From the time of its founding in 1936 to its final monthly issue in May 2000, Life
magazine chronicled the world around us. In Life: Century of Change
, the editors have assembled a jaw-dropping assortment of quintessentially American images. The 723 photographs from the Life
archives present a composite portrait of an evolving nation by focusing on 10 key areas of American life and culture. Thoughtful essays by writers, including Stephanie Coontz on family, John R. Stilgoe on the American home, and Thomas Hine on industrial design, add depth, but the real stars of the book are the photographs: New York's modest decorations for New Year's Eve 1899, a sagging couple at a dance marathon, the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, a young Hugh Hefner surrounded by Playboy bunnies, Christa McAuliffe training at zero G's three months before the Challenger
disaster, Collins and Venter standing before a giant depiction of the completed human genome map, Elián González pitching a baseball while a wall of cameramen looks on. Century of Change
is both informative and deeply entertaining--and proof positive that a picture is
worth a thousand words.
From Library Journal
DK. 2000. 1023p. photogs. index. ISBN 0-7894-6806-9. $50. PHOTOG Compiling photographs to convey a sense of time and place is not nearly as easy as some might think. Weighing in at ten pounds, America: A Celebration! could fool readers into thinking that it contained every photograph ever shot in America. Instead, it is Sandler's harvest of 19th- and 20th-century photos from the files of Getty Images, an enormous photo library. The ethic behind this bulk seems to be that more is more, and why show less if you can show it all? Though some 19th-century work begins the book, the 20th century quickly takes over. Photographs are clustered by decade. But within each chapter the assembly is random a little landscape here, some celebrities there, popular culture foibles sprinkled in, and a visual chaos throughout. Sandler (American Images) had his book blessed by a fine foreword by Walter Cronkite. But the author's enthusiasm turned into a jumble of pictures rather than a coherent historical portrait of America. Not recommended. LIFE magazine remained true to its purpose of giving readers/viewers their world in weekly visual nuggets since its own life began in 1936. It weathered television for six decades, finally ending as a monthly in May 2000. LIFE: Century of Change is a volume built on 723 photographs from the magazine's rich archives. Suffering lives appear next to riches in this book, so broad it is forced to be shallow, racing across the surface of a century with a well-aimed camera in hand. Less a tool for learning than a snapshot, this is a gift book to spark memories rather than an effort to open up the 20th century for review. Recommended as a book for browsing if budgets allow. In Photos That Changed the World, Stepan (Icons of Photography) gives us 105 images that had the lasting visual power to capture a moment that could be the image of an era held in the instant of a shutter's click for distribution to a generation. Many of the photographs collected around the theme of "changing the world" are familiar. Some were used as propaganda; all are useful as our tie to the events they depict. Sometimes their photographers are anonymous because of fear of reprisals, and many of the images were widely reproduced to build public opinion. The photos are well reproduced and gain from the explanations of time, place, and context included in the excellent short essays that accompany each. Recommended. David Bryant, New Canaan Lib., CT
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.