Saturday May 14, 2022 – La Minute Monocle

Wednesday it just rained and rained so I postponed visiting the Photo London opening all day. One of the pleasures of going to the annual fair is standing in the courtyard of Somerset House – having inspected the stalls, wondering if you should spend your partner’s savings on an impulse buy – and catch up with friends . Lingering outdoors, however, requires sunshine, preferably a spritz in hand, and the weather wasn’t playing ball. But seeing that a large contingent of Team Monocle had been braver than me and had put on raincoats and headed out all afternoon, I finally layered and joined them – and bingo , I timed it just as the humid day gave way to clear evening skies. Matt, our cinematographer, was there with his team, as well as Jack, our new editorial assistant, our book team and Diego from retail. Scroll down and you’ll see Matt’s pic of the week.

One of the reasons for our massive presence was the low-key public debut of The monocle book of photography in the ephemeral bookstore managed by our publishing partner Thames & Hudson. And by a nice coincidence, the space is run by Rania Naufal, who used to run Papercup, a lovely bookstore and café in Beirut that we wrote about often until the port explosion of 2020 ripped through her store and shattered his desire to stay. (A side note: this week, Lebanese designer Rana Salam came to Midori House and told me that she had also packed her life in Beirut and was now something of a nomad, not knowing where and how to go. And our friend, food advocate Kamal Mouzawak, is now in Paris, he’ll be on stage at the Monocle Quality of Life conference in a few weeks to tell us why. So much talent, having to find places to sit safe from greed and corruption, and all the damage they cause.)

But back to Rania, who is a force of nature and a very good seller too: there was only one of our books left when I arrived. And there was another coincidence here because one of the big photo stories in our book that she was so good at shifting was shot by Maria Klenner in Beirut after the explosion that dislodged her.

Having been a small part of our new book’s journey to the library, I am more aware than ever of the power of photography well done – and not just imagery of conflict, but also of fashion, architecture and portraiture. . Yet what makes a great photo, a photo that continues to draw you in, that can resonate over the years, is harder to pin down. As the team put together potential stories for our book, it was curious how one story still moved you while another seemed too out of its moment, a time capsule unable to break free. And I had the same feeling walking around Photo London. There’s some marvelous work here: many date back decades but still trap you. Others, however, seem destined to become background fodder in the lobby of some corporate offices, before fading away.

Matt wrote about Carol Lobravico’s photo taken by Frank Horvat in 1962 and he’s right that she’s so fresh even now. (There’s a great exhibition of Horvat’s work, from fashion in Paris at night, to Photo London.) But – and sorry to trespass on his territory – there’s another Horvat, taken the same year, which does a similar trick. It was filmed in Rome for Harper’s Bazaar and is by author Alberto Moravia and model China Machado, the first woman of color to appear on the cover of a major American fashion magazine and a model for the house of Givenchy in the 1950s. Moravia is dressed in a three-piece suit and holds a fat sleeping cat. Machado, hair combed, in an immaculate twinset, stands behind him. Both look away from the lens. It’s picture perfect and it’s hard to believe it was 60 years ago, these people are long dead. Surely they should be able to get out of this picture, be here. And they wouldn’t have to change anything to be the smartest people in the room (well, maybe they should let the cat go). That’s then, that’s now.

That’s what intrigues: how to capture time in words and images so that they don’t fade away? How can we prevent the past or places we don’t know well from seeming so distant, so foreign? How do we leave something in our wake that will serve others well? Big stuff, but hopefully some of that worrying helped make our book as good as I think it is and allowed us to tell – and retold – stories of people in places from Beirut to Busan in a way that allows them to appear capable of stepping off the page and confronting us with our emotions again.

‘The Monocle Book of Photography’ isavailable now.

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