The first UK retrospective of pioneering fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe, who helped define the image of the modern American woman.
Louise Dahl-Wolfe was a fashion photographer before the concept even existed. Bringing her relaxed, chic and modern style to a world that was mostly frozen in formal elegance, she helped revolutionise style magazines and became one of the most important and influential fashion photographers of the 20th century.
In her 22 years as lead contributor to Harper’s Bazaar, starting in 1936, she not only changed the look of the magazine but was key in reflecting the growing spirit among American women who wanted freer, more active lifestyles and the clothes to suit. She was also instrumental in defining the individual looks of models. It is claimed her 1943 cover photo of Lauren Bacall was the actress’s passport to a film career.
Dahl-Wolfe’s body of work isn’t restricted to fashion photography. On display is an extensive collection of portraits of Hollywood actors, including Orson Welles, Vivien Leigh and Veronica Lake, and literary figures such as WH Auden, Edith Sitwell and Colette. In stark contrast to her later work, in the early 1930s she documented people living in the shadow of the Depression, the poor and dispossessed.
The exhibition comprises more than 100 photographs, including rare tearsheets and covers that particularly highlight Dahl-Wolfe’s expert use of colour. Also on show are examples of other Harper’s Bazaar photographers’ work, ranging from the early 20th century to current contributors.