Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Taschen’

18 JULY, 2013

It’s Only Music: Alfred Wertheimer’s Never-Before-Seen Photos of Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll

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The visual history of a shy boy in Memphis who came to rule the world and break a billion hearts.

In early 1956, an RCA publicist asked legendary photographer Alfred Wertheimer to shoot a 21-year-old up-and-coming singer in Memphis named Elvis. “Elvis who?” Wertheimer stared blankly — but he took the assignment. How bewildered he would have been to know that the young man before his camera, to whom he was given unlimited access and of whom he’d take nearly 3,000 photos that year, would go on to become a legend, a heartbreaker, a catalyst for a new kind of consumer culture, a king of pop culture — the King.

Wertheimer’s photographs from that year, along with a small selection of his rare 1958 pictures of the King being shipped off to an army base in Germany, are now gathered in Alfred Wertheimer: Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll (public library) — a lavish 400-page collector’s treasure from the fine folks of Taschen, produced in only 1,706 numbered copies, each signed by Wertheimer himself. Though Wertheimer created some of the most iconic images of Elvis, more than half the photographs in this magnificent volume have never before been revealed.

Accompanying each chapter is an original poster created exclusively for the book by Hatch Show Print, one of the world’s oldest letterpress print shops. Founded in 1879, Hatch created posters for the golden age of the circus and for world-famous touring entertainers and vaudeville performers in early 20th century. A pioneer in the distinctive woodblock images that shaped the look of country music in the 1940s and rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s, Hatch created many of Elvis’s own early posters. Says Jim Sherraden, present-day manager of Hatch:

We’re using the same type that we used for Elvis over 50 years ago. I mean, the exact same type. Elvis stands alone as one of the true articulators of rock and roll, American rock and roll. It changed the South, it changed people, it changed the shop, and all this boy wanted to do was sing into a microphone.

Wertheimer recalls of Elvis:

Here I was with somebody who I didn’t know was going to become famous. But I did know two things: I knew that he was not shy — I mean, Elvis was shy in the sense that he was introverted, but he was not shy to the camera…and he made the girls cry.

“I don’t feel I’m doing anything wrong… I don’t see how any type of music can have any bad influence on people when it’s only music. I can’t figure it out… How would rock ‘n’ roll music make anyone rebel against their parents?” ~ Elvis Presley

Alfred Wertheimer: Elvis and the Birth of Rock and Roll is well worth the indulgence — or the trip to the public library — and makes a worthy addition to Taschen’s other gems, including the world’s best infographics, the visual history of magic, the best illustrations from 130 years of Brothers Grimm, Harry Benson’s luminous photos of The Beatles, the history of menu design, and New York’s illustrated jazz scene in the roaring twenties.

Images courtesy Taschen

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02 JULY, 2013

A Visual History of Magic

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What the art of levitation has to do with creative debt and the legacy of vintage graphic design.

Whether in the rites of religion, the science of reality, or the folklore of love, or the transcendence of art, or even the allure of early image manipulation, the hunger for magic has always underpinned the human experience.

Originally published in 2009 as one of Taschen’s notoriously expensive hardcover masterpieces, Magic. 1400s-1950s (public library) is now released as a drastically more affordable and no less magnificent tome of 544 pages exploring the mesmerizing visual culture of history’s greatest magicians from the Middle Ages to the 1950s. With 1,000 rare vintage posters, photographs, handbills, and engravings, it’s at once a fascinating journey into the history of performative sorcery and a priceless time-capsule of vintage graphic design and visual culture.

Accompanying the treasure trove of visual ephemera are fascinating micro-essays and historical notes contextualizing their role in the craft by magic historian Jim Steinmeyer and author, collector, and professional magician Mike Caveney.

Among the curious patterns that emerge is a chronicle of creative debt, a kind of circles of influence within the canon as we begin to see how different magicians influenced each other.

Pair Magic. 1400s-1950s with Taschen’s previous gems: the world’s best infographics, the best illustrations from 130 years of Brothers Grimm, Harry Benson’s luminous photos of The Beatles, the history of menu design, and New York’s illustrated jazz scene in the roaring twenties.

Images courtesy Taschen

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06 JUNE, 2013

Taschen’s Jazz: An Illustrated Portrait of New York in the Roaring Twenties

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Band battles, brass classics, Cotton Club etiquette, and how to do the “double roll” like a pro.

“Jazz is the music of the body,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary, “…and the mystery of the withheld theme, known to jazz musicians alone, is like the mystery of our secret life.” From the fine folks of Taschen () — who have given us such visual gems as the world’s best infographics, the best illustrations from 130 years of Brothers Grimm, Harry Benson’s luminous photos of The Beatles, and the history of menu design — comes Jazz. New York in the Roaring Twenties (public library), a remarkable time-capsule of Gotham’s swinging golden age by music journalist Hans-Jürgen Schaal, edited and gloriously illustrated by German graphic designer, illustrator, and book artist Robert Nippoldt. The lavish large-format volume, which comes with a CD compilation of the era’s most celebrated songs, covers iconic venues like the Cotton Club and the Roseland Ballroom, legendary recording sessions, and the epic “band battles” that dominated the club scene, among other curious and lesser-known facets of the Roaring Twenties.

Also included are illustrated micro-biographies of twenty-four of the era’s greatest icons, alongside little-known and often amusing anecdotes.

But perhaps most delightful of all are the infographic-inspired maps and morphologies of the jazz scene and its geography, technology, and human topography:

Complement Jazz. New York in the Roaring Twenties with Herman Leonard’s rare portraits of jazz icons, W. Eugene Smith’s ambitious Jazz Loft Project, and William Gottlieb’s magnificent photos of jazz greats.

Images courtesy Taschen

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