Saturday, March 13, 2010

1958, A time capsule in Food.

When I am in Minneapolis/ St Paul in Minnesota, which seems to be quite often these days, It’s in the Mid West that I discover the most amazing finds in terms of second hand/ vintage stores. In St Paul I visit the Saint Paul “Retro Loop” which as they say on their website “is a consortium of 5 of the best mid-century shops in Minnesota specializing in the coolest 50s–80s house wares, accessories, fashion & design”

One of my finds this time while browsing through an old book section was “Picture Cook Book” by Life, published in 1958. This book I have come to discover was pretty much a staple book from that period. Published out of New York by Life of course, the picture stories featured in the book are made up of images featured in “Life Magazine” between 1951 and 1958. It’s no lie that I am fascinated by that period in history, mainly because everything seemed so crisp and new, even as I glance through a book which is over 52 years old, I can still see the formulas used or rediscovered that you still find in publishing today. Some of these pages look like they could have been taken directly from such magazines as “Bon Appétit” or the dearly departed “Gourmet” Magazine. Of course the food looks a little “stitched up” at times, but the graphic quality and some of the “quirky” ideas that are used are very interesting to me as a Stylist.

The Art Director credited in the book is Charles Tudor, His use of typography in the book and it’s clean layout really do mirror a time in design history where attention to detail was at it’s peak. He was however a man beyond being just an Art Director and was extremely dedicated to many humanitarian ideals, Before “Life Magazine”, During the depression years of 1935 and 1936 he went to work for the Rural Resettlement Administration in Washington and he worked with an extremely talented group of writers and artists, all of whom shared a conviction that their talents could affect a positive change on American society, From there he moved to the newly founded “Life Magazine” where he worked for 21 years. In 1945 he was actually named art director and by 1955 he had, literally, changed the face of the magazine introducing new typefaces he designed himself. With the advent of the portable 35mm camera, “Life” was the first magazine to make use of it and new techniques in printing and papermaking. The result was the reproduction of photographs of unrivaled quality for a mass-produced magazine. Charles Tudor indeed helped to usher in a new era of photojournalism. He died in 1970, at age 66.

Some of the Photographers whose images are represented such as Ben Rose (1916-1980) who with Irving Penn was part of the “Philadelphia Group” that had studied with the famous Art Director Alexey Brodovich in the 1930’s and Leslie Gill (1908-1958) who actually started as an Art Director on “House Beautiful Magazine” who unsatisfied with the ability of staff photographers to translate his ideas to images, started to photograph himself, he also worked with Alexey Brodovich helping to revolutionize approaches to graphic design. His photographic work also featured in “Life, Harper's Bazaar, McCall's, Town & Country”, and “Holiday” Interestingly he collected artwork, memorabilia, and found objects for use in his work, creating relationships of shape, tone, and tactile properties of the objects he photographed. Other Photographers include Arnold Abner Newman (1918-2006) and Edgar de Evia (1910-2003), All legend Photographers that have sadly passed but contributed so much.

Adolph E. Brotman decorates the end papers with wonderful graphic illustrations of whom I can’t seem to find much information, although he does seem to have illustrated a lot of government literature via pamphlets and books and many magazines.

It amazes me how you can open just one book and so much history and peoples careers seep out of it’s pages, People in our industry that had amazing careers and the evidence is here in only one book. With the advent of digital technology, will we be able to keep in our hands the evidence of a body of work or will all future work flip off like a switch and disappear into digital heaven? Food for thought!

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