Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Lillian Bassman, 1917-2012
Legendary fashion photographer is considered among the greatest
While working as an art director at Harper's Bazaar, Lillian Bassman would go into famed photographer George Hoyningen-Huene's darkroom and start experimenting with his negatives. With tracing paper and a spatula as her tools, she would play around with making certain areas of the negative sharper or softer by moving the tracing paper in fast bursts. The more she moved it, the more certain parts of the tracing paper would change. This kind of experimentation led her to develop a photographic style all her own before she even picked up a camera.
Once she got behind the lens, all Bassman did was create groundbreaking fashion photography that is considered to be among the greatest of the 20th century. Her high-contrast black-and-white imagery of slender, sylph-like women perfectly dressed is in the same league as the portraiture of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.
In 1969, Bassman gave up fashion photography, out of frustration with both the profession and herself. She destroyed most of her work, stored what was left and turned her focus to photographing semi-abstracts. In the early 1990's, her work was rediscovered and brought back into the public spotlight. With renewed drive, Bassman returned to fashion in 1996 and worked for Vogue until 2004.
Bassman was featured in the 2010 DPP masters issue: http://www.digitalphotopro.com/profiles/lillian-bassman-master-of-fashion-curve.html
For more about her life, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/feb/16/lillian-bassman.