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The Man Who Shot Beautiful Women

We live in the age of digital photography. It has more or less replaced selective photography and hours spent in the darkroom. The quality is high, previews are available immediately and you can choose which photographs are worthy of saving, blogging or printing. This collection showcases one man’s genius during the previous generation of photographers. Nevertheless, the exhibition would not exist today without the assistance of digital technology.

Grace Kelly 1955 for Cosmopolitan ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

Erwin Blumenfeld lived and worked in the pre-digital era and today most of his photographs are in a condition which requires digital enhancement in order to display them. The question that immediately arises is: how much of the Blumenfeld magic is lost through this process of reconstruction and are they still his photographs?

The existential and legal dilemmas aside, this Somerset House exhibition displays over 100 of Blumenfeld’s photos in chronological order. All of them are images from a different age, whether it is because they were taken when picturing women with cigarettes was still acceptable for advertising purposes or because the covers of Vogue magazine seemed rather minimalistic in comparison with today’s glossiness.

 

Spring Fashion and Lilian Macusson
(Left) Spring Fashion 1953 for Vogue ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld; (Right) Lilian Macusson for the cover of American Vogue January 1951 ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

Blumenfeld’s photographs are stunning in their simplicity, displaying the vibrant colours of models’ clothes and make up contrasted with the white background. ‘The Man Who Shot Beautiful Women’ had the ability to showcase women’s features in a very flattering yet understated way. He was a fashion photographer who captured the fashion world which, sadly, no longer exists. The world of simplicity, elegance and glamour, dim lights and the mystifying 50s charm.

Support for the Red Cross for the cover of American Vogue March 1945 ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

 

Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941–1960
East Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7845 4600 www.somersethouse.org.uk
Opening hours: 23 May–1 September 2013
Open daily 10.00-18.00 (Last admission 17.30)
Admission: Free