First published in 1978 (and revised in 1997) for me ‘Pictures on a Page’ is still a great read in 2017. Harold Evans was editor of The Sunday Times in the UK between 1967 and 1981, before moving to the USA in 1984.
What makes the book special?
-the clear, concise writing, which you’d expect from an experienced journalist and editor, and
-more surprisingly, Evans shows a deep understanding and respect for photography.
Often the printed word and the photograph are at loggerheads, so it’s great to find a writer arguing that photojournalism is still important. To quote his opening words in the introduction: “It is a fashionable fallacy that the video era has rendered the still news photograph obsolete. On the contrary it has enduring vitality.” Twenty years later I still agree with him.
‘Pictures on a Page’ is a book about news photographs – what makes a good image, how photographers and editors work together and the ethical dilemmas they sometimes face. In a short post, I can only give a flavour of the book, but I can assure you that it’s not dull or dry. Heavily illustrated, it reads very easily, with case histories throughout.
Evans wears his knowledge lightly. Discussing the editing process, he calls it “a world in itself, inhabited by all sorts of hobgoblins. There is one scenario which features coarse picture editors destroying artistic integrity by cropping every print at the sides and top and bottom.”
My copy of the book is showing its age – I must have read it three or four times. But the final word goes to Helmut Newton: “I have always treasured ‘Pictures on a Page’. It is a fascinating work.”
See if you can find a secondhand copy online and let me know what you think.