“Does not skimp on the gossipy goods. There are descents into madness, prolific drug use, orgies, blackmail photos and suicide attempts…But this book…is also smart, well-researched and written with an insider’s eye…engaging and on point.” --Kim France, New York Times Book Review
"A delicious read. Sweeping...thoughtful..."--The Daily Beast
"Tightly written, exhaustively researched...skillfully juxtaposes the idiosyncracies, peccadillos, and debaucheries of his protagonists... with the shifting cultural and economic milieu in which they functioned."--Barnes & Noble Review
“I thought I knew practically everything about the fashion industry, but Michael Gross has corrected me. His thoroughly absorbing narrative dazzles with the most profound investigation and research. Focus is an enthralling and riveting read!” --Tim Gunn
"Important…clear and thorough." --National Post (Canada)
"Gross has deftly woven an intricate web of fashion, photography, and magazine publishing that is simply unrivaled... Focus is a sensation... [It] brilliantly blends the wild histories of seemingly disparate lives... Gross is a modern day Vasari, giving us The Lives of the Artists in no small measure." --Sara Rosen, craveonline
"An often-shocking tale rife with bed-hopping hotties, rampant drug use and cut-throat antics. Gross knows his stuff, delving deep into the fascinating rivalries and wicked manipulations that take place behind the cameras."--Larry McShane, The Daily News
“Highly critical of the current moment, in which advertisers and large corporations have taken the reins of the publishing business, [Gross] doesn't see fashion as dead--just in intensive care…In an account through which models, editors, art directors and photographers pass, personal anecdotes intersect with key events in fashion history, allowing a close-up experience of a period Gross considers unique."–Estel Vilaseca, El País (Spain)
"a behind-the-scenes view of fashion photography’s apex. Gross shows us the humanity or lack there-of in all these real life figures that he chooses to represent as the epitome of the art at its peak. Focus provides fascinating insight into the lives of these fashion icons [and] shows us the freedom, individuality, self-expression and experimentation in an industry that has long since lost those values, chasing money now instead of dreams…An exciting read, full of anecdotes and whispers of a fashion era long gone, a must for photography enthusiasts, magazine historians, fashionistas, and lovers of haute couture gossip.." --Tal Yaron, Musée Magazine
"It covers the lives of fashion photography’s masters, detailing their creative spirit and technical skill alongside their egos and vices. It shares the stories of the men and women behind the legends, what made them, what broke them, and why we must remember them today.." --Elyssa Goldman, thebreed.com
"A juicy history of scandalous lives." --Booklist
"A sizzling, gossipy read...Relentless reporting."--Hamptons Magazine
“It is a phantasmagoria of gossip, history, fabulous times, terrible times; the men (and a couple of women) who turned their creative lenses onto runways, clothes, models and (as in the case of Richard Avedon) onto America itself. If you love fashion and/or the art of photography, this book is for you. But even if you couldn’t care less about the skirts swirled or the fabric bunched, or how Bert Stern or Irving Penn or David Bailey or Bruce Weber or Corinne Day or Bob and Terry Richardson or Helmut Newton or Bill King achieved their effects, Focus gives us page after page of down and delicious dish….Michael Gross captures the bizarre hot-house intensity of an industry that is both ever-changing but eternally the same….Michael also conveys the genius (sometimes tortured) of the photographers…This is a big, intelligent, exhaustively researched, lovingly written book….Focus finds the fire beneath the ice of glossy magazine pages, and does it without burning down the house.” --Liz Smith, New York Social Diary
“Tales of famous shoots and industry backstories during the ‘glory days’ of the genre…of the sexual promiscuity and recreational drug use of these (mostly male) photographers. The subject matter will be historically significant to those who are concerned with the photo artist’s role in the golden age of modern fashion photography. VERDICT: Recommended for enthusiasts of fashion and fashion photography.” --Shauna Frischkorn, Library Journal
“A gossipy exposé … of the talented, arrogant, philandering, combative, self-aggrandizing photographers whose work appeared in, and defined, such iconic fashion magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Glamour, and Elle from 1947 to 1997 … sometimes-tangy, often scurrilous … Not a pretty picture.” --Kirkus Reviews
“I loved reading all the juicy details that Michael uncovered in this fast-paced—and clearly insider—look at the rarefied, sexy world of fashion photography." --Lauren Weisberger, author, The Devil Wears Prada
"Focus is the ‘House of Cards’ of fashion." --Nino Cerruti, designer
“Michael Gross‘s FOCUS is that rare thing: an equally delicious and deeply informative book, a news-breaking romp through the world of fashion photography, from its beginnings early in the last century to the recent controversial exploits of super bad boy Terry Richardson. Richard Avedon, Bert Stern, Deborah Turbeville, Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel: these and so many others whose work I’ve enjoyed in VOGUE and BAZAAR are given context and smart analysis, and magazine editors and owners appear, too, revealing an industry of art and commerce. An outstanding work of cultural history.” --Sheila Weller, author, Girls Like Us
“Michael Gross takes us on a compelling journey through a hugely desirable culture – a culture which sometimes destroyed its most brilliant children and which is now slipping as irretrievably into the past as Versailles or the Swinging 60s.” --Anthony Haden-Guest, author, Bad Dreams, The Last Party, True Colors
In this rollicking account of fashion photography’s golden age, the New York Times-bestselling author Michael Gross brings to life the genius, ego, passion, and wild antics of the men (and a few women) behind the camera.
Focus probes the lives, hang-ups, and artistic triumphs of more than a dozen of fashion photography’s greatest visionaries: Avedon, Penn, Schatzberg, Sokolsky, Stern, Bailey, King, Turbeville, Newton, Bensimon, Weber, Meisel, Day, the Richardsons, and more. From Avedon’s haute couture fantasies and telling portraits to Weber’s sensual, intimate, and heroic slices of life, and from Bob Richardson’s provocations to his son Terry’s transgressions, Focus takes readers behind the scenes to reveal the revolutionary creative processes and fraught private passions of these imagicians.
Tracing fashion photography from the late 1940s to today, Gross weaves together candid interviews, never-before-told insider anecdotes and insights born of his three decades of front-row and backstage reporting on modern fashion. An unprecedented look at an eccentric and seductive profession.
Jean-Luc Brunel (pictured) is like Lay’s Potato Chips to the French media. They can’t get enough of him–even though he’s bad for you. FranceTV just aired the latest piece on Jeffrey Epstein’s rabbateur and asked me to describe my experiences with him. Watch it here (but you need to understand French).
Actor Bradford Dillman has died, says The Hollywood Reporter. Dillman was the long-time husband of the late supermodel Suzy Parker, a central character in both Focus and Model, along with her older sister and fellow model Dorien Leigh. Parker became Richard Avedon’s muse and unofficial studio manager during his heyday as a fashion photographer in the Fifties and Sixties, even assisting when he photographed America’s Mercury astronauts (in the photo, which is from my collection). While she continued to work with Avedon after meeting Dillman on a movie set, Parker eventually settled into life as a wife and mother in Montecito, California, where I interviewed her for those books, and Dillman lived and died.
A keen-eyed reader writes: “On page 61 [of Focus] you wrote [of the film Funny Face, based on Richard Avedon and his brief first marriage]: ‘Audrey Hepburn plays Jo Stockton, a bohemian bookstore clerk who [Dick] Avery [the Avedon-like figure played by Fred Astaire] ‘discovers’ in the background of a Parisian photo shoot….’ The photo shoot … takes place in a bookstore in the West Village,” where Avery finds her. The error will be corrected in future printings.
In today’s New York Times, lead fashion critic Vanessa Friedman writes an (overdue) obituary for the overused term supermodel, name-checking MODEL: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women along the way, and coining the term superspawn (which I may have inspired) for fresh-faced second-generation models like the lovely Kaia Gerber. It and its companion book, last year’s FOCUS: The Sexy, Secret, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers, would made a super gift for a fashion lover’s holiday.
Richard Johnson reports in the New York Post, that Keshet, the originator of the wildly successful series Homeland, has optioned Focus: The Secret, Sexy, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers for a long-form documentary television series.
A new biography of the late photographer Richard Avedon, out next week, “is being described,” Page Six reports today as “expos[ing] the twice-married Avedon’s hidden love life.” But the New York Post report goes on: “He was outed as bisexual in another tome, ‘Focus: The Secret, Sexy, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers,’ last year,” the gossip column correctly reports. The Daily Mail adds more detail. You can buy Focus here.
Sixteen months ago,the New York Post took readers “Inside the twisted, sexed-up childhood of Terry Richardson” in an exclusive first look inside the pages of Focus: The Secret, Sexy, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers. It tells some of the story of Terry Richardson‘s late dad, Bob, and one of fashion photography’s greatest and most messed-up practitioners. Mail Online picked up the Post story and added even more of the sometimes sordid details from Focus. Yesterday, it was revealed that In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Condé Nast had banned the Hearst-contract photographer, apparently grabbing the caboose of the #metoo train. FOCUS wasn’t the first revelation of Richardson’s reign of terror, but it remains the most complete account of his behavior and its historical precedents in fashion.
The rarely interviewed Si Newhouse, who died at age 89 after a long long illness early this morning, “hardly followed the pattern of the self-promoting modern tycoon, and seldom gave interviews to the press,” David Remnick writes in his appreciation of his former boss. I was lucky enough to interview Newhouse several times. The most extensive conversation took place at the height of his influence, for a New York Magazine story called “War of the Poses” (click the title to see a pdf) about the decades-long rivalry between Newhouse’s Conde Nast and the Hearst family’s Hearst Magazines.
I wrote about Diana, Princess of Wales, and her relationship with the media, twenty years ago in New York Magazine in the days immediately following her untimely death. The piece, which remains fearfully relevant today, opens at an A-List end-of-summer party at the home of David and Julia Koch in Southampton that came to a sudden end as the news of Diana’s death spread through the crowd. Click each image to read the story.