All About Eve is both exhibition and book curated from the personal archives of the first female photographer to join the New York office of Magnum, Eve Arnold. The scope of her experience was extraordinary; from political work documenting the civil rights movement, extensively covering Malcom X’s Black Muslim movement in the 1960s, to the intimately vulnerable photos of Marilyn Monroe during her last film. The book launching today, edited by gallerist Zelda Cheatle, is the last of Eve’s work that she herself had a hand in before passing away in January of this year. We spoke to the designer, Stuart Smith, for an insight into its making.
What involvement did Eve Arnold have in the book’s design?
I met with her twice, she asked if I was good with my letters, and she wanted the colour rose in the book somewhere. I knew from Zelda Cheatle that she wanted a book she could hold in bed as opposed to a massive thing
What was the process like organising such an extraordinary body of work – were you at all a part of the editing?
I along with Zelda chose the pictures. We did an initial edit which was as strong as it could be and we went back to edit more original unseen pictures. I then edited these and paired and sequenced them by the old fashioned way of lining the order on the floor.
How did you go about the curation of the book – is it arranged by era or theme?
It was themed into roughly seven chapters and with each grouping I thought it might be nice to show the reverse of the prints, so I picked one from each chapter and then others I liked, to add some pace. Also, when we scanned all the original prints, we kept all the marks and mouse-eared corners and creases to add to the vintage-ness. I managed the print to keep the quality and sparkle of the book – I buy a lot of photography books and so many are badly printed.
Did the pressure of the book’s context weigh at all in the final designs?
The short answer is no, I didn’t own an Eve Arnold book as most of them were either out of print or badly printed, edited or designed and I wanted to create a book that I would covet, something that was appropriate and had a degree of specialness and class.