Sunday, 4 February 2018

Book review: The Story of The Face, Paul Gorman, 2017

The Face was the coolest British magazine to garner a fairly large mainstream following, a feat that made it enormously influential not only in the publishing industry but also in fashion, design, photography and music. In this book, Gorman traces the history of the magazine from its establishment on a shoestring by founding editor Nick Logan in 1980 through to its peak at the height of Cool Britannia and its subsequent decline, sale and death after the turn of the millennium.

What comes across most strongly are the low-budget, small-scale, egalitarian, collegiate but perfectionist nature of the editorial office and how The Face changed the game with its insistence on great design alongside editorial standards and capturing the zeitgeist. It feels like Gorman had a good degree of access to the main players and materiel, not least Logan.

The book itself is high-end, with generous glossy reproductions of the magazine's covers and contents. At £35 it isn't quite as good value as say some Taschen books (it's published by Thames and Hudson), but it is a big, hefty bugger - and that's very much an asset, not a failing.

If it has slight shortcomings, they're that the focus is perhaps too much on The Face itself, when more attention to some of its competitors and stablemates - particularly in the photographs - would have been useful, and that in the later stages the telling becomes somewhat of a churn of barely identifiable editors and contributors. More photos and telling details of the cast might have helped there.

But ultimately the book is a treat: a lush, comprehensive encapsulation of what was so great about possibly the greatest British magazine. It feels not merely warranted, but necessary - and it almost lives up to the standards of the publication it eulogises. Almost.

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