W: The First 40 Years

Edited by Stefano Tonchi, W: The First 40 Years* is an oversize tribute to the magazine’s history of documenting the fashion world.

Organized into three main chapters, “Who,” “Where,” and “Wow, ” It packs in as many photographs as is possible-sometimes as many as eight images to a page. The design of the book includes a few neat bells and whistles, including a inserts at the front of each chapter: a fold-out insert of every magazine cover reproduced in a very small thumbnail, an insert on W gossips and a third on parties.

The “Who” chapter contains photo-essays of the best-known celebrities of fashion from the last 40 years beginning with multipage spreads of  Jackie O, and Madonna. As the chapter continues the categories and individuals seem more arbitrary:  Society Queens, Big Spenders, The Art Crowd, The Artists, Covergirls, Summercampers. Basically, this chapter covers designers, models, and trend setters (like Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour): Sometimes with multi-page spreads, and sometimes sharing page-space with other groups/individuals.

These do no appear to be organized in any particular order, which I found problematic. That said, don’t miss the three pages devoted sole-ly to a half-naked Brad Pitt or the single image of a pre-fame Lady Gaga circa 2007, when W interviewed her during her ‘starving-artist’ phase.

The “Where” is of less interest to me, as it highlights the fashionable vacations, travels, and locations featured in W. But the “Wow” has some of the real meat. This is where some of W’s most groundbreaking, provocative and controversial fashion photography is featured (including the famous shoot of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, on a publicity tour for The Smiths, are shot ‘family style’ – just as their relationship was starting). Photographers included are Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Steven Klein, Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Tim Walkter, Nick Night, Juergen Teller and more.

Despite my qualms with the organization and layout – this is recent fashion photography history at it’s best, and fills in some of the gaps left after Nancy Hall Duncan published History of Fashion Photography in 1979.

*I realize my images in this post aren’t great. For better quality images, check out Amazon’s “look inside” feature.


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