Melvin Sokolsky Photography
Fashion photography has always been an interest of mine. I find it to be one of the best representations of commercialized art, and I find beauty in utilizing art forms for the sake of advertising and commerce. Fashion photography is a visual art form that can easily be reduced down to a visual stimulant to increase the sale of merchandise, but it can also be intellectually invigorating as well as artistically profound. At it’s best, it is both.
My first entry on this blog was about fashion photographer, Helmut Newton. I have decided to devote yet another blog entry to another one of my favorite fashion photographer, Melvin Sokolsky. Both Newton and Sokolsky utilized fashion photography in both a marketable and imaginative sense. Their works not only display highbrow fashion, but also a signature authorship quality. The clothes and the models were as important as the setting and ambience they inhabited, and with this in mind Newton and Sokolsky created imaginative worlds for their subjects to exist within.
Sokolsky never received formal training in photography, and his decision to become a photographer was based purely out of passion. Using his instinct and careful observation, Sokolsky began to shoot recreationally.
Sokolsky entered the world of commercial photography when he learned that a photographer could make up to $4,000 for shooting “a box of Jell-O” that could be placed in advertisements. At the age of 21, Sokolsky’s freelance work caught the attention of Henry Wolf, the art director of Haper’s Bazaar: “Though he was learning on his feet, Sokolsky was rebellious by nature and would couple his street smarts with his deeply vivid imagination to challenge the aesthetic conventions of the advertising and editorial worlds.”
Sokolsky became a renowned fashion photographer when he developed the Bubble Series in 1963. “I’d have to credit Hieronymus Bosch for those images,” Sokolsky later said, “if you look at his painting The Garden of Earthly Delights you will come across a nude couple in a bubble. That image stayed with me from childhood.” The Bubble Series caused fashion photography to evolve into a more conceptual medium that was not primarily focused on promotion, but also creative artistry.
As most advertising work goes unaccredited, Sokolsky became recognized due to the distinct consistency of his photography. By incorporating dream-like imagery into high-brow fashion Sokolsky was able to indirectly put his autograph on all his photos: “Drawing upon his fascination with Surrealist art (and encouraged to do so by a visit to his studio from Salvador Dali), Sokolsky was fearless in upending all notions of scale, proportion, visual rationality, and the laws of physics. Not one to be pinned down to a single style, he was equally comfortable shooting elegant, minimal studies against white backdrops.
Regardless of context, Sokolsky’s work always pops and provokes. “Really, I’m only interested in photography as a tool for exploring and visualizing psychological and emotional conditions,” Sokolsky said.
I have always found Sokolsky’s photos to be stunning, and the imagery conveyed consistently resonates with me. It’s as if every photo is it’s own little world, and Sokolsky was able to catch a fleeing snapshot of it before returning to reality.
(All quotes and exerts from Melvin Sokolsky Official Website)