London’s Fashion and Textile Museum has opened an exhibition on fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s work. As one of the great fashion image creators of the 1900s, I was surprised I hadn’t heard her name before, a bit ashamed even! Her work is on equal level of Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson. Maybe it’s history’s tendency to push women out of the spotlight?
The museum is located in Bermondsey, south of the river close to the Shard. The building is lovely – an orange and pink cube by Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta, his only building in Europe. Opened in 2003 on initiative by British designer Zandra Rhodes, it has a relatively quiet reputation. However, it’s one of those cultural institutions you want to support, and many of their exhibitions are good.
A generous collection of Dahl-Wolfe’s work is displayed. She grew up in San Francisco and worked as en electric sign designer before pursuing photography. Her career kicked off in the 1930s when she began shooting portraits of Hollywood stars, politicians and private persons.
By 1936 she was a staff photographer at Harper’s Bazaar, and worked closely with Diana Vreeland and Carmel Snow. Working in both colour and black and white, she was a meticulous artist who produced work of quantity as well as quality. A 1943 Bazaar cover featuring Lauren Bacall (at the time, her first name was Betty), helped launch the actress’ movie career. What struck me about many of the images was the modernity of the styling and clothes. For example a portrait of Bette David sitting in the grass, wearing flat, strappy sandals, and summer-themed looks shot in the Bahamas and Tunisia. A room at the museum celebrates Harper’s Bazaar’s 15oth anniversary. Did you know that the magazine’s first editor Mary Lousie Booth, was a suffragette?
Here are some of my favourite black and white images by Lousie Dahl-Wolfe.
Feature image: Model Georgia Hamilton in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. “A Journey into Time: Small Clothes for the Sun”, in Harper’s Bazaar May 1952.
No images belong to me. All images are courtesy of Louise Dahl-Wolfe/Harper’s Bazaar, some are snapped with my iPhone at FTM, others are taken from Google.