Life: Our Century In Pictures

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9780821226339: Life: Our Century In Pictures
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More than five hundred images, selected from the photographic archives of "Life" and other collections, portray the people and events that transformed the modern era

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Review:

Richard Stolley knows a bit about what we want from the pictures of our century. He's the LIFE magazine guy who acquired the Zapruder film of JFK being shot (the fatal instant is depicted in this book), and he basically created modern celebrity culture as the founding father of People, where he articulated his famous rules for cover photos: young is better than old, pretty better than ugly, rich better than poor--"and nothing is better than the celebrity dead." All of the above are found abundantly in Stolley and Tony Chiu's lively, cannily selected, and sumptuously produced photo album LIFE: Our Century in Pictures.

It's not just a grab bag of 770 arresting, touching, scary, funny, alternately famous and unfamiliar images. It tells a semi-coherent story by breaking up the century into nine "epochs," each introduced with a brief essay by a leading intellectual light (David M. Kennedy, Paul Fussell, and Garry Wills do especially well). There are fun facts aplenty: did you know Columbia Pictures' Lady Liberty-like logo was inspired by a debutante in an anti-Hun propaganda poster? Or that Ike almost chose Margaret Chase Smith instead of Nixon? Each epoch gets assigned a "Turning Point," sometimes a defining moment or a flashy burst of upbeat cultural documentary to offset the sometimes stark violent-event photos. The World War I section breaks up the black-and-white trench-fighting scenes with a quickie history of the American musical, pages as radiant as a rainbow. Each chapter ends with "Requiem" photos of people whose passing is still news.

The layouts are often superb: you have to open the book to see how perfect a Mondrian looks next to a photo of college girls doing patriotic calisthenics that transform them into a similarly energetic grid. There are heftier historic-photo collections, like Bruce Bernard's true test of coffee-table construction, the 1,120-page Century: One Hundred Years of Human Progress, Regression, Suffering, and Hope. But you're not going to find a more popular book of its kind than Stolley and Chiu's. --Tim Appelo

About the Author:

Richard B. Stolley is Senior Editorial Adviser at Time Inc. A native of Pekin, Illinois, and graduate of Northwester University, he began practicing journalism at age 15. After working at three newspapers, he joined the staff of the weekly LIFE magazine in 1953 and for 19 years covered events and personalities throughout the world. Most memorable among these stories was the death of President John F. Kennedy; Stolley discovered and obtained exclusively for LIFE the famous Zapruder film of the assassination. In 1974, he was the founding editor of People magazine. After eight years there, he was named editor of the monthly LIFE and then editorial director of all Time Inc. magazines. He assumed his present position in 1993.

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9780821227145: Life: Our Century In Pictures

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ISBN 10:  0821227149 ISBN 13:  9780821227145
Publisher: Time Warner, 2000
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