Fashion Photography Retrospective, Louise Dahl-Wolfe: A Style of Her Own, Opening in London
Throughout the history of fashion photography, the industry has been overshadowed by male figures, but Louise Dahl-Wolfe prevailed from this conventional idea and remained at the forefront of her artistry for her entire career. Creating some of the most iconic photographs for multiple magazines, Dahl-Wolfe alone was responsible for creating the social image of the modern and independent women during her heyday.
Louise Dahl-Wolfe was most noted for her work as a staff photographer at Harper’s Bazaar— along with the renowned trio of the magazine editor Carmel Snow, art director Alexey Brodovitch, and fashion director Diana Vreeland— together the magazine broke the barrier in fashion, publishing some of the most prominent photographs of the era.
Today (October 20) the first retrospective of her work is to be staged in the UK at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum. Louise Dahl-Wolfe: A Style Of Her Own exhibits works from across Dahl-Wolfe’s extensive photography career, giving insight into a selection of 86 cover shoots, in which she shot during her time at Harper’s Bazaar between 1936 and 1958. It also includes her first works as a documentary photographer, which launched her career, and her praised portraits of Jean Cocteau, Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Edith Sitwell, Vivien Leigh and Veronica Lake. Be sure to check out more of Dahl-Wolfes iconic photographs in the gallery above.
Behind the lens, Dahl-Wolfe was noted for her way of creating a story through her images. She shot modern day women of the mid 20th century era by illustrating what fashion historian and curator Valerie Steele termed “the American look.” She combined luxury labels like Gucci, Chanel, and Dior with ready-to-wear American sportswear, giving models in her work ansignature look. She was also one of the first photographers to work in color film, experimenting with Kodachrome in 1937.
Dahl-Wolfe showed some of the first celebrities of her time, being able to capture someone in a way that was entirely new to society giving her the power to fame someone through her work. Louise Dahl-Wolfe was responsible for giving birth to the first generation of supermodels; she worked with the likes of Jean Patchett, Evelyn Tripp, Mary Jane Russell and Suzy Parker.
Louise Dahl-Wolfe remained at the vanguard of her craft throughout her career and is one of the few who revolutionized fashion photography to what it is today. She influenced a variety of successors— such as Avedon and Penn— and set the boundary for esteemed magazine curation.
Written by Alex Ceballos
Photography by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Collection Staley Wise Galley, ©1989 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents