Anne Darling Photography

Famous Fashion Photographers

Famous fashion photographers are usually men but there have been a few outstanding women photographers who have achieved great success in this field.

This article starts our exploration of famous fashion photographers with Dora Kallmus who was one of the very first women photographers in fashion photography history, also known by her pseudonym Madame D'Ora.

Dora Kallmus 1881-1963

dora kallmus Left: Portrait of a Dancer: Photo by Dora Kallmus

Born in 1881, Kallmus trained in Berlin and became friends with Arthur Benda (1885-1969) with whom she opened the Benda-D'Ora studio in 1907 in Vienna. These two were both famous fashion photographers in their time, and popular with the aristocracy. They opened another studio in Paris in 1924 where their photographs of fashion and society made Kallmus very famous in the 1930s and 40s. Amongst the famous dancers, painters, writers and actors she photographed were such names as Maurice Chevalier and Colette.

When the Germans invaded France Kallmus went to the countryside and stayed in a convent, returning to Paris in 1946 to reopen her studio. In 1959 she was invalided after a traffic accident and died in 1963 in Austria.

Ruth Harriet Louise 1903-1940

Of all the famous fashion photographers in existence, the one whose photographs we have seen the most of is probably Ruth Harriet Louise. When Ruth Harriet Louise was just 22 years old, she became the only woman portrait photographer for MGM and photographed all the famous celebrities of that time such as Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. Her photographs are so well known and so numerous that she must be the most well known of all the famous fashion photographers you can think of, even if you haven't heard her name before!

Right: Ruth Harriet Louise: Hollywood Glamour Photography

Louise's work belongs more to glamour photography than fashion photography but there is no doubt that American fashions were hugely influenced by the visual styles created by her photographs. MGM emphasised fashion in their films since most of their films were about romance and therefore attracted more women than men, although husbands and boyfriends were persuaded to go along. Hollywood stars have to show themselves to the world clad in beautiful clothes, whether on set or off, and Louise's photographs were influenced by and in turned influenced the changing styles and fashions of the day.

Louise worked with MGM for just 5 years but in that time she made an estimated 100,000 photographs. In that same period, she was considered the number one photographer in her profession. Her photographs have been seen by hundreds of thousands of people and she is therefore one of the most important photographers of the 20th century.

After leaving MGM she married director Leigh Jason and retired from photography. She died 10 years later from childbirth-related problems.

Cecil Beaton: 1904-1980

Cecil Beaton, is a well known name on the list of famous fashion photographers. Born in 1904, Cecil Beaton's first photography tutor was his nurse who taught him how to use his first camera at the age of 11, a Kodak 3A folding camera, and also how to process the film and produce prints. He took this basic learning to a higher level under the tutelage of Paul Tanqueray although Beaton was never renowned for his technical skills.

In the 1920s Beaton worked for Vanity Fair and Vogue and developed his own portrait style which was decorative and incorporated exotic elements in the background such as tin foil or papier-maché. He blended elegance and romance with outright fantasy. He met Horst Paul Horst through his connections with Vogue and this began a great exchange of ideas between the two which fed into the circle of artists they both moved in which created the style of the 1930s. Beaton was also a huge influence on Angus McBean and David Bailey. After World War II Beaton resumed portrait photography but broadened his activities to include costume and theatre design.

cover of cecil beaton portfolio
Left: Cecil Beaton (Portfolio)

Beaton's career in fashion photography spanned five decades. In this time he photographed many Hollywood celebrities as well as the Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor wearing a creation by fashion designer Mainbocher.

Beaton became such an expert in fashion that when the V&A asked for his assistance in putting together the first fashion exhibition to be held in a major museum, the clothes that Beaton was given for the exhibition formed the basis of the V&A's permanent collection, now world famous. Beaton was knighted in 1972 and died in 1980.

Horst Paul Horst: 1906-1999

Horst Paul Horst (or Horst as he is more usually known) is renowned for his photographs of women and fashion over a staggering period of sixty years from 1931 to 1991 - even longer than Cecil Beaton's career - clearly famous fashion photographers are long lived! His images were elegant and stylized, his subjects mysterious and unatainable, inhabiting a rarified atmosphere. There were two main strands to Horst's work, his interest in surrealism and his regard of the ancient Greek ideal of physical beauty. He shaped all modern fashion and portrait photography.

Right: Spezial Fotografie by Horst

He was born near Weimar in 1906, and was influenced by the major art movements of that era, the bauhaus, Art Deco and Neu Sachlichkeit. In 1930, Horst travelled to England with his lover, Vogue photographer Baron George Hoyningen-Huene, where they visited Cecil Beaton, who was working for the British edition of Vogue. In 1931, Horst began his association with Vogue, and publsihed work with the French version of Vogue in November that year and exhibited his work at La Plume d'Or in Paris in 1932. He photographed Noel Coward, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Elsa Schiaparelli and many others. In 1937 he met Coco Chanel and photographed her fashions for three decades.

He met Valentine Lawford, a British diplomat in 1938, and they lived together as a couple, adopting a boy whom they called Richard J. Horst, raising him as their son. Horst and Lawford lived together until Lawford died in 1991. Horst died at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, at 93 years of age.

Edgar de Evia: 1910-2003

cover of cecil beaton portfolio Left: Wilhelmina - Photo © Edgar de Evia

Edgar De Evia (1910-2003), was a Mexican-born American photographer, a top fashion photographer who created dreamy, soft-focus photographs, in the manner of a Tissot water colour painting. He had a long and successful career spanning some 50 years, exceptionally long among famous fashion photographers.

De Evia's pictures appeared in magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times Magazine and he was the photographer on many advertising campaigns for companies such Jell-O. When he was well into his eighties he used to take his camera with him on bicycle outings where he photographed anything and everything that interested him. He died in 2003 at the age of 92 and his ashes were interred in the columbarium of the Little Church Around the Corner in New York City.

Lisa Fonssagrives
Above: Lisa Fonssagrives - Photo © Edgar de Evia

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