Life in Color: National Geographic Photographs

Susan Tyler Hitchcock, Text by (Art/Photo Books), Jonathan Adler, Foreword by
Foreword by Jonathan Adler, curated by Annie Griffiths . National Geographic, $35 (504p) ISBN 978-1-4262-0962-8
Reviewed on: 10/29/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
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"Colors ignite your senses, so prepare for sensory overload," designer Adler warns in his foreword to National Geographic photographer Griffiths' curated collection of 245 photographs highlighting the power of color. He's not kidding. This collection shows how color is all around us, reminding readers of the beauty they pass by every day and are likely taking for granted. Yes, there are the standard city skylines, majestic wildlife, and golden sunsets, but there are also remarkable shots of mundane settings, helping readers appreciate the beauty in the dull blue of a rainy rail station, the crisp lines of frost on a window, and the silhouette of a bodybuilder against a bright blue sky. Grouping the images by color (including a handful of black-and-whites and vintage photographs from the National Geographic Society's archives in the mix), Griffiths keeps the focus on the hues rather than the artistry of the photographer, on color rather than composition. Though this approach may seem a little haphazard, it keeps the visual narrative on track, giving the book a unique vision and resulting in an experience readers will likely want to treat themselves to again and again. (Oct.)   Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer—And of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold-Rush–Era San Francisco Robert Graysmith Crown, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-72056-6 In this latest from bestselling author and political cartoonist Graysmith (Zodiac), the human inspiration for one of American literature's most mischievous characters takes center stage in embryonic San Francisco. Packing a whirlwind of events around dizzying details of boggy, impassable streets choked with decaying refuse, characters of all manner of disrepute, throughout a booming city haphazardly constructed of highly flammable material, Graysmith (who also drew the book's illustrations) inserts a teenage Tom Sawyer, newly migrated from the east, into one of the most tumultuous periods in San Francisco's storied history. Introduced some years later to a young Mark Twain, Sawyer, along with other young "Torch Boys," lit the way for the city's first volunteer fire companies as they made one fruitless effort after another to combat a mysterious arsonist who torched the young city to the ground six times during the years 1849–1851. While biographical details of Sawyer, his fellow firefighters, and his relationship with Twain are illuminating, it is with the historical detail in descriptions of a young, seedy, and dangerous San Francisco that the book truly shines. With such destruction, coupled with municipal greed, and incompetence, it's a wonder the city rose out of the ashes to thrive at all. 20 b&w illus. Agent: Joel Gotler, Intellectual Property Group. (Oct.)
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