100 works by legendary fashion and portrait photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe are going on show at The Fashion and Textile Museum from 20 October-21 January 2018. A Style Of Her Own features over 100 photographs shot from 1931-59, celebrating work that helped define the image of the modern, independent woman, and inspired photographers such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn.
Born in San Francisco in 1895 to Norwegian parents, Dahl-Wolfe studied art history and design at the San Francisco Art Institute, taking up photography in 1921 and going professional in 1930 after meeting Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. A leading contributor to Harper’s Bazaar between 1936 and 1958 (where she worked extensively with influential editor Carmel Snow, fashion director Diana Vreeland, and designer Alexey Brodovitch), Dahl-Wolfe is credited with having invented the idea of the ‘supermodel’, and creating distinctive styles for models such as Suzy Parker, Jean Patchett, Barbara Mullen, Mary Jane Russell and Evelyn Tripp. She is said to have kickstarted actress Lauren Bacall’s Hollywood career, after shooting her for a Bazaar cover in 1943.
After World War Two Dahl-Wolfe tapped into a change in the public’s perception of fashion and of women to champion a more relaxed sense of style, often shooting outdoor in locations such as Tunisia, Cuba, South America, Mexico, and Spain. In total she racked up 86 covers, 600 colour plates, and over 2000 black-and-white photographs for the magazine. “From the moment I saw her first colour photographs, I knew Bazaar was at last going to look the way I had instinctively wanted,” declared editor Carmel Snow.
Dahl-Wolfe was also renowned for her unique and engaging portraiture, which showcased eminent actors, filmmakers, literary figures and fashion designers of the time, such as Bette Davis, Orson Welles, W.H Auden and Veronica Lake. Less known are her nude photographs and documentary portraits of impoverished black Americans in Tennessee, which she shot in the early 30s and which were shown at MoMA in 1937.
A Style Of Her Own is on show at The Fashion and Textile Museum from 20 October-21 January 2018. The exhibition is curated in association with La Fábrica and Le Pavillon, and is accompanied by a book. www.ftmlondon.org