If you have a passion for vintage fashion, I can almost guarantee that you've seen photos from Louise Dahl-Wolfe. As the in-house photographer for Harper's Bazaar from 1936 to 1958, she created some of the most iconic fashion images of the era, and influenced such talents as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. She even discovered young Lauren Bacall, photographing her for the 1943 cover of Harper's.
One of her signature elements was bringing her models outdoors and photographing them in natural light, and she was one of the first fashion photographers to shoot on location in far-flung locations around the world. She worked closely with Diana Vreeland, the famously talented and slightly insane long term editor at Harper's Bazaar, and their collaboration was highly fruitful for both women. Dahl-Wolfe shot an astounding 86 covers for the magazine and hundreds more images that appeared in its pages.
Another signature move was to include art in many of her photographs. The juxtapostion of fine art and fashion made for an interesting contrast, one that could deepen the meaning of both creations.
There's so much to love about her photography, but something that really stands out to me is just how radiant the images are, even the ones that are in black and white. They just feel so warm and sun-soaked, like I'm laying on the beach looking at them. It's also striking, from a modern perspective, just how current they look - tweak the styles a little bit and they would be right at home in a modern fashion spread.
People who know more about this sort of thing than I do also praise her strong and straightforward compositions, as well as her use of art as a juxtaposition. I just know that I would love it if my photos looked half as good as hers do.
Are you familiar with Louise Dahl-Wolfe? If you have a favorite vintage photographer, who is it?