Thursday, April 23, 2015

1950's Fashion Photography

A Study in Black and White


Erwin Blumenfeld
Photo courtesy phaidon.com

The black and white fashion photography of the 1950's evoked the essence of the decade and captured the grandeur and drama of haute couture. It was often editorial in nature and had two distinctive styles: abstract and realistic. Both styles seem to complement the glamour and elegance of the fashion and the polished perfection of the high-fashion models of the era. The sharp contrast of the black and white medium lends itself perfectly to the graphic and artistic nature of the abstract style, as well as the gritty realism of the couture fashion juxtaposed against a background of exterior locations.

Some photographers used simple backdrops in a studio setting, letting the subject speak for itself as in a still-life painting. Light was used to sculpt the silhouette and enhance the texture of a garment. Others chose to place their models in urban, street scenes using the natural light to give a sense of reality, yet there was a choreography to their poses.

Although photographers such as Horst P. Horst and Cecil Beaton continued to have contributions well into the 1950's, it was Erwin Blumenfeld and Irving Penn along with such notables as Norman Parkinson, Gordon Parks, Henry Clarke and others that dominated the decade.


An interesting behind the scenes of Horst directing a fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives, 1949.
Photo by Roy Stevens for Time. Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum

Lisa Fonssagrives in Dior.
Photo by Irving Penn courtesy Sara Rose Leone on Pinterest

Bettina photographed by Jean-Philippe Charbonnier
Courtesy couturenotebook.com

Photography by F.C. Gundlach courtesy chronologievintage.tumbir.com

Bruno Bernini, 1956
Photo courtesy Bruno-Bernini on Tumbir

Dovima in Christian Dior, 1950.
Photo by Richard Avedon courtesy emariam.tumbir.com 

Photo by Gordon Parks for Life.
Courtesy boroughvintage.blogspot.com

Photo by Norman Parkinson
Courtesy stanflouride.com

Henry Clarke for French Vogue, 1954.
Photo courtesy gabrielleteare.com

Pierre Balmain suit, circa 1955.
Photo by Philippe Pottier courtesy highlowvintage.com

Sources:

The Art of Vogue, Photographic Covers, Fifty Years of Fashion and Design by Valerie Lloyd.

Hollywood Portraits by Roger Hicks and Christopher Nisperos.

The Fashion Book from Phaidon Press Ltd.

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