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All-American VI: Larger Than Life takes its inspiration from fragments and glimmers and discoveries along the way as we sought to answer the nagging query: what does it take to live a great, big life? We heard hints of an answer in the lyrics to a favorite song, whispered in the lines of a forgotten poet, there, off to the side, in the background of the most amazing photograph. And then, in the year of his passing, we found an answer in the irrepressible smile on the face of a kid from Pittsburg who, at an early age, learned the power of dreaming big.
The smile in question appears on Burt Todd’s face all throughout his chapter in this year’s edition of All-American. It’s there in the photo with the monks in Tibet, there with his wife Suzie on their wedding day in Pittsburg, there as he wields a sword and sports the traditional garb of Bhutan, there with his traveling buddies in Egypt. A swashbuckling industrialist-adventurer from a bygone era, Burt Todd matched his passion for travel and business savvy with a profound curiosity about the world and a zeal for living life to the fullest. And the fashion, the style, the spirit that comes through in his family’s photos, all point to a simple answer: find what you love and make it your life’s work.
This theme of personal passion, with all if its subsequent challenges and fulfillments, connects each of the subjects in All-American VI. A portfolio devoted to the American mountain climbers Gary Hemming and John Harlin II matches breathtaking photos by prominent alpine photographers, Tom Frost, Royal Robbins, Chris Bonington, with texts that illuminate the intensity of character that drove these two men to great accomplishment. A similarly adventurous spirit and love for the outdoors leaps off the pages of a chapter dedicated to Dr. Meg Lowman and her sons. Lowman, a preeminent canopy botanist, shares photos of their adventures together in Belize, Peru, Cameroon and Samoa, coupled with excerpts from her environmentalist writings. The complexity of family dynamics and their effects on our perceptions of the world find expression in several other chapters within the volume: Joseph Szabo’s photographs highlight the tenderness and aspiration among siblings; Bruce Weber’s profile of professional basketball player Alonzo Mourning, coupled here with an original interview, explores the charitable largess and family devotion of a man best known for his accomplishments on the court.
Living a great big life often leaves little to question. But Bruce Weber’s touching portrait of Tarita-Tumi Teriipaia and her grandson Tuki Brando offers an alternate view. As the former lover of Marlon Brando and his grandson, these two gentle souls quietly navigate the complicated legacy left in the wake of this film icon. Weber’s photographs, taken in the dreamy landscape of Montauk, NY, suggest the enduring promise of hope that can result from personal strength and perseverance.
As with past editions of our journal, All-American VI: Larger Than Life seeks to celebrate the grandeur of personal creativity and the artistic process. But this year’s volume takes a varied approach, highlighting the accomplishments of artists and patrons alike. Daniel and Rita Fraad, the prominent collectors of American art, are commemorated in a personal essay by their grandson, who lived among the extraordinary paintings reproduced in this year’s volume. Laura Nyro’s deeply emotive music is interwoven with photos, written fragments and rarely seen drawings in her own hand. The distinguished American choreographer Jack Cole is remembered in photographs by Marcus Bleckman and Eileen Darby and a personal letter from Chita Rivera. Other larger-than-life talents include poets Naomi Long Madgett, Vievee Francis, Ogden Nash and Howard Bement; photographers Leni Sinclair, Stephen Sharpiro, Kevin Thatcher, and the extraordinary painter Kadir Nelson.
All-American VI: Larger Than Life is softbound, 192 pages, with 60 full-color plates and 45 duotones.