Week Thirty One
Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969)
Self Portrait, 1945

Born in Berlin in 1897, Erwin Blumenfeld was a soldier in the First World War, and became part of the Dada movement, experimenting with making collages using his own photographs and images from magazines. He moved to Amsterdam in 1918, running a shop selling handbags; but took portraits of his customers, in a darkroom at the back of the store. Influenced by Man Ray, he experimented with solarisation, creating black-and-white nudes that many see as his best work.

He moved to Paris in 1938, and from then on became known as a fashion photographer. Interned in French prison camps, he escaped with his family to New York in 1941; and worked for many years for Vogue (until 1955). One of his most iconic covers was shot in 1950, of the model Jean Patchett. Known as the ‘doe eye’ cover, all we see is one eye, a beauty spot and a pair of red lips against a glowing white background.

His daughter Lisette was his muse, featuring in many images between 1936 to 1949. He became sought after for his experimental colour fashion photography; produced advertising campaigns for cosmetic clients including Dior, Elizabeth Arden, Max Factor, L’Oréal and Helena Rubenstein; and later made fashion films.

A retrospective is currently on at Jeu de Paume, Paris until 26 January 2014.

What others said about him:
‘Double exposures, triple exposures, done in the camera, done in the darkroom, solarisations, high-contrast printing. We know he didn’t respect rules. He was very proud of saying that if the instruction on the new film said never to heat it above room temperature, he would boil it. If it said never let it go below room temperature, he’d throw it in the freezer. And then you’d get these strange effects on the surface.’
curator William Ewing.

“His merit as an artist lies in the fact that he is incapable of compromise, and although I would like him to work for Vogue, his pictures are not of Vogue quality, for they are much more serious, too provoking and better than fashion.” Cecil Beaton

Why I like him:
He approached fashion photography as art; not afraid to experiment all his life.

 

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