Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stolen Moments: The Photographs of Ronny Jaques

Stolen Moments: The Photographs of Ronny Jaques -- From -- Relatively unknown peer of innovative photographers Slim Arons and Richard Avedon, Ronny Jaques' photographs captured the fashion, travel, food and lifestyle scenes for magazines like Town & Country, Harper's Bazaar, and Gourmet, where he established himself as the first true innovator of food photography. His work is chronicled and explained for the first time in book form by fashion luminary and friend, Pamela Fiori, editor for the past fifteen years of Town & Country magazine.

From the NY Times -- HE lured Bette Davis to New York's dockyards with her giant dog as bodyguard, celebrated with W. H. Auden the day he got his United States citizenship, listened in on Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza as they rehearsed "South Pacific" with Richard Rodgers at the ivories, and got the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to grin like fools in the Bahamas. Chances are you've never heard his name, but his photographs prove he was there.

Ronny Jaques, who died this summer at 98, was a busy magazine photographer in the mid-20th century, working mostly for Harper's Bazaar, Junior Bazaar, Town & Country and Holiday. In his heyday, he immortalized nearly everyone he came across but himself. In "Stolen Moments," a collection of Mr. Jaques's remarkable black-and-white portraits, the Town & Country editor Pamela Fiori writes that this "extraordinary" photographer was a modest, quiet, prodigiously gifted "one-man show," who was "drawn to people in the arts - ballerinas, stage actors, writers and poets, classical and jazz musicians, composers and conductors - and they were drawn to him."

Looking through these strikingly evocative photographs of people who were usually captured in more frozen/guarded poses, you sense his rapport with his subjects, and their trust in him. His shot of Leonard Bernstein in 1947 shows the conductor with his eyes closed, lovingly sketching a self-portrait on a pad propped on a pack of cigarettes. Weegee let Mr. Jaques stand by as he worked a crime scene, box camera in his meaty mitts, plump cigarette dangling from his lip.

Seeing Mr. Jaques's simple snap of a young, trench-coated Robert Mitchum, in 1947, you could fall in love. His portrait of George S. Kaufman in the 1950s catches the playwright in bed - fully dressed in suit and tie, head on the pillow, a phone at his ear, reading a notice in The New Yorker.

One of the great, lesser-known privileges enjoyed by New Yorker staff members is sneaking into the magazine's library, ducking among the sliding shelves and poring over bound volumes of the magazine from the 1960s, '50s, '40s and beyond.

On time-crisped pages, advertisements invite the eye into another age, another sensibility. There's the elegant lady in her peignoir at the dressing table, caressing the bottle of Je Reviens; the spruce gent in the houndstooth suit, pipe in mouth, savoring his Glenfiddich; the new groom standing beside his Jaguar, holding his crinolined wife in his arms - forerunners of Don Draper and Betts, at the dawning of Madison Avenue.

All the nostalgia of those stacks can be found in this one, slim, valuable retrospective collection. "I wanted to be with the big boys," Mr. Jaques told Ms. Fiori. "Stolen Moments" shows he was.

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