One of the joys of being a book person, is the acquisition of beautiful books. These books can take various forms – it could be an exceptional binding, paper and text that meld into beauty illustrations that are exquisite, a provenance that connects you to an amazing person, or a book that is centuries old but appears to have been produced yesterday.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” How true. I look at a book that we have in inventory and am amazed that no one has purchased it. Sometimes, when a customer is in the shop, I pick up a book that is beautiful to me, and I say “look at this book” – and the response is a nod and their eyes go elsewhere.
Art and illustrated books often lead the beauty parade. Yet, the quality of illustrations by themselves is not enough for me, personally. There are illustrated books of the Masters, the Impressionists, the Post-Impressionists, the Group of Seven, etc. that can be of the highest quality of image recreation, but it is not enough for me. For me, that is just the beginning. I need to see something different, something that you don’t see every day, something that makes you gasp with pleasure. Maybe, even something that is a little bit quirky!
And we have some of those. Here is one of them.
Man as Art New Guinea, Malcolm Kirk (photography) & Andrew Strathern (text), A Studio Book, The Viking Press, New York, 1981. Malcolm Kirk is a professional photographer, working out of New York City. In addition to his books, he works on assignments for major magazines around the world and his photograph of Andy Warhol was translated by the artist into a series of silk- screened 'self-portraits', that hang in major museums throughout the world. He had made a number of lengthy trips to New Guinea over 13 years leading up to the publication of this book. Andrew Strathern, per the dust jacket blurb, is a professor of anthropology at University College, London and is the world’s foremost authority on the subject of New Guinean self-decoration.
This folio sized book, pages measuring 14” X 12”, is in fine condition as is the dust jacket. The book contains a detailed map of New Guinea, followed by a 22 pages of text by Strathern. The photographs are in two groupings. The first contains 62 full color portraits of self-decorated New Guineans that are visually stunning. The second section contains 31 black and white studies of the incredible masks that the natives have created. In all 93 spectacular images. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wrote that she considered this work "one of the most beautiful books I have
seen in my life."
I have chosen to focus on the self-decorated photos for this musing. The masks could be the subject of a whole other musing.
Here are my 5 favorite photos from this book. I hope you enjoy them!