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TIME Photo Department

Yolanda Cuomo is the curatorial voice behind some of the 20th century’s greatest photographic books. This year, alongside Melissa Harris, Cuomo is co-curating the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Va., June 13 – 15, 2013.

One word comes up again and again, like a shared mantra, when talking with Yolanda Cuomo, or when discussing Cuomo with people who know her: collaboration. Hardly surprising, perhaps, in light of the talent that, at one time or another, the 55-year-old art director and designer has worked with — including creative icons from Avedon and Sylvia Plachy to Twyla Tharp and Laurie Anderson. But one quickly gets the sense that, in Cuomo’s world, collaboration is not simply one way to approach a project; it’s the only way to approach a project.

As her longtime friend (“creative soulmate” might be a more apt description), Aperture Foundation editor-in-chief Melissa Harris, puts it: “Yolanda is simply one of the greatest people I know. She is so full of ideas, and our collaborations [on books, magazines, exhibitions] have been so fantastic because we always approach each project from an utterly fresh perspective. And we laugh,” she adds, making it clear that humor is an integral element of their long-time, enormously fruitful partnership. “We laugh a lot.”

The driving force behind the celebrated Yolanda Cuomo Studio, Yo (as all her friends and colleagues call her) has helped envision and produce some of the most striking and influential art and photography books of the past two decades, including Diane Arbus’ Revelations, Gilles Peress’ Farewell to Bosnia, Pre-Pop Warhol and scores of other titles.
(Incredibly, it was only within the last year, with New York at Night, that Cuomo got what she calls her “first spine.” She’d done 85 books through the years, she told LightBox, “but Norma Stevens and I published New York at Night in 2012 and, holy shit, there was my name on the spine!”).

A graduate of Cooper Union, Cuomo got her start in the publishing world as a junior designer at Condé Nast in the early 1980s. Under the mentorship of the legendary art director Marvin Israel, she not only was introduced to many of the people who would become part of her vast and cherished professional extended family — Plachy, Avedon, Peress, Nan Goldin and others — but also got her very first lessons, from a master, in the power of collaboration.

Yolanda Cuomo at her desk in her Chelsea studio, New York NY, February 4, 2012.

Pete Pin

Yolanda Cuomo at her desk in her new Chelsea studio in February.

“Marvin was so brilliant,” Cuomo says, “and one of the key things I learned from him — by his example, not by his making a big deal out of it — was that bringing other peoples’ voices and sensibilities to a project can make it so much stronger and more wonderful than if only one person holds sway over everything.”

The reason Cuomo got the job at Condé Nast in the first place, meanwhile, is emblematic of another type of creativity altogether.

“I lied,” she says, her mischievous laugh all these years later suggesting that she still can’t believe it herself. “When I was interviewed [for the Condé job] I told them that of course I knew how to do mechanicals. Then I went right out and immediately called a friend and was like, ‘What’s a mechanical?’”

Regardless of how she got her foot in the door, Cuomo learned the ins and outs of the art and publishing worlds from the very best. A quick study, she was eventually asked to oversee a new project by the Village Voice, and in 1985 Yolanda Cuomo was named art director of the Voice’s short-lived, tremendously creative fashion magazine, Vue. There, she and her small staff were afforded the sort of creative freedom that, for anyone working in magazines today, must seem something from another, near-mythical age.

Courtesy of the Village Voice/Yolanda Cuomo Design

Courtesy of the Village Voice/Yolanda Cuomo Design

Cover and spreads from the September 1986 issue of Vue. Photographs by Amy Arbus.

“It was total carte blanche,” Cuomo recalls. “We had to fill 32 pages that came out once a month. We sat in a room and just said to each other, ‘Okay, let’s call up people we love.’”

The names of those people they loved comprise something of a Who’s Who of talent of the era — each one of whom brought a unique sensibility to the pages of Vue. For one shoot, Sylvia Plachy photographed models posing in the trees of a New York cemetery. For another, Nan Goldin commissioned a pregnant bodybuilder friend to model lingerie in the East Village’s Russian baths. Phrases like “creative foment” seem to have been coined to describe exactly the sort of atmosphere that existed when Yolanda Cuomo was learning her chops.

The Voice shut down Vue after just a half-dozen issues, but its young staff, thrilled by what they’d accomplished together, was not ready to quit working as a team. With her assistant and two others, Cuomo found a small office space in Manhattan, and her design studio was born.

The studio’s first photo book was Unguided Tour, a collection of work by Sylvia Plachy.

“When we work together,” Plachy says of her collaborations with Cuomo, “we both have an intuitive sense about editing and designing. Yo is open to new things; she responds to things in the moment. She doesn’t force her point of view. Instead, it’s a free-flowing enjoyment of the evolution of the ideas, and moving toward something new and exciting.”

For Cuomo, inspiration can come from anywhere, from any time and from anyone. An old French book about the Eiffel Tower, for instance, discovered in a bookstore in Paris decades earlier, might influence the design of a photography book today. Closer to home, while making Paolo Pellegrin’s 2012 artist book — designed in a single, breakneck week — Cuomo found a visual muse in her assistant designer’s workspace.

“Bonnie [Briant] had a little color copy of a dog photo that she loved taped to her notebook on her desk, and I saw it and thought, ‘That is so beautiful.’”

A scan of the notebook — Scotch tape and scratches included — became the cover of the Pellegrin book. “That’s the way I like to work,” Cuomo says. “Spontaneously inventing.”

The fact that Cuomo has a full life outside of her work — a life that helps inform everything she does — speaks volumes about her ability to find balance in both the spontaneous and the thoroughly predictable. Living in Weehawken, New Jersey, Cuomo rides her bike every day from her home to the ferry, which she takes across the Hudson River to the West Side of Manhattan and her studio. At day’s end, she heads back across the river, to her “big old Victorian house,” her garden, her family — in other words, to a world that adds meaning and color to her vocation as an art director, designer and teacher.

In the end, that might be the greatest collaboration of them all: the way Yolanda Cuomo weaves family and work, leisure and labor, vision and vocation into a fully realized world of her own making.

Alissa Ambrose & Ben Cosgrove

See more of Cuomo’s work at Yolanda Cuomo Design.

Alissa Ambrose is a freelance writer and photo editor based in New York. Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com.

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After NASA shut down the Space Shuttle Program, the remaining shuttles and replicas were divided among several cities, as museum displays. Over the past few weeks, two shuttles that never flew to space were transported by barge to their new homes. The Enterprise was sailed up the Hudson River to its new position aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid, part of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and the shuttle replica named Explorer sailed from Florida to Houston, Texas, where it will be displayed at the Johnson Space Center. Images of these two journeys by sea are collected below. [22 photos]

Space Shuttle Enterprise is carried by barge underneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, on June 3, 2012. Enterprise was on its way to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, where it will put on permanent display. (Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

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People walk on the OCBC Skyway linking the Supertrees in the nearly completed Gardens By The Bay just next to Singapore’s busy financial district on Monday April 30, 2012 in Singapore. This is part of the city-state’s efforts to bring and nurture greenery within the city and capture the essence of Singapore as a tropical [...]

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Most of us weren’t drifting over Manhattan at an altitude of 243 mi. (390 km) on March 11 at 8:09 AM, but Anatoly Ivanishin and the other crewmembers of the International Space Station were. Ivanishin had a camera with a 1,200 mm lens in his hand and he snapped this image of what he saw below. It was a Sunday morning, so the streets were quiet—though that kind of detail would not have been discernible from orbit. The skies were clear, however, and that was what allowed such a detailed, almost pointillist portrait to be captured. The picture is taken with north at the left, and as you get your bearings, other landmarks become clear. Central Park is the long grassy rectangle in the middle of Manhattan. The waterway at the bottom is, of course, the Hudson River, with Hoboken and the other towns of eastern New Jersey lining the shore. The LaGuardia Airport runways are visible at the top of the image near the left side.

Most poignant—if least conspicuous—are the sawtooth shadows extending from the southwest edge of Manhattan into the Hudson. The longest tooth of them all is cast by the new World Trade tower, which on April 30, the same day NASA released the image to TIME, once again became the tallest building in New York. The Empire State Building, which regained the crown on Sept. 11, 2001, now trails the new building—which stands at 1,271 ft. (387 m)—by 21 ft. (6.4 m). The World Trade tower will get much taller (and the shadow will get much longer) still, when it finally tops out at 1,776 ft. (541 m) sometime next year. The decade-old wound in lower Manhattan has not completely closed, but it’s close—and even from space, that healing shows.

Correction: an earlier version of this post identified the astronaut who took this photograph as Don Pettit.

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In this week’s photos from around New York, dinosaurs are unloaded in New Jersey, handbell ensembles perform, activists release black balloons at an Apple store and more.

A model apatosaurus, left, and ankylosaurus, right, were unloaded from trailers Wednesday to be assembled and set in place at Field Station
A model apatosaurus, left, and ankylosaurus, right, were unloaded from trailers Wednesday to be assembled and set in place at Field Station: Dinosaurs in Secaucus, N.J. The dinosaur theme park is set to open in late May. (See related article.) (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal )


NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, with space shuttle Enterprise mounted atop, flew up the Hudson River past the New York City skyline Friday on its way to JFK International Airport. (See related article.) (Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)


Activists from Greenpeace released black balloons into the glass cube of the Apple store at Fifth Avenue near 58th Street on Tuesday to protest the absence of renewable energy fueling Apple’s cloud-based data storage service. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal )


Four handbell ensembles from New York and Virginia came together at Riverside Church on Sunday for the 34th Annual English Handbell Festival. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


Ben Nguyen of Vietnam shook hands with U.S. Congressman Jose E. Serrano in an event organized by Citizenship and Immigration Services at a special Earth Day naturalization ceremony at the Bronx Zoo on Sunday. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


The lap pool in the basement of a newly built townhouse on East 74th Street. (See related article.) (Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal)


Police on Monday wrapped up the excavation of a basement on Prince Street, where law enforcement officers had been looking for clues in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz. (See related article.) (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Police arrested a member of AIDS activist group ACT UP at Wall Street and Broadway, near the New York Stock Exchange, on Wednesday. AIDS activists joined supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement in a march through lower Manhattan. (See related article.) (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)


A group of Occupy Wall Street protesters were evicted from a Lower Manhattan space that had served as an informal headquarters on Monday. Here, the group gathered their possessions on the sidewalk while they figured out where to move next. (See related article (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal )


Nine people were injured and several trees, street signs, and newspaper stands were damaged in a car crash at the northwest corner of Bryant Park late on Saturday. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


Donette Skinner, right, 13, cried as she walked home in Harlem. One of her best friends, Annie Fryar, was shot and killed early on Tuesday. Police said Steven Murray fatally shot his teenage half-sister as she slept, turned the gun on his mother and then confronted police in a frenetic shootout on a nearby street. (See related article.) (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)

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Rich Davi, a volunteer with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, weighed a black bear on Dec. 5, the first day of a six-day hunting season at the Pequest Wildlife Management Area in Warren County, N.J. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Park Avenue was closed to traffic on Dec. 4 for the annual Park Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Brick Presbyterian Church at 91st Street. More than 100 trees from 54th Street to 96th Street were lit for the holiday season. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


The third-floor master bedroom of 214 Lafayette Street in SoHo, currently the most expensive residential home for rent in Manhattan. The apartment is on the market for $100,000 a month. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Members of the Fiasco Theater Company took a break from ‘Cymbeline,’ to perform country and bluegrass. (Ramin Talaie for The Wall Street Journal)


Members of Mariachi Mendoza practiced in an apartment in Bayside, Queens, on Dec. 7. Ruben Navarro got help adjusting his bow tie. (Stephanie Keith for The Wall Street Journal)


John Doyle, Daisuke Omiya, director Jacob Krupnick and Anne Marsen of the film ‘Girl Walk // All Day,’ which follows several dancers and crews around the city on a single day. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


The long-abandoned Hoboken Ferry Terminal re-opened on Dec. 7 for commuters for the first time in 44 years. The $120 million renovation was a victory for preservationists who fought for years to keep the hulking mass from being dismantled. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


Oscar de La Renta showed his Pre-fall 2012 collection in New York on Dec. 5. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal )


Max Banda, a 5th grader at PS 75, participated in a clinic with some the world’s best double dutch competitors during gym class. The expert jumpers were in town to compete in the National Double Dutch League’s 20th Annual Holiday Classic on Dec. 4 at the Apollo Theater. (Rob Bennett for The Wall Street Journal)


John Singer, left, and Steve Whipple played with the band Xylopholk as the Hudson Square Connection illuminated the ‘Flaming Cacti’ public art display with black lights Tuesday. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)


The Metropolitan Opera welcomed the holiday season on Thursday with a tree-lighting ceremony, accompanied by carol singing and performances by the Met Orchestra’s Brass Ensemble and members of the cast of ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


On Wednesday, the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, local survivors gathered on the USS Intrepid for a wreath-laying ceremony. Here, Pearl Harbor survivor Dan Fruchter prepared to throw the wreath into the Hudson River. (Daniella Zalcman for The Wall Street Journal)


Pianist Zaccai Curtis and bassist Luques Curtis played at a practice session at the Times Square Arts Center in New York Wednesday. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal )

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Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase

The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables.
Said if I could get down thirteen turnips a day
I would be grounded, rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away
to where the darkness lives.
 
The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight.
Said for twenty dollars she’d tell me what to do.
I handed her the twenty. She said, “Stop worrying, darling.
You will find a good man soon.”
 
The first psycho therapist told me to spend
three hours each day sitting in a dark closet
with my eyes closed and ears plugged.
I tried it once but couldn’t stop thinking
about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet.
 
The yogi told me to stretch everything but the truth.
Said to focus on the out breath. Said everyone finds happiness
when they care more about what they give
than what they get.
 
The pharmacist said, “Klonopin, Lamicatl, Lithium, Xanax.”
 
The doctor said an anti-psychotic might help me
forget what the trauma said.
 
The trauma said, “Don’t write these poems.
Nobody wants to hear you cry
about the grief inside your bones.”
 
But my bones said, “Tyler Clementi jumped
from the George Washington Bridge
into the Hudson River convinced
he was entirely alone.”
 
My bones said, “Write the poems.”

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On Oct. 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland. Oct. 28, 2011 marks the 125th anniversary of the dedication. Take a look back at the history of the statue and all “the lady” has seen in her 125 years.

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