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4.8 out of 5 stars
Los Angeles: Portrait of a City
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
At last, the city at the end of the rainbow gets the Taschen treatment: a large, chunky, 570 page, visual history. This is more than just an ordinary picture book though because so many of the photos, after the Thirties, have been taken by named photographers (there are biographies of thirty-nine of them at the back of the book) and it's the mixing of their work and anonymous photos that I thought gave the book a special feel. Another interesting theme reflects the creativity of the city with the use of quotes from well-known historical books and movies that appear throughout the pages, nicely with a graphic of the jacket or poster.

Having looked through the pages a few times it does seem amazingly comprehensive. The seven chapters run from 1862 to the last photo in 2005. Each starts with a several hundred word overview followed by a spread with a period map then by captioned photos. Cultural, political and sports personalities, architecture (including street scenes plus industry) and historic news photos are the dominant themes and I thought the selection was rather impressive, there doesn't seem to be any image that would make me say "Just why is that one included".

What I really love about the book is its big page size. Pin-sharp photos from before 1940 are frequently run over a spread and look terrific as do news photos from later decades (all printed with a 175 screen). Tying in with the historical book and movie links throughout the book the back pages carry a recommended list of viewing, listening and reading material that sum up this intriguing city.

A slightly similar photo book of Los Angeles but with images selected from the last few decades which might be worth checking out is Looking At Los Angeles, with many of the same well-known photographers as Jim Heimann's book.

***SEE SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
To a life-long New Yorker, Los Angeles is a foreign country, filled with vivid impressions -- warm all the time, unseemly pink and tourqouise neon pillars at the airport, lush vegetation, endless freeways, glittering Disney Center, lovely bungalow neighborhoods, downtown that stretches to Santa Monica, Hollywood emblazoned on the hill, Century City sprouting from somewhere, the Getty Center gleaming from its perch, Wilshire Boulevard marching through time and linking it all together, mammouth city hall, nostalgic Union Station, pinata and flower markets, new rapid transit, cars, cars, cars.... Of course, we all have mental images of the place, products of the media -- cops, movie stars, immigrants, water wars -- that shape a superficial understanding of LA. But in many ways it's a hard-to-navigate place -- I am not talking about the famed transportation routes, but about its culture and history. For the discerning visitor, there are visual hints of the past, wonderful surprises in the canyons and a shadow of a long-gone community here and there, but its full imprint is gone. At least it was gone until Los Angeles, Portrait of a City appeared this fall.

Here, the city unfurls in word (Kevin Starr is simply brilliant) and in image (Jim Heimann's selections, extraordinary). We can see who made the city what it is today. We can sense the hopes, drive and ambition of its inhabitants over time and view its developing and ever-changing landscape. This book is a masterpiece.It makes the city no longer hard-to-navigate, no longer a foreign country but a beloved American icon.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am a Northern California native, but moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago. This is a great book for anyone who wants to know more about a city that is often accused, mostly by outsiders, of being shallow, one-dimensional or soulless. It provides a unique glimpse into the real Los Angeles, one that is rich in history, complex and ever-changing. Great book. Highly recommended...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a Los Angeles history buff, I have many books on the city but this one is truly special. It is not the same tired collection of photographs you have seen in so many other publications. Taschen has collected unique images of all the sites you have always wondered about or have seen remnants of. I am particularly fond of the vintage maps which are truly inspiring. Moreover, Taschen's well known large image format creates an amazing and unique experience for the reader. Jim Heimann has really done it! It's truly a special book.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As long time Angelenos, we were certainly excited to receive our invitation to Taschen Books headquarters for the new release party for their latest coffee table opus `Los Angeles - Portrait of a City.' While partying with the Hollywood elite (Diane Keaton, Hugh Hefner, Jerry Bruckheimer, David LaChappell, Rodney Bingenheimer, various politicos, etc.) and being serenaded by hometown music from the Doors, Mamas and Papas, the Go-Go's and others, we celebrated the release of Jim Heimann and Kevin Starr's new 572 page exhibition of the colorful photographic history of the Los Angeles basin.
In this heavyweight book, readers are treated to nearly all the glorious history of the City of Angels from it's very beginnings as an oil and orange grove mecca, thru the war years, the Hollywood years, the earthquakes, the riots and beyond. And while the book chronicles numerous LA icons (the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Frank Gehry and the Case Study House; the famous buildings of Ciro's, the Brown Derby, the Hollywood Bowl, Capitol Records, Grauman's Chinese, the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Watts Towers, as well as the Dodgers arrival at the L.A. Coliseum, JFK's 1960 convention, RFK's assassination, OJ's car chase, Rodney King and more...) as well as the world famous personalities (the MGM players, James Dean, Cecil B. DeMille, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, the Beach Boys, Hugh Hefner and Joni Mitchell) and artists (Billy Al Bengston, Dennis Hopper, Helmut Newton, David Hockney's pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt and clips from Ed Ruscha's masterpiece `Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966'), there are still significant gaps in the author's coverage.
One does wonder where some of the more recent luminaries of LA disappeared to within these pages. There are, for example, no photos of sports greats Sandy Koufax, Magic Johnson or NBA logo model, Jerry West, nor L.A. superstars like Jack Nicholson, Mickey Mouse or the Dreamworks triumvirate, no Johnny Carson or TV game show hosts or four time mayor Tom Bradley, and, in fact, very little or no depiction of the twin L.A. Olympics, the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl or the most recent years of LA fame and glory (the Queen Mary, Staples Center, The Grammys, Kodak Theatre, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink's, etc. - there are so few photographs taken since the year 2000 that the book has a dated-right-off-the-press feel.) In fact, one might have to squint to even find legends like Jack Warner and Walt Disney within these pages.
Though light on descriptive captions, Kevin Starr's text is quite comprehensive and the book does a magnificent job of referencing a reasonable number of additional L.A. inspired movies, books and records in its back page indexes, leaving anyone who wants to earn a masters degree in the city's stature with hours of resources to indulge their every whim. The English language book, which bills itself as the most complete photographic collection ever done on L.A., is translated into German and French as well. Ultimately, a fine collection, but not without some significant gaps. - [...]
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"A floodtide of orange and lemon groves with origins in Riverside County to the east flowed down through Orange and Los Angeles counties to the sundown sea, enchanting the air in springtime with the pungent perfume of blossoming trees..." -- Kevin Starr. WOOOOOWWWW! I've finally sat down to read Kevin Starr's text and am bowled over by his descriptions and its scope. The sweep of the city is all in there, sprawling like Los Angeles itself. There's a conversation happening between the photographs and the essays that adds a real depth and buzz of excitement. Born and raised in LA, I am happy to say I've never seen a better or more beautiful documentation of my city! Thanks again Taschen!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I haven't been able to stop flipping through this book since I got it. It's amazing to see the historic photos alongside contemporary images by photography's greats (Helmut Newton, Julius Shulman, David LaChapelle, etc.). It's been so popular with everyone who comes over to my apartment that I'm thinking about getting a second copy (one to keep on the coffee table and one to display on my shelf).

If you're looking for the definitive visual history on LA, this is it!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a Bay Area resident, LA has always been a curious object of my attention. The glamour and grit of LA shines through in this majestic work which peels back the layers of this fascinating city. I haven't been able to put the book down since I purchased it and I sincerely expect that all of these fantastic images will keep me busy for weeks to come. Taschen has really done something incredible here.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is home to a spectacular range of LA images, all beautifully printed. I absolutely love this book. It is a great gift for anyone interested in the history of LA and vintage hard-to-find images. One neat feature of the book is a "Recommended Reading" list in the back with a list of classic and contemporary books about LA, and the images featured. You won't be disappointed by this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I'm not typically a fan of coffee table books - mostly they feature banal photos and text - celebrating gloss and superficiality more than anything.

If "Los Angeles" is a coffee book, its the "Great Gatsby" of the genre. Particularly with the early photos and text, the book captures the allure, the illusions and the power that made LA great.

Its not just the photos themselves but how they are placed tell the story. For example, there is a spread which on one page shows an example of Hollywood magic - a man seated on the ceiling with the other page showing Herbert Eaton of Forest Lawn fame sitting with his multiple doe-eyed Jesus portraits. There are LA maps of every era showing not only the growing reach of the City but the boosterism that went with that growth. And photos of violence - from mob hits and the Zoot suit riots to Watts and student protests gone bad.

And the writing! Kevin Starr is a master at conveying great meaning through evocation, the choice detail, a grasp of the big picture that brings home the photos in a powerful way. Its rare that any book can make a something come alive, give you a new sense of a subject and bring you into the drama with such intensity you forget time and place. This is one of those rare books.
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