Lillian Bassman is beyond the shadow of doubt, one of the greatest female fashion photographers of all time. Her work has the power to take its onlooker back in time to a place of grandeur and true feminine beauty. She has left her mark on photography, art, and her work has preserved a space in time where women were beautiful even when fully clad.
She was born in Brooklyn, NY on June 15, 1917. Her parents were Russian immigrants and Jewish intellectuals. She graduated in 1933 the Textile High School in Manhattan. There she met her future husband, Paul Himmel, and Alexey Brodovitch, who would serve as mentor to Lillian later in her photographic career.Lillian was a fashion photographer whose lens captured women in their most beautiful states of being. Even a novice like myself can clearly see how Bassman wonderfully captures the incredible features of a woman’s body and face. It’s impossible to pick a favorite portrait by Lillian Bassman because they are all quite stunning.
Her career as a photographer led her to work for Junior Bazaar and Harper Bazaar, and the latter would be where most of her work showcased from 1950-1965. Her photographs are primarily in black and white, which add an element of class, glamor, and sheer chic. In the 1970′s, Lillian was disappointed with the way that the photographic movement of womens’ fashion was moving and hence threw away her undeveloped negatives. Thankfully, these negatives were preserved well enough so that digital photography technology could restore them.
Her work is still shown around the world, and her legacy will remain as one of the greatest photographers of all time. I imagine that Lillian encountered resistance due to her gender and her work in the field of fashion photography. Yet, despite the odds, she became critically acclaimed as “one the of the best photographers of the post-war period”. As a woman, I am enthralled with the work of this woman. It is in my opinion that she has done more to express the truly unique elements of female beauty than contemporary photographers who believe that less clothing is more. I suspect that Lillian Bassman didn’t capture women of color on her camera potentially because of the times in which she was working in fashion photography. I would have loved to see her represent women of color.
Please read Lillian Bassman’s book entitled Women.
When you see the pictures of Lillian Bassman, do you think that women were portrayed more or less beautifully than they are depicted today?
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