Photographer Lillian Bassman Dead at 94

Renowned art director experienced revival in 1990s

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 14, 2012 1:00 PM CST

(Newser) – Lillian Bassman, who shot to fame as a self-taught photographer and the daring art director of a Harper's Bazaar spin-off, died yesterday at 94 in her Manhattan home. Bassman, born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx, studied fabric design and fashion illustration, and became a protégé of Alexey Brodovitch, the Bazaar art director. She studied graphic design under him and soon became his first paid assistant; by 1945, she was sharing the art director title with him at Junior Bazaar. On her own, she experimented with darkroom methods and soon began taking her own photographs.

She landed a lingerie company account, and became known for glamorizing the medium; her dreamy photographs received much acclaim in the 1940s and 1950s. But by the 1960s, she once told the New York Times, she "got sick of" the models. "They were becoming superstars. They were not my kind of models. They were dictating rather than taking direction." She set aside more than 100 of her editorial negatives in trash bags and forgot about them, and moved on to photographing different subjects. In the early 1990s, her career experienced a revival when a fashion curator and historian discovered the negatives and Bassman reprinted them, experimenting with different methods. (The Times has a slide show of her work here.)

Lillian Bassman and Paul Himmel attend the viewing of MOMA's 'Fashioning Fiction in Photography Since 1990,' on April 22, 2004, in Queens.
Lillian Bassman and Paul Himmel attend the viewing of MOMA's 'Fashioning Fiction in Photography Since 1990,' on April 22, 2004, in Queens.   (Getty Images)
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