You probably know Edward Steichen for his painting and fine art photography, but did you know that he also helped to create the modern concept of fashion photography? That's his cover above, one of the most well-known in the history of magazine publishing.
Before Steichen fashion pictures looked mostly like this (above). The idea was to highlight the dress. The woman in it was little more than a mannequin.
Steichen had the revolutionary idea that the women wearing the dresses should look interesting, even if sometimes they almost overshadowed the clothes. They should look like they were having fun and like they had lots of friends. The idea was to make the women reading the magazine envy the models.
Steichen was a painter before he was a photographer. The influence of Matisse on the two pictures above is obvious.
Some believe that Steichen was the greatest photographer of women who ever lived. That's Gertrude Lawrence above.
He was no slouch with men, either. What do you think of the pictures above? The picture immediately above is of Conrad Veidt, who played Major Strassner in "Casablanca."
When Veidt was young he played horrific parts in films like "Dr. Caligari."
What happened to Steichen you ask? Well, he dropped out of fashion photography when Borodsky introduced Beaten and Horst to Harper's Bazaar. I put up a blog about these guys a couple of weeks ago. Borodsky introduced humorous surrealism to women's magazines and poor Steichen, who was a serious kind of a guy, just couldn't keep up. That's Steichen's attempt at surrealism above. It just wasn't his thing.
Why should men be interested in what happened in womens' magazines in the 20s and 30s? Because those magazines, operating beneath the radar of formal critics, helped to shape the attitudes of modern women, and of the whole world we live in today. That and the fact that these magazines continued the revolution in art that critics supposed had died after WWll.