Alexander Savelyev says: “I am sure that women photographers often have the courage that men lack. The courage to shoot without regard to accepted standards, just "because I like it that way." And I think Lillian Bassman is a very good example of that courage.
Even then, in the 50s, her pictures were quite different from the generally accepted magazine photography. The standard was a completely realistic and specific style, while Bassman tried her best to get away from specifics - in order to achieve the desired effect, she often shot deliberately out of focus, at slow shutter speeds, with double exposure. Her photographs were not documentary about the clothes, but rather created an atmosphere that was vague and mysterious, and therefore attractive.
(Total 28 photos)
1. Across the restaurant, 1949 (printed 1994)
2. By Night, Shining Wool and Towering Heel. Harper's Bazaar, 1954
3. Margie Cato, Junior Bazaar, 1950
4 Lingerie, 1951
5. The Line Lengthens: Lingerie by Lily of France, 1955
6 Barbara Mullen, 1958
However, the real fame and "second life" came to Bassman's pictures much later. In the early 60s, she stopped shooting fashion for magazines - fashion photography was becoming more and more a streaming industry, and this did not suit her.
“Before, I could chat with a model for a long time, do her hair, work on her image and talk with her about her children - and this set us up for shooting. And in the 60s, they gave me a model for no more than two or three hours ... And all these hairdressers and makeup artists began to attend the shooting. Yes, and the models have become younger - and it was very difficult for me to shoot sixteen-year-old girls in such terribly expensive and unthinkable outfits that no ordinary girl can afford. All this was not for me.”
In 1971, while cleaning up her studio, Bassman decided that there was no point in keeping the negatives of her old publicity shots. It seemed to her that she threw them away somewhere, and for a long time she herself considered them lost. However, some manuscripts do not burn, and some boxes of negatives can be found twenty years later simply in a coal shed - and this is exactly what happened. And then the most interesting thing began: in the early 90s, Bassman, who was already over seventy at that time, began to print her old negatives again - very contrastingly, boldly, in every possible way conjuring over them when printing.
Most of Bassman's photographs now known are the result of this particular author's print, a "remake" of the early 90s. Like the pictorialists of the beginning of the century, when printing, she changed the image very radically - and in this author's edition, her works are more reminiscent of graphics and painting than the image obtained by the camera. An amazing transformation has taken place: photographs that were once taken for advertising purposes have acquired a new form and a new meaning, a new artistic value.
Another key point seems to me that Bassman took out the aesthetics of another, already forgotten and bygone era from the chest. And this is not just retro, not the 50s as we are used to seeing them in newsreels or in pictures of other photographers - some other reality is embodied in her prints, timeless, different, parallel ... something that is actually the case never happened.
In essence, this is no longer a fashion shoot - it is rather the embodiment of dreams about fashionable women of some other time or even another space. A dream in which the outlines of objects are blurred, images and faces blur and slip away - all this looks very attractive and leaves the audience space for their own imagination.
7. Mary Jane Russell, 1950
8. Sunny Harnett, 1956
9. Betty Threat, 1957
10. The Spotted Furs, 1954
11. Dior Hat, 1949
12 More Fashion Mileage Per Dress, 1956
13. Carmen having tea, c.1950
14 Barbara Mullen, 1950
15. The cape is Back, 1949
16 Georgia Hamilton, 1956
By the way, Lillian Bassman herself preferred the simplest clothes all her life - jeans and shirts, no dresses. She joked that she dresses in stores for sailors. When in the 1990s Bassman's newly printed photographs became a kind of sensation, she had several solo exhibitions, journalists wrote about the newly found photographer, that it was she who managed to make advertising photography art ... But most importantly, she again received orders from prestigious glossy magazines.
Bassman, a wizened octogenarian, is back in the world of fashion photography. And, in general, she remained true to her style:
“There is an energy in black and white photographs, there is a mystery, I don’t know how to describe it. You either feel it or you don't. This is how I see things - in black and white. I understand that it is possible to shoot in color, but color does not bring me the emotions that black and white photographs give me. It's very exciting for me."
17. Anneliese Seubert, NY Times Magazine, 1997
18. Anneliese Seubert, NY Times Magazine, 1997
19. Krönung Des Chic, German Vogue, 1998
20. Krönung Des Chic, German Vogue, 1998
21. for German Vogue, 2004
But that is not all. Without at all denying the thesis about female courage put forward at the beginning of the post, I want to say: if a woman does something boldly and talentedly, look for a man nearby. Although not always, but this pattern works. And here's the funny thing: quite a lot of articles have been written about Bassman, she is a world celebrity and the oldest working photographer in the world - but her husband, Paul Himmel, is often not mentioned at all in these articles. Meanwhile, they lived a long life together and clearly influenced each other. See for yourself:
22. Ballet Serenade, 1951/52
23. Ballet Swan Lake, 1951/52
24. Swan Lake, 1951/52
25. Swan Lake, 1951/52
26 Nude on White Background 7, 1954
Is there really an obvious connection?
27. Lillian Bassman and Paul Himmel, around 1938
28. Karin Kohlberg - Lillian Bassman and Paul Himmel, 2003
Like this. I saved the best photo of the post for last.