Portraits in Fashion: Norman Parkinson
There is always high expectation when a reader opens a book like Portraits in Fashion: Norman Parkinson. The reality should live up to or graze the level of expectation. Sadly this particular book does not. The expectation is that the photos themselves will be the main focus, but here we are fed a long narrative on Mr. Parkinson’s long life, and then as if that wasn’t enough there is so much text narrating each section of the book.
Parkinson was a huge presence and talent within the world of fashion and photography. His body of work and talents are extremely well known, and yet the selection of photographs for this book does not quite live up to his reputation and legacy. Yes, there are some of the iconic images, and yes there are some images that may not have ever been seen by most, but most disturbingly there are images that feel rather common and nondescript—two qualities that certainly do not fit the profile of Parkinson.
What must be taken into consideration here is whether or not the reader is more than just acquainted with the body of work and its creator. To some it might possibly be wondrous and for others it might be less than eye opening. The biographical details that Robin Muir supplies will be superfluous and tedious to some and educational to others. Another curious aspect is Muir’s title that is wildly misleading, as most of what you see is Mr. Parkinson’s editorial work and not a book of portraits. The question that begs to be asked or considered here is simple: Is this a biography of Norman Parkinson or is this a visual chronicle depicting the photographer’s métier?