Texas Institute of Letters Award for Gernsheim Book Sets Record
Pentagram Partner DJ Stout and Associate Julie Savasky were awarded the Fred Whitehead Award for Best Book Design at the Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) 75th anniversary awards ceremony last Saturday night in Dallas. The award-winning book, The Gernsheim Collection, written by Roy Flukinger, was designed by Pentagram’s Austin office for the Harry Ransom Center and published by the University of Texas Press last fall.
The Texas Institute of Letters gave its first literary award in 1939 to the legendary Texas author J. Frank Dobie for his book Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver. DJ Stout won his first TIL award in 1992 for his design of a Keith Carter photography book called Mojo. Since then Stout has been awarded the TIL award for best book design a record-setting nine times, with seven of those nine wins with Julie Savasky as co-designer. No other author or designer has won more awards in the 75 year history of the Texas Institute of Letters. “It is amazing to look back at the names of the winners over time,” says Stout. “In 1957, the year I was born, Tom Lea and Carl Hertzog won the award for best book design for The King Ranch. Those guys are my heroes and that is one of my all-time favorite book designs.”
The Gernsheim Collection, housed at the Harry Ransom Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, is one of the most important photography collections in the world. Amassed by the renowned husband-and-wife team of Helmut and Alison Gernsheim between 1945 and 1963, it contains an unparalleled range of images, including the world’s earliest-known photograph, made by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. Its encyclopedic scope—as well as the expertise and taste with which the Gernsheims built the collection—makes the Gernsheim Collection one of the world’s premier resources for the study and appreciation of the development of photography.
The Gernsheim Collection is an oversized 360-page volume, designed by Stout and Savasky, that presents masterpieces of the Gernsheim Collection, along with lesser-known images of great historical significance. Arranged in chronological order, this selection effectively constitutes a visual history of photography from its beginnings to the mid-twentieth century including iconic works by groundbreaking photographers like Sir William Henry Fox Talbot, Timothy Henry O’Sullivan, Eadweard J. Muybridge, Alfred Stieglitz, Jean-Eugéne-Auguste Atget, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, André Kertész, Brassai, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Arthur Rothstein, Robert Capa, Edward Weston, Arnold Newman, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Aaron Siskind and Lucien Clergue. Each photograph in the book is accompanied by an extensive annotation in which Roy Flukinger, Senior Research Curator at the Harry Ransom Center, describes the photograph’s place in the evolution of photography and also within the Gernsheim Collection itself. In a scholarly introduction Flukinger traces the Gernsheim’s passionate and colorful careers as collectors and pioneering historians of photography, showing how their untiring efforts significantly contributed to the acceptance of photography as a fine art form and as a field worthy of intellectual inquiry.