Hidden in the middle of New York City, in the hustle and bustle of Times Square, two thousand prints by Edward Steichen were uncovered in the archives of the Conde Nast building after lying hidden for eighty years. The photographs were intended to be published in Vanity Fair and Vogue, but never made it to print. Unseen Art-Deco style photos of classic beauties modeling designs by Chanel, Lanvin, Lelong, Schiaparelli and many others.
Steichen was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, master of portrait and fashion photography; called the Picasso of photography with a 70-year career covering the whole 20th Century. Every genre of modern photography is represented in his body of work. He borrowed from various movements of Impressionism, Art Nouveau and Symbolism to create a distinctive Art Deco style. At the height of his career, Steichen was being paid the equivalent to 1 million dollars by Vanity Fair and Vogue, plus another 1 million by his commercial clients.
William Ewing, one of the co-curators of the new Steichen prints, says:
He turned fashion photography into portraiture. He looked first and foremost at a woman wearing a dress, not the dress for its own sake. That’s what connected so powerfully with the viewers.
Those were the days before professional models. People used to photograph society women. But Condé Nast went to Broadway and hired actors and dancers, who knew how to get into character for the camera.
Edward Steichen’s photos are currently in exhibition in London through January 18th 2015 at the London Photographer’s Gallery.
Images: Courtesy of the Conde Nast Archive