I have always noticed that in portraits of really great writers the mouth is always firmly closed. 

—Gertrude Stein

Think of some of your favorite authors. The ones whose words, whose voices have filled your head with inspirations, with visions, with life-affirming descriptions of the world. Now, imagine their faces. Can you? 

Perhaps you saw a dust-jacket photo once. Maybe there’s a grainy, black-and-white image of them as a teenager that floats around in biographies of the artist. But many writers (not unlike many photographers) are shy in front of the camera. Their books and their words stand before them, shielding the figures themselves from the light.

Luckily, we now have Writers: Literary Lives in Focus. From Proust by Man Ray to Capote by Avedon—this book offers 250 portraits of the greatest stars in the literary firmament (seen by some of the greatest eyes in the photographic world). Gazing upon the mystical Borges or a leaping Aldous Huxley, there is delight on every page. 

Indeed, each full-page spread offers a single beautiful, surprising, penetrating or rarely seen photograph on the one side and a concise one-page biography on the other. Thus, the book offers a variety of experiences: from the happy reunions (“I wonder what Italo Calvino looks like?”) to joyful (re)discoveries (“I should finally read some Allen Ginsburg!”).

We picture this book taking a comfortable position on any bedside table. Imagine reading about a different writer each night and then drifting off to sleep, as the images of these immortal voices fill your mind once again.

—Alexander Strecker

Writers: Literary Lives in Focus
Foreword by Goffredo Fofi
Publisher: Contrasto
Hardcover: 512 pages