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Eighty Year Old Unpublished Photo Gems From Fashion Photographer Edward Steichen

By Michelle Bird on December 2nd 2014

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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.

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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.

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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

[via] Fstoppers

Michelle Bird is a Southern California based freelance photographer and writer, with a strong focus on music, editorial and portrait photography. She is the founder and creative force behind the music+culture online blog Black Vinyl Magazine, and can often be found in the photo-pit shooting the latest concerts in town. She has a strong passion for art, exploring, vintage finds and most of all animals. Connect with her through Email,
Instagram , or Facebook

14 Comments

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  1. Jesper Ek

    So love these!

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  2. David Hall

    Great article.

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  3. Clare Havill

    Thank for the info, will pop in to see the exhibition.

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  4. Duc Hong

    beautiful photos, most of them has a special connection to the viewer

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  5. Barry Cunningham

    Steichen was a giant in the American and world photography.
    If any of you are into reading massive biographies, I warmly recommend Penelope Niven’s “Steichen: A Biography”, as well as her companion biography of his brother-in-law, “Sandburg: A Biography”. Both of these are available fairly inexpensively used.
    From 1947 to 1962, Steichen was the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art. During this time he organized the “Family of Man” exhibit, which was show there and toured worldwide. The “Family of Man” book from that exhibit is, to my mind anyway, the best photography book that has been ever been published. Again, it is available very inexpensively used.

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    • Michelle Bird

      I’m going to have to check those out, thanks for the info Barry!

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    • Scott Pacaldo

      There’s also a short docu/interview about Edward Steichen on Youtube. It talked about his career, the lake he named Jergen’s after the product who bought the lake for him, and their three-legged dog named ‘tripod’. It’s a nice watch, check it out :)

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  6. Brandon Dewey

    Awesome Images, very beautiful.

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  7. Zico Law

    I am sure the picture of Garbo has been published before ( and not lost / unpublished ). It was on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1929, and republished by Life in 1955. See links below.
    http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/Vanity-Fair-October-1929-Prints_i8485441_.htm
    http://life.time.com/culture/greta-garbo-portrait-of-a-film-legend-who-turned-her-back-on-fame/#1

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    • Michelle Bird

      Hello Zico, thanks for your input. The article isn’t implying or stating that these are in fact the unpublished pictures, rather informing the reader of this great rare find, while introducing Steichen’s body of work as presented in the press release for the exhibit.

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  8. Peter Nord

    My students loved this as an introduction to Steichen.

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  9. Ian Moss

    A brilliant exhibition. Well worth a visit if you’re in London.

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  10. Raoni Franco

    Highly recommended: http://tinyurl.com/qav64dc (Link to the book Camera Work, for the ones interested in Stieglitz and Steichen (before he got too fashion-ish)

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  11. Steven Pellegrino

    Beautiful, classic photos!

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