LILLIAN BASSMAN: THE REVOLUTIONARY OF FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY
Image Source: http://journal.noavi.com/?tag=lillian-bassman
Creating reveries about the secret lives of women through high-contrast, dreamy portraits of sylphlike models, the American fashion photographer, Lillian Bassman, is celebrated as one of the most influential fashion photographers of the 20th century.
Renowned for her work at Harper's Bazaar magazine, Bassman was born on June 15, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York. She went on to study at the Textiles High School in Manhattan and in 1939, she attended night classes at the Pratt Institute for fashion illustration. There she was introduced to Alexey Brodovitch, the legendary art director of Harper's Bazaar, who gently steered her interest towards graphic design. She began to work for Harper's Bazaar under Brodovitch in 1940.
In 1945, Bazaar generated its new spinoff called the Junior Bazaar, where Baseman was asked to be the art director, a title she shared with Mr. Brodovitch. In addition to providing innovative graphic design, Bassman gave prominent display to future photographic stars like Richard Avedon, Robert Frank and Louis Faurer, whose work whetted her appetite to become a photographer herself.
Bassman began developing George Hoyningen-Huene's images in the darkroom during her lunch breaks. When Avedon left for Paris, he lent her his studio and darkroom, giving her free reign to experiment as much as she would like. She used an alchemy that involve tissues, gauze, cigarette smoke, and double exposure for diffusion along with potassium cyanide to bleach and burn for deeper tones.
Produced by careful darkroom manipulations, Bassman's distinctive photographs brought elegance and whimsy to a previously fusty, straight-backed style of promoting clothes and jewellery. Her sophisticated imagery included photogenic drawings that exude a fluidity of movement.
By the 1970s, Bassman's photography style was no longer considered fashionable, so she abandoned commercial work but continued to practice photography for the remainder of her life. Her images are a mixture of substance and photography. They are a perfect conglomeration of elements like drawing, caricature, theatre and surrealism. Her iconic work introduced the world to the ever-transient women who projected subliminal grace.
Today, Bassman works are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, among others. Bassman died on February 13, 2012, in New York. She is survived by her children, Lizzie, a photographer, and Eric, editor-in-chief of Abrams Books.