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Photographic Evidence

December 2023
1min read

Bettmann Portable Archive


Bettmann, 334 pages, $65.00 . CODE: BET -1

The Bettmann Archive is often the first stop on the research trail for illustrations for this magazine. Its holdings continue to grow and to broaden in scope, so it is no surprise that Bettmann has decided to publish a new edition of its “portable archive,” a book full of riches from the collection’s New York City headquarters. This is certain to be of interest to people in the book and magazine trades, particularly those who work out of town and don’t have the luxury of dropping into the ordered chaos at the archive’s home office. But you don’t have to be in publishing to get pleasure from this volume; you just need an interest in pictured history and a sense of the connectedness of things. In a grouping titled “V-Signs,” FDR, Boris Yeltsin, liberated French citizens, and a knife-wielding Palestinian all offer the same internationally understood gesture. Elephants get a page of their own, opposite electricity (entries are organized alphabetically); the latter includes a 1940 photo of a researcher demonstrating static electricity, his hair flying straight up at zany odds with his sober scientist’s face. If any pattern emerges from this volume, it is that of a kind of crazy quilt of images, impressions, and textures, and as such it is peculiarly absorbing.

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