Lillian Bassman

In the era of Alexey Brodovitch's art direction at Harper's Bazaar during the 1930's and 40's came about great artists like Richard Avedon, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray and one of who I was completely unaware of until finding an interview with her from 2012 right before her death in the most recent issue of Hunger Magazine, Lillian Bassman.


Born in 1917 into a family of freethinking intellectuals Lillian was raised to be an independent and unconventional woman (obviously the best kind there is). She initially was a student of Brodovitch's in his Design Laboratory class but was quickly given an internship at Harper's Bazaar in 1941 and a permanent position four years later. Beginning as a creative director she soon found herself in the darkroom more than anywhere else experimenting with unusual techniques such as using tissues to bring certain areas of a photo into focus or applying bleach to change tones and achieve dreamy effects. 


She stayed with Harper's Bazaar until the 1960's when she felt she could no loner connect with the new wave of models and magazine styles. In the 1990's her negatives were rediscovered after being stored in trashbags in Bassman's home and she re-edited the photos creating a reinterpretation and vision aside from what the camera originally saw. 


Her graphic high-contrast style is what really caught my eyes, mind and soul transforming what could have been a static photo of a model into a piece of visual poetry, mystery and glamour. All of her photograph's are characterized with elegance and grace. What I think I find most attractive about Lillian's work is that I can't tell if what I'm looking at is a photograph or a painting. I love a challenge. Her husband Paul Himmell also has a collection of riveting work that I will have to discuss on another day but for now may you take a moment out of your day to appreciate the sylph-like images by the late and great Lillian Bassman.