Among the most important fashion photographers of the 20th century, Lillian Bassman transformed her photographs published with Junior Bazar and later with Harper’s Bazar (1940-1960) into works of art that have a unique effect: mystery and glamour in black and white images.
When I first saw her works, I thought the images were sketches because before becoming a photographer and working with Alexey Brodovitch at the Harper’s Bazaar, Lillian Bassman was a fashion illustrator, but no! I found out that she has some darkroom techniques in which she blurs and bleaches the images, investing them with such a poetic and mesmerizing effect!
I am almost sure that she has a thing for hats! Aren’t we all? Starting with Garance Dore and her story about the borrowed YSL hat! (read here, it is so hilarious, so Garance). And when one wants to transmit mystery, the hat is a mandatory piece!
And my favorite below! A lovely polka dots dress and a pair of elegant gloves. I think I can see Ada’s train in this image, wink.
After bleaching, blurring and/or burning the photography in the dark room, the artist is usually adding some details by hand (as in the photo above, hand-painting all the polka dots back in! isn’t that amazing?). One of the most notable qualities about her photographic work are the high contrasts between light and dark. Do you see that in the picture below?
This last image is a recent photography of Lillian Bassman presenting a Dior gown, can you believe it? Even if she is in her 90s, the artist continues to work, using digital technology and photoshop to manipulate and make something new out of her old photographs.
“Lillian transcend the moment, capturing the individuality and universality of women the world over.” (this is how Donna Karan greeted the exhibition of Lillian Bassman’s works in its stores).