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The Sexy, Secret, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers

“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,

"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.

February 12th, 2017

Secrets of the City, Revealed

default_lrg_516x311“One of our most provocative journalists, Michael Gross has cornered the market for insiders’ stories of the most bewitching and private worlds of the privileged, very rich, talented and beautiful,” says the 92nd Street Y, announcing my forthcoming appearance there on the night of June 12th, when I’ll engage in conversation with William D. Cohan, the former M&A investment banker for Lazard Frères and bestselling author of books about Wall Street. Speaking of insider stories, on Friday, Bloomberg “revealed” details of financier and Trump administration advisor Stephen Schwarzman‘s 70th birthday party in Palm Beach this weekend. But readers of AVENUE magazine, where I’m editor-in-chief, had that news first, more than three weeks ago. And here’s Cohan on Trump and Wall Street–a must read from today’s New York Times.

December 18th, 2016

RIP China Machado

China Machado, the pioneering multiracial model, fashion editor and muse to photographer Richard Avedon, has died at age 87. Ivan Bart, her agent at IMG Models confirmed the news. Machado plays roles in both Model and Focus, though to my great regret, I never interviewed her at length. But I was happy to call her a friend.

October 24th, 2016

Trump: Model Candidate

Capture Read my latest story on Donald J. Trump on The Daily Beast. “I’m sorry, Ivanka, I really am, but here’s the sad truth: Your dad’s not a dog. He’s a pig.”

October 14th, 2016

Focus + Funny Face = Avedon Revealed

UPDATE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED. The landmark Cameo Cinema in St. Helena, in California’s Napa Valley, has just announced that its first Film & Fashion series will launch with a screening of Funny Face and a discussion of the great musical’s back story, as told in Focus. The film, directed by Stanley Donen, stars Fred Astaire as Dick Avery, a fashion photographer based on Richard Avedon, Audrey Hepburn as Jo Stockton, a character based on Avedon’s first wife and muse, Doe Nowell, and Kay Thompson as a Diana Vreeland-like editor. The event, M.C.’d by fashion-show-producer Kevin Krier, takes place Sunday November 6th, beginning at the Cameo at 2 PM, and continuing at a post-screening reception and book signing at St. Helena’s M Gallery. Please join me there!

October 13th, 2016

Is being too early the same as being wrong?

9780241101704-us-300Regardless, I’m still happy to report that Bob Dylan, subject of my first hardcover book in 1978, has just been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. In a lovely coincidence, the cover photograph of Dylan is by Jerry Schatzberg, who is one of the photographers featured in my latest book, Focus.

September 30th, 2016

Focus comes to Newport, RI–and the oldest lending library in America

The Redwood Library and Athenænum’s Life of the Mind Salon Series for fall 2016 kicks off Wednesday night October 5th with a wine-and-cheese reception and discussion of Focus, beginning at 5:30 PM. It’s free for members, $10 for non-members. Seating is limited; call 401-847-0295, ext. 112 to make your reservation. Founded in 1747, the Redwood Library and Athenæum is the oldest lending library in America, and the oldest library building in continuous use in the country.

September 24th, 2016

The focus is on Focus next week

The focus will be on Focus next week at two events. On Tuesday, Sept. 27th, I’ll be speaking and signing books at the Port Washington Public Library. Click the link for details. Then, on Saturday October 1st, novelist and home-entertaining book author Holly Peterson and I appear at Rotisserie Georgette in midtown as part of its Author, Author series of literary lunches. Please come.

September 23rd, 2016


vagueYesterday, I succumbed to a Vogue email inviting subscribers to download its latest iPad app and access exclusive digital-only content. How now. But one of the first articles that popped up in the app, Kate Moss Isn’t the First Model to Run Her Own Agency,” inexplicably neglects several models who were no less than pioneers of the posing trade. Fortunately, you can read all about Dorian Leigh, Natalie Nickerson and Simone d’Aillencourt, among other model entrepreneurs, in the New York Times bestseller Model, and learn what fashion magazines like Vogue won’t tell you about fashion photography in the new Focus. (The image is of a Tom Binns fashion parody pin circa 1987)

September 21st, 2016

“Behind the object, there’s a photographer with a story.” –El País on Focus

Could this be why the fashion media has studiously ignored Focus? el pais“Highly critical of the current moment, in which advertisers and large corporations have taken the reins of the publishing business, [Michael Gross] doesn’t see fashion as dead–just in intensive care,” writes Estel Vilaseca in Spain’s El Pais. “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.”

September 19th, 2016

Quelle Frissell!

Gripepad has been on a brief hiatus, during which Time Magazine’s Lightbox blog published this story about Toni Frissell, “the Unsung Woman Who Transformed Fashion Phorography”. It expands on the pages on Frissell in Focus.