Review: Lillian Bassman Lingerie

New York native Lillian Bassman (1917-2012) was one of the most respected fashion photographers of the 20th-century and LINGERIE, a new collection of her photography (much of it previously unseen) shows us why. Working at Harper’s Bazaar US from the late 1940s, first in art direction and then in editorial spreads, her job was to introduce the new postwar silhouette to the reader, unveiling the corselets and brassieres that upholstered the New Look. She introduced movement into the frame, coaxing the models out of static poses and capturing the garments in the moment of undressing. She also took shoots out of the studio, setting up photographs in her friends’ apartment bathrooms and bedrooms. The overall effect is one of lightness and authenticity, and with a female photographer’s eye unmistakably at the lens.

These are magazine and advertising images, yes, but who can resist a stunningly rendered black and white image of a lady casually in between outfits in an uptown New York apartment? They’re also a reminder of the essentialness of proper underwear. Maybe not a girdle, but you know, big pants at the very least.

‘I think my contribution… has been to photograph fashion with a woman’s eye for a woman’s intimate feelings’, Lillian told the New Yorker in 2008. Sadly Lillian died last month, just before the book was published. It’s a worthy memorial.

Lillian Bassman: Lingerie is published by Abrams and Chronicle at £19.99. Images below copyright Lillian Bassman.

Top 1956; Bottom, 1951

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