Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine


What a surprise this book was. First, we didn’t know about it. And, then, it turned out to feature incredibly dynamic work. It wasn’t just a pleasant surprise. It was an exciting surprise. Our hearts may have beat a little faster as we flipped through. The book examines the intersection of modernist photography and American commercial graphic design between 1930 and 1960. Avant-garde strategies in photography and design reached the United States via European émigrés, including Bauhaus artists forced out of Nazi Germany. The unmistakable aesthetic made popular by such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue—whose art directors, Alexey Brodovitch and Alexander Liberman, were both immigrants and accomplished photographers—emerged from a distinctly American combination of innovation, inclusiveness, and pragmatism.

Beautifully illustrated with more than 150 revolutionary photographs, layouts, and cover designs, Modern Look considers the connections and mutual influences of such designers and photographers as Richard Avedon, Lillian Bassman, Herbert Bayer, Robert Frank, Lisette Model, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, Cipe Pineles, and Paul Rand. So, so good.

Also available as an exhibition at the Jewish Museum through July 11.

  • Author: Mason Klein
  • Contributors: Maurice Berger, Leslie Camhi, and Marvin Heiferman
  • Size: 9.375 × 12 inches 
  • Pages: 192 
  • Binding: Hardcover 
  • Publisher: Yale University Press, 2021