While out on one of my lunchtime walks, I got myself down to Waterloo and had a wander round the streets. I found a discount bookstore and had a look around to see if they had anything decent on sale. I was in luck, they had a few copies of Sharp by Nigel Parry going for £9.99. This is a weighty tome, one square foot of hardbound, gorgeous black and white photos of celebrities. The majority of the photos are printed edge to edge on the square pages with excellent print quality. Its very light on words, none of the images have captions and each section of the book starts with a short sentence or even a single word, but there is a very helpful directory at the back if like me, you aren't great at remembering names of celebrities.
Many of the images are reminiscent of Trevor Leighton's Jokers, dark contrasty black and white prints, very direct and intense, frequently closely cropped. Hands feature quite prominently in many of the photos becoming key elements of the composition much like Jane Bown's portraits. Nigel Parry's lighting is more sophisticated than either Leighton or Bown's. Looking into his subject's eyes is quite revealing, you'll get an idea of how he is lighting them from the softboxes relflected in them and sometimes you'll get a portrait of the photographer himself in silhoette.
There are some great examples of portraits using restricted light, the portrait Robert Vaughn and David McCullum as the men from uncle, has them shot almost in Silhoette against a pure white background, with just their faces picked out with snoot. Of course there is a twist, they are shot through glass with a bullet hole placed over one eye of each of the actors.
I love the way Nigel Parry has used the edges of the frame, his portrait of the cast of The Ice Storm, cramming all the heads right into the top of the frame, cutting off the tops of their heads, leaving a large expanse of black down to the bottom of the image. The composition looking like some kind of portcullis. His portrait of Senator John McCain is another great example, his head down in the bottom two thirds of the frame his mouth covered with his fingers, it really is quite striking.
This is definately a book to look to for inspiration and will be a treasured addition to my bookshelf. You can find some of the images from Sharp here and more from http://www.nigelparryphoto.com