Posts Tagged ‘Cecil Beaton’

Photography | Studio Erwin Blumenfeld

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941-1960
Somerset House
London, UK
23rd May – 1st September, 2013

Day and night I try, in my studio with its six two-thousand watt suns,
balancing between the extremes of the impossible, to shake loose the real from
the unreal, to give visions body, to penetrate into unknown transparencies.

Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969)

With around 100 colour photographs as well as archive material from fashion magazines, this show at Somerset House focuses on the work Erwin Blumenfeld – one of the most influential, innovative and sought-after fashion photographers of the 1940s and 1950s – produced at his studio in New York.

Born into a Jewish family in Berlin, Blumenfeld began taking photographs when he was just ten years old. His first job was as an apprentice dressmaker, but between 1916 and 1933 he produced dadist montages in Germany, where he was closely associated with George Grosz, before moving first to Holland, then to Paris in 1936, where he met Cecil Beaton, who got him an introduction to Vogue. However, as a result of his publishing bitingly mocking collages of Adolf Hitler, Blumenfeld spent the occupation years in a concentration camp, eventually fleeing Europe with his family for the United States in 1941. In New York he worked in the studio of Martin Munkacsi until his own career started to flourish. Taken up by Russian emigré art director Alexey Brodovitch, who was fostering  the development of an expressionistic, almost primal style of picture-making at Harper’s Bazaar, Blumenfeld continued to work for Vogue, gaining him a reputation as the highest paid freelance photographer in New York. He went on to produce advertising campaigns for top cosmetics clients such as Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and L’Oreal.

Blumenfeld had a passion for the female form, which he expressed through headily erotic images in which mirrors, gauzy fabrics, screens, wet silk and elaborately contrived shadows and angles were used to enhance or discreetly mask the body. He became a master of complex studio photography and developed sophisticated techniques of solarisation and superimposition that, even today, continue to influence photographers. The renowned fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø recently commented: ‘Blumenfeld was shooting 60 years ago what the rest of us will be shooting in 10 years time’.

Images from top
City Lights

Support for the Red Cross
American Vogue cover, March, 1945

Grace Kelly
Cosmopolitan, 1955

Spring Fashion
American Vogue, 1953

All images ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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mouth2mouth | Philip Treacy on Photography

Friday, February 1st, 2013

mouth2mouth | interview
philip treacy | milliner

Over 30 of his hats were worn at HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Probably the world’s best-known hat designer, Philip Treacy began his career in 1990, in London, having been taken under the wing of the late Isabella Blow. Milliner of choice for many top fashion designers, he created hats for Alexander McQueen’s white haute couture collection at Givenchy, for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, as well as for Valentino, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen. In 2000 Treacy was invited to present the first ever Paris couture show dedicated to millinery. Named British Accessory Designer of the Year five times at the British Fashion Awards, he created hats for film – Harry Potter – for Grace Jones, Daphne Guinness, Naomi Campbell, Lady Gaga and Madonna. A new book, Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies, the result of a 20-year collaboration between the milliner and his long-time friend, photographer Kevin Davies, is published in February by Phaidon. Former creative director at Tatler turned photographer, Pedro Silmon asked Treacy about his passion for photography and photographers.

In the introduction to your and photographer Kevin Davies’ book you say that every hat you ever made began, in your mind, as a photograph. Who is the photographer?
Always Irving Penn. He was the quintessential hat photographer.

A hat is an idea. A suggestion. A hat isn’t an inanimate object you put on your head – it’s supposed to do something – you’re drawing with material to create an illusion. I identify with photographers because they’re doing the same thing as I am.

Is there a particular genre of photographer you like best?
Iconic Hollywood. Greta Garbo’s photographer, Clarence Sinclair-Bull, George Hurrell. Those I discovered in the books I saw for the first time when I went to art college in Dublin. The photographers who invented glamour and made people look beautiful: Hoynigen-Huhne, Edward Steichen, Horst, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean.

Which other photographers’ work do you like?
Helmut Newton. He was very persuasive and impressed me so much with his charm that I felt I couldn’t seriously say no when he asked to photograph me, who hates having his photograph taken – topless!
Bruce Weber is amazing. His black and white is really colour. So many tones… He put my hats on male models. Such a simple idea but it worked and just looked fantastic. Avedon asked me to make a hat specifically for an Egoïste cover he was shooting with Stephanie Seymour as the model. He was like a teenager – full of energy – really excitable.

Photographers are engaging and obsessive and I understand that. I like photographers that have a point of view and who put their stamp on a picture as if they’ve painted it. You can always tell a Sarah Moon, a Deborah Turbeville, a Paolo Roversi – they have a signature look and extraordinary personality. People like Nick Knight continue experimenting but his pictures are always identifiably his. I like David LaChapelle, who’s charming and has amazing vision. Although I haven’t worked with him a lot, I find Steven Meisel’s work exceptional and unusual – unlike anyone else’s.
One of the biggest influences on me and someone who has been a great inspiration, is Jean-Paul Goude. He’s so talented he doesn’t need to be an arse-hole. He’s a intriguing and charismatic. A designer’s dream. He has incredible ideas that are so simple they show he’s a genius.

What about newer photographers?
I think Mert & Marcus are great. They asked me to make a lace mask for them for the 90th Anniversary cover of French Vogue (2010). I’ve also been working with the German photographer, Cathleen Naundorf, who produces massive, very stylised polaroids.

Which photographers you haven’t enjoyed working with, and why?
I don’t think I’ve come across any… Photographers are like a race of people. I like working with them all.

Sometimes my hats are sent out by publicists to be photographed and I hate it when the photographer tries to do something edgy that just doesn’t work. The best photographers just photograph the hats – no tricks.

Do you like to go on shoots?
Shoot culture has become very irritating and makes going to a shoot daunting experience. So many people. And every time an image pops up on the computer screen, everyone has something to say. I remember when it was the photographer’s point of view that was important. That’s why I was such a fan of Irving Penn, who once took a portrait of me for American Vogue in his little glass-roofed Paris studio, where there was no lighting, no assistant, just a simple chair and a small table, his little camera, him and his charm. Fascinating!…

Do you collect photographs?
I have two wonderful Penn prints – one black and white, one colour – and five of Garbo by Clarence Sinclair Bull, plus a few others by Bruce Weber, Arthur Elgort and Ellen von Unwerth.

Do you have a preference for black and white or colour photographs?
I prefer black and white – it’s more dramatic. But it depends… Colour is a different language. Black and white is more romantic… But, I don’t see it in black and white. I love all the colours in it. What I also love are the really dark pictures that people like Clarence Sinclair Bull did in the 1920s and 30s. The pictures were about darkness, not about light – a lot of photography now is too bright.

You mention in the book that there were always photographers around the studio at 69 Elizabeth Street in the 1990s. Who were they?
Isabella (Blow) was always bringing people in: Michael Roberts, Alastair Thain – all absolutely obsessed – it was wonderful, manic!

Do other photographers still come in or does Kevin now have exclusive access?
They do, Yes. Kevin doesn’t have exclusive access but with him it’s not in your face. He’s a one man band. Quiet. Not loud. Easy. Often, I don’t notice he’s around. I didn’t really understand the pictures when he first starting doing them. They seemed to be the opposite of what people would imagine – not really about the hats, more about the environment. Now I have some of them framed and up on the wall.

Which photographers’ work is on your mood board right now?
… Everybody’s! Because I’m developing another book, with Rizzoli, that won’t be out for another couple of years.

Images from top
In the Studio, 10th February, 1999

The Royal Wedding, Battersea Studio, 27th April, 2011

In the Studio, 69, Elizabeth Street, 11th November

Images by Kevin Davies from the book
Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies
Phaidon
www.phaidon.com
192 pages, hardback, £39.95/€49.95, February 2013

All photographs © Philip Treacy

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Photography | Freud by Cecil Beaton & David Dawson

Friday, July 13th, 2012

An Artist’s Life: Photographs of Lucian Freud by Cecil Beaton and David Dawson
Sotheby’s London, UK
Selling Exhibition: until 11th August, 2012

It’s probably fair to say that David Dawson’s photographing daily life at Lucian Freud’s studio, and beyond, had its genesis in Bruce Bernard’s photographs of the great British painter. Freud (1922-2011) and Bernard (1928-2000) had been friends since their teens. Curator  and author of fine art and photography books, including his great Phaidon tome Century, Bernard (to whom, incidentally, I owe a debt with regard to my picture editing education – he was picture editor at The Sunday Times Magazine for the first couple of years I was there) sat – or more accurately, stood, in 1992 and sat in 1996 for Freud, having previously had his unusually large head immortalised by the artist in Head of Bruce Bernard, 1985. In the 1990s, Freud, famed for shunning the limelight, uncharacteristically, allowed Bernard, who had been taking photographic portraits of fellow Soho drinkers, artists and luminaries including Francis Bacon and Euan Uglow, to begin photographing him at work in his studio.

Having studied painting at the Royal College of Art – where he was a contemporary of Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman – Dawson (b.1960) became Freud’s studio assistant in 1991. It wasn’t until some years later that Dawson – Freud by now used to have a photographer in his studio – picked up his own camera and began to record the day-to-day comings and goings and the work processes happening in front of and around him. After Bruce Bernard’s death in 2000, with unprecedented and now, exclusive, access – Bernard, in any case, having only been a visitor – Dawson was able to capture intimate moments: Freud in deep concentration, Freud applying shaving cream to his face with one of his large brushes (which, although we used it across a double-page spread in Tatler – where I was creative director – I suspect was set up, possibly at the behest of my editor-in-chief, Geordie Greig, himself a regular visitor at Freud’s studio) and to produce images that allow us to see the development of some of Freud’s later paintings.

Freud at Work, Photographs by Bruce Bernard and David Dawson was shown at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert in 2006. Earlier this year, the same gallery showed Lucian Freud: Studio Life, Photographs by David Dawson. More recently Dawson’s image of Freud painting the Queen was selected for the Whitechapel’s exhibition of works from the Government Art Collection. A selection of Dawson’s pictures of Freud were also shown at the National Portrait Gallery in 2004. Twenty six of these, including those showing the artist painting Hockney and Queen Elizabeth II, and Frank Auerbach visiting the studio, were acquired for the gallery’s collection.

The unlikely juxtaposition of Dawson and Beaton’s photographs in this summer’s selling exhibition of limited edition prints at Sotheby’s, as much as it is revealing about Freud, provides an insight into the characters, aspirations and appetites of both photographers. Dawson comes across as a little shy and somewhat reticent, whereas, by all accounts, Beaton, who produced a prodigious number of self-portraits, was just the opposite.

Sir Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) has a staggering 1,050 portraits in the NPG collection. His career as a portrait photographer took off after meeting the Sitwells in 1926. He signed his first contract with Vogue in 1927 and was associated with the magazine throughout his life. Beaton had been in Hollywood in the 1930s, where he became obsessed with Garbo, whom he continued to photograph throughout her life. He photographed Katherine Hepburn and later Marylin Monroe, of whom he wrote: ‘She romps, she squeals with delight, she leaps on the sofa. She puts a flower stem in her mouth, puffing on a daisy as though it were a cigarette. It is an artless, impromptu, high-spirited, infectiously gay performance. It will probably end in tears.’ During WWII he worked for the Ministry of Information and afterwards took on the additional role of stage designer for film, ballet and opera. In 1965 he was awarded two oscars for his stage production of My Fair Lady. His work has appeared in countless exhibitions and books, the first of which, Beaton by James Danziger – another former Sunday Times Magazine picture editor, now running the eponymous Danziger Projects in New York – was published in 1977, the same year that Sotheby’s acquired the photographer’s estate.

Beaton’s photographs of Freud from the 1950s capture him alone, with friends, with family and with his second wife Caroline Blackwood at Coombe Priory, their Dorset retreat. Although Beaton claimed to be drawn to Freud, whom he described as ‘a true artist and a true Bohemian’ – in some of Beaton’s pictures his subject wears no tie, or if he does it’s ratty and his shirt appears somewhat creased – the painter is portrayed as a clean-shaven, well-quaffed, heroic and brooding figure with movie-star good looks. While Dawson’s photographs are not about Dawson – he often lurks in the background, content to simply tag along behind his elderly master – Beaton had other ideas. While some of his images affect reportage, each one of them is a carefully-controlled portrait. One of these in particular, makes Freud look particularly stiff and awkward as he struggles to look at the camera, in front of the lens of which, Beaton, in one of his surrealist moments, seems to have flung a cyclamen flower and a few leaves – almost definitely montaged in later – that in the final image float above the sitter’s head. At first sight, what appears to be Beaton’s least set up, least theatrical picture of Lucien Freud’s daughter, Annie, 3rd October, 195o, in which she sits on another animal’s back while stroking the nose of a zebra, comes as a refreshing surprise; then one realises that the photographer is playing his usual, for me disappointingly tiresome, games; the zebra is obviously stuffed. Not everyone is as lively as Monroe was but oh, if only Beaton could have allowed a little of the extemporaneous excitement he had captured in his shoot with her to seep into his photographing Freud – as Dawson did so successfully with Kate Moss in Having a cuddle with Kate, 2010… Mind you, some of Dawson’s pictures are more record shot than fine photography: Breakfast at Clarke’s with Stella McCartney, 2008, is just a snap, as is his picture of Bono and Freud breakfasting together. His Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach at the V&A, 2006, however, has the ease and spontaneity of a Lartigue.

Images from top
David Dawson, Having a cuddle with Kate, 2010
Cecil Beaton, Coombe Priory, Dorset, 1956

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