the last century to the recent controversial exploits of super bad boy Terry Richardson. Richard Avedon, Bert Stern, Deborah Turbeville, Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel: these and so many others whose work I've enjoyed in VOGUE and BAZAAR are given context and smart analysis, and magazine editors and owners appear, too, revealing an industry of art and commerce. An outstanding work of cultural history."--Sheila Weller, author of GIRLS LIKE US and THE NEWS SORORITY
"This is the best book on the real world of top photographers in the fashion industry ever. Having hired and worked with many of them covered in Michael's book I can tell you the back stories are mind blowing. Anyone remotely connected to fashion should read his book!"--Barry Kieselstein-Cord, designer
"Michael Gross takes us on a compelling journey through a hugely desirable culture--a culture which sometimes destroyed its most brilliant children and which is now slipping as irretrievably into the past as Versailles or the Swinging '60s."--Anthony Haden-Guest, author of Bad Dreams, True Colors, and The Last Party
"I loved reading all the juicy details that Michael uncovered in this fast-paced--and clearly insider--look at the rarefied, sexy world of fashion photography."--Lauren Weisberger, author of The Devil Wears Prada and The Singles Game
"Wine, women and song. Boys too, if required. Not to mention drugs. Cool dudes, flashy cars, psycho-tempers, and sex everywhere to choose from. Work junkets all over the world and surrounded by beautiful people looking up at them rather than vice versa, The photographers were the real story."--David Patrick Columbia "New York Social Diary "
"Does not skimp on the gossipy goods. There are descents into madness, prolific drug use, orgies, blackmail photos and suicide attempts...But this book...is also smart, well-researched and written with an insider's eye...engaging and on point."--Kim France "New York Times Book Review "
"A gossipy exposé ... of the talented, arrogant, philandering, combative, self-aggrandizing photographers whose work appeared in, and defined, such iconic fashion magazines as Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Glamour, and Elle from 1947 to 1997. Not a pretty picture of sex, drugs, beautiful women, and raw ambition."--Kirkus
About the Author
Michael Gross is the author of the New York Times bestsellers House of Outrageous Fortune, 740 Park, and Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women, as well as Rogues' Gallery, and Unreal Estate. A contributing editor of Departures, he created the blog Gripepad and has written for The New York Times, New York, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, The Daily Beast/Newsweek, and many other publications.
Official hashtag: #focusyourselfie
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Nothing salacious about this book. (Contrary to the strap-line on the cover). The author knows his stuff and the book is full of the revealing anecdotes and stories that are so lacking in the many books spun out of fashion industry puffs. I had read several books about Avedon and Brodovitch, about Harper's and Vogue, and felt I was getting nowhere. This has been the one book from which I really learned a great deal.
Not only is it full of psychological insight but it also brought into focus women I had not really paid much attention to ... such as Louise Dahl-Wolfe and Toni Frissell. I had come across their names before but it is only when you are offered real insight into their careers that they really come alive.
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For example, I don't know why Gilles Bensimon's penis is so prominent in this book.
I'd have enjoyed more information on how these photographers worked and did business than their sex lives. Mr. Gross should have just put a list up front of the photographers that cheated on their wives (basically all of them except Helmut Newton), which would have left more space for 'real' information.
But I still liked this book quite a bit, because what it gets right, it gets really right.
In particular, I enjoyed the sections on Irving Penn. Mr. Penn was the King of Kings for 50 years, but there is very little information on him in the public sphere.
Also, I liked reading about the business gamesmanship among photographers, magazine editors, and advertisers.
Butt my biggest qualm with this book was the structure.
At times, it felt more like a series of stories about individual photographers than a series history of fashion photography. It wasn't as cohesive as Model.
But it's still worth buying if you're interested in the history of fashion photography, because it packs an awful lot of detail in about some of history's greatest photographers, including Richard Avedon, Bert Stern, Bruce Weber, and plenty of others.