Lillian Bassman (1917-2012)

Lillian Bassman, in 2010

American fashion photographer Lillian Bassman died yesterday at the age of 94.  Bassman is considered one of the greatest female fashion photographers to date and is credited with advancing the careers of such other noted photographers as Richard Avedon and Robert Frank.  Bassman began her career in fashion in the 1940s at Harper’s Bazaar, under then-art director Alexey Brodovitch.  She was later promoted to art director of Harper’s spinoff magazine, Junior Bazaar, where she began to promote the work of Avedon and others.

After spending many of her lunchtime hours developing the work of fashion great George Hoyningen-Huene, Bassman developed a specialized method of printing photography – even before she began to take pictures.  When Richard Avedon took a trip to photograph in Paris in the late 1940s, he lent Bassman his studio and it is there that she started her self-education in photography.

Known for her dramatic, grainy, highly expressive and dreamy black and white portraits of women, Bassman made a name for herself in the commercial fashion world. The discovery of some long forgotten negatives revived interest in her work in the 1990s and she enjoyed fame once again, as a fine-art photographer.

Bassman continued to work until her death, most recently working with digital technology and Photoshop to create a new series of work.  About her work, Bassman once said, “I wanted to present women in the way I felt about them…Feminine, serene and elegant.  It’s a woman’s point of view about other women.”