Toni Frissell Fashion Photography
While browsing through the Photography section at the library, I stumbled across a fashion photography compilation book that contained a stunning photo from photographer, Toni Frissell. Upon further research, I realized that Frissell is one of my favorite photographers I never knew about.
Much of my interest in fashion photography stems from challenging the conventions of realism as much as the conventions of fashion through the medium of photography, and Frissell’s work accomplishes both while maintaining a signature sense of mood and tonality.
Frissell was known for placing her models in active settings, even in her high fashion work with publications such as Vogue and Harper’s, which at the time was extremely unorthodox and groundbreaking considering the classical role of women (especially high-class fashionable women) at the time (Toni Frissell’s critically acclaimed fashion photography is from the late 1940’s).
The above photo is widely considered one of Frissell’s finest, and it was taken at Weeki Wachee Spring in Florida. It was originally published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1947, and has been used as an album cover by many musical artists. While “Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida” is its somewhat official title, it has sometimes been referred to as “Lady in the Water.”
This is my favorite of Frissell’s fashion photography work. It captures both the surreal, dream like quality of her work as well as the ambiguity of it. In the background, there is a deep sea diver silently lurking in the midst of shadows, while in the foreground a beautiful girl hangs suspended in mid-vogue. There is a haunting quality to this image that reverberates with me for whatever reason, whether it be it’s unsettling mood or it’s suggestive illusory thematic content.
In the 1950s, Frissell took informal portraits of the famous and powerful figures in the United States and Europe, including Winston Churchill, and John F. and Jaqueline Kennedy. Her photos continued to be published in publications such as Sports Illustrated and Life. While her whole career was successful, I find the most beauty in her fashion photography work from the 1940’s, and I encourage those intrigued by these photos to investigate the greater body of her respected work.