Arnold Newman, Environmental Portraits
February 3, 2007 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Since I was only a child, Arnold Newman (gallery; another gallery) (obituary) has been my favorite photographer. He specialized in "environmental portraiture," carefully posing his subjects in surroundings that spoke to their personalities. He usually spent hours or days meticulously planning every aspect of the shot, and not always to make the subject look good. Many of his photos became the definitive photograph of the person. I hope one day to make even one photograph that comes close to what he was able to do.
posted by The Deej (15 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
amazing. i love the shot of marilyn monroe, she looks...well, normal. nice post.
posted by cardamine at 4:13 PM on February 3, 2007

Sorry, can't thank you for the cool post, too busy clicking... wowie!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:42 PM on February 3, 2007

Great work The Deej. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I was totally unfamiliar with this person until your excellent post.

Lots of photography on MeFi today. That makes me happy.
posted by quin at 5:00 PM on February 3, 2007

The story behind his portrait of Krupp is worthy of its own post.

The techniques he pioneered in environmental portraiture are still very much in use today.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 5:37 PM on February 3, 2007

Wonderful pared to the bone portraits. It looks likes the authentic core of the person being photographed comes through.

Picasso has that penetrating stare of a psychopath. I love Gordon Parks' twinkly radiance.
posted by nickyskye at 5:51 PM on February 3, 2007

Thanks all. I never thought of a Newman post, because I was just sure it would have been done already. But as I was updating my own site today, and adding some info about him on my own pathetic portraits page, I realized it would make a decent post if it wasn't a double.

I never get tired of Newman's work. It makes me want to alternately work harder at photography, or just quit!

Another interesting story, which may be buried in one of the links: After the Stravinsky photo was made, it became widely published, and of course accompanied any magazine or news stories about Stravinsky. Newman recounted visiting Stravinsky years later, when the legendary musician had become frail. Newman waited in the foyer as the weak Stravinsky made his way slowly down the stairs on two crutches. He approached Newman and said "Arnold Newman! You have made me famous!"
posted by The Deej at 6:19 PM on February 3, 2007

The story behind his portrait of Krupp is worthy of its own post.

So true. I wish I could have been there to see Krupp's reaction when he first saw the result.
posted by The Deej at 6:37 PM on February 3, 2007

From Newman's New York Times obituary:
Mr. Newman photographed so many of the world's most prominent and accomplished men and women that it sometimes seemed as if there was no public figure that his lens had left untouched. But there were subjects he generally steered clear of: actors, actresses, rock stars and anyone he considered, as he put it, "famous for being famous."

"I hate the whole idea of celebrity," he said.
Yet where would celebrities be without photographers?
posted by cenoxo at 8:11 PM on February 3, 2007

An amusing/embarrassing story about a phone call with Arnold Newman.
posted by teg at 7:04 AM on February 4, 2007

teg, thanks for the wonderful story.
posted by nickyskye at 7:11 AM on February 4, 2007

Oh, just to be clear it's not my story. It's just something I saw linked on Kottke a while back.
posted by teg at 8:32 AM on February 4, 2007

Wow, awesome link Teg. "Do you do portraits?" It seems akin to asking Jackson Pollack to paint your bathroom.
posted by The Deej at 8:39 AM on February 4, 2007

“I took the portrait out of the studio and started getting into real life,” the photographer said once - this explains all!
posted by oMoses at 2:26 PM on February 4, 2007

Good quote. What's also interesting is that one of my other favorite photographers, Irving Penn, would turn this concept on its head by removing his aboriginal subjects from their environments and posing them in his portable "north light" studio.

I love how Penn would leave the the edges of the backdrop in the frame in some of the photos, further punctuating the artificiality of the arrangements.

(Note: some National-Geographic-like possibly NSFW images in the above links.)
posted by The Deej at 3:56 PM on February 4, 2007

This is amazing photography, so much better than the usual photographer link. Thanks!
posted by Poagao at 1:02 AM on February 5, 2007

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