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Lillian Bassman


Lillian Bassman (June 15, 1917 – February 13, 2012) was an American photographer and painter.

Her parents were Jewish intellectuals who emigrated from Russia to the United States in 1905 and settled in Brooklyn, New York. She studied at the Textile High School in Manhattan with Alexey Brodovitchand graduated in 1933.

While there, she met the photographer Paul Himmeland they were married in 1935. Himmel died in 2009 after 73 years of marriage.

From the 1940s until the 1960s, Bassman worked as a fashion photographer for Junior Bazaar and later at Harper’s Bazaar where she promoted the careers of photographers such as Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, Louis Faurer and Arnold Newman.

Under the guidance of the Russian emigrant Alexey Brodovitch, she began to photograph her model subjects primarily in black and white. Her work was published for the most part in Harper’s Bazaar from 1950 to 1965.

By the 1970s, Bassman’s interest in pure form in her fashion photography was out of vogue. She turned to her own photo projects and abandoned fashion photography. In doing so, she tossed out 40 years of negatives and prints – her life’s work.

Over 20 years later, a forgotten bag filled with hundreds of images was discovered. Bassman’s fashion photographic work began to be re-appreciated in the 1990s.

Into her 90s, she worked with digital technology and abstract color photography to create a new series of work. She used Photoshop for her image manipulation.

The most notable qualities about her photographic work are the high contrasts between light and dark, the graininess of the finished photos and the geometric placement and camera angles of the subjects.

Bassman is now one of the last great woman photographers in the world of fashion.

Bassman died on February 13, 2012, aged 94.

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