Lillian Bassman – Dreamy Contrast

Lillian Bassman

was born in 1917 and was considered one of the great fashion photographers, injecting art into fashion. Probably because she originally studied art, and was first the Art Director at Junior Bazaar in 1945. She was already doing photography for Harper’s Bazaar, and eventually became the Art Director at that magazine.


Paul Himmel


Lillian Bassman Influence

When many people look at her work, they think, “Where have I seen that style before?” Actually, many believe she revolutionized the world of fashion photography and was an inspiration for photographers like Ellen von Unwerth, and many others. That may or may not be true, but she certainly left her mark on photography.


Lillian Bassman


Her work has been exhibited worldwide, and prices for her work are on the rise. Besides Harper’s Bazaar, she also worked extensively for the New York Times, Neiman Marcus, German Vogue,…and many others. She was a singular feminine voice in a sea of male photographers. Fashion photography was really a man’s world back then. She pushed boundaries in photography unique to her.  The style she created was more art and less fashion. She was considered both brilliant and unique in the style she employed.


Rolleiflex 2.8


A Bohemian Lifestyle

Due to her fairly liberal and bohemian parents, she was allowed to move in with her boyfriend at age 15! Who later became her husband. They ended up married for 73 years. Her husband died in 2009, and Lillian passed in 2012. She lived a freewheeling lifestyle for the day, and ended up being one of the true icons of photography in the mid-twentieth century.




Her Rolleiflex

While she did work with male icons while at Harper’s, like Richard Avedon and Robert Frank, and admits they influenced her, her work stood uniquely on it’s own. Her ability to have such a vision resulted in advertisers clamoring for her work. She actually worked right up until her death at age 94. During almost all of her years of working, her preferred camera remained the Rolleiflex 2.8F. She was hired to shoot for the New York Times Magazine and a Neiman Marcus campaign at the age of 80!




Her prints have been selling at auctions in the tens of thousands range, and her books, ‘Lingerie’, ‘Lillian Bassman’ and ‘Lillian Bassman/Paul Himmel’ are all starting to become collector items. Yeah, 94 is a long life, but we wish she could have lived to 194. See her work at Staley-Wise and other galleries around the world.


Staley Wise Website





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