At the heart of the image
1. Anne Saint Marie, tor a Chanel ad campaign, New York, 1958.
2. Mary Jane Russell, for Harper's Bazaar magazine, New York, 1950.
Few events in the history of fashion photography rival the serendipitous reemergence of images by legendary photographer and art director Lillian Bassman in the early 1990s. The protégée of Harper's Bazaar designer Alexey Brodovitch, Bassman was a key member of his Design Laboratory at the New School for Social Research in the early 1940s, and she later art-directed with Brodovitch at Junior Bazaar, where they worked with lalenled young photographers, including Richard Avedon, Louis Faurer, Leslie Gill, and Robert Frank. Having carved out her own reputation as an art director, Bassman began shooting couture in Paris in the early 1950s. Her enviable list of subjects included proto-supermodels Dovima, Suzy Parker, and Carmen Dell'Orefice.
In the following decades, Bassman's photographs fell into obscurity—until one fateful day in 1991 when the painter Helen Frankenthaler, who rented Bassman's former studio, discovered a garbage bag filled with her old negatives. The rest, as they say, is photographic history.
"I got very excited about seeing ihose losl images," Bassman recalls. "[Writer and historian] Martin Harrison found another bag of negatives that were even more interesting to me. It was like starting a whole new life for the photographs that didn't exist anymore for me ... they were a new way for me to see."
In the darkroom Bassman breathed new life into her castaway negatives, transforming "straight" advertising shots for lingerie and fabric into voluptuous new works that were, for many, a revelation; they seemed to bridge the gap between art and fashion in ways that today's young photographers are still emulating. Using blurring, staining, and bleaching techniques, Bassman lent her photographs new meaning and sen-
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