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Slim Aarons: A Place in the Sun Hardcover – December 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Flipping through the azure, emerald and sun-kissed pages of "golden age" celebrity photographer Aarons's third collection of images, it's hard not to feel a certain nostalgia, even if a backyard wading pool is as close as one ever got to the Cap d'Antibes. For as devotedly as Aarons documented the glamorous lives of the now all-but-vanished jet set—for magazines like Life, Holiday and Town and Country in the '50s, '60s and '70s—he was also witness to a time when the relationship between the "Beautiful People" and the rest of us was mostly one of uncomplicated envy and admiration. Oh, sure, some bitter Trotskyist might have objected to the godlike image of a nonchalant Kirk Douglas water-skiing with his hands on his hips, but many people were happy to gaze upon these photos of dewy poolside heiresses and arcadian Rolls-Royce desert picnics. Aarons himself had been through WWII; is it any wonder, then, that when asked to cover Korea, he replied that "the only beach [he] was interested in landing on was one decorated with beautiful seminude girls tanning in a tranquil sun"? In an age when celebrities have increasingly become the objects of ridicule and disgust, of "inside" gossip and intrusive speculation, Aarons's lushly appointed and tenderly chronicled world looks more attractive than ever. (Dec.)
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Ah, the beautiful people! Their faces and circumstances change, individually and historically, but they seem always to be with us. Aarons was West Point's official lenser and a World War II combat shutterbug before becoming "court photographer to the Jet Set," as editor Sweet calls him, for most of the twentieth century's latter half. He also did fashion photography, though "my models were wearing their own clothes," he said. Aarons' images constitute the ultimate glamour photography. Presented by location, from Monaco through southern Europe and a bit of central Africa, then west to Bermuda, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the U.S., they show the rich and famous (more of the former than the latter, who are mostly movie stars) at play. Aarons never used a stylist, a makeup artist, or anything but natural light (if you were rich, famous, and ugly, you stayed away from the places Aarons photographed), and since the settings encouraged swimwear, it is astonishing how beautiful these people were. Astonishing, too, is the electric intensity of the colors, even when visual details are smudged by distance and softened focus. They don't take pictures like this anymore. Ray Olson
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