Sunday, December 21, 2014

Art & Culture: Streisand: In the Camera Eye

Almost from the moment she appeared on the scene in the early 1960s, Barbra Streisand had been a icon.

At first, she was a curiosity. How could a skinny girl from Brooklyn with a stubborn nose and slightly crossed eyes ever make it in show business? Well, we started with that voice of hers. And with a voice like that, who cares what she looks like?

Except people did care. And by the end of her first public performance, she began to take on the sheen and luster of a star, as well as all the trappings. People began to see her beauty. Magazines began to flaunt her fashion sense. She wasn’t just a singer, not just an actress. She was a force.

Streisand: In the Camera Eye (Harry N. Abrams), the new book by frequent Streisand biographer James Spada, examines her life in a series of 170 photographs, many never before published. Instead of recounting her life in words, he recounts it in images accompanied by short contextual essays. But it’s the photos here that amaze.

Here’s Barbra very early on, looking more than a little like a Modigliani painting. Here she is on stage in “Funny Girl,” and then later in the movie. Here are images from her 60s TV specials, as well as Hello Dolly; What’s Up, Doc?; The Way We Were; A Star is Born; Yentl; and all the rest. There are also photos from album cover shoots, some photos from magazines, concerts, and more -- a true chronicle of the woman and her work. Both career overview (50 years and counting) and photo essay galore, Streisand: In the Camera Eye is a collection of images that, taken together, form the portrait of a woman who is always the same yet constantly changing. Where early shots show us her shy vulnerability and her less-than-assured presence in front the camera, others reveal her increasing comfort, and later her embrace of it. ◊

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