Lillian Bassman


I had only head of Lillian Bassman recently from my mentor Ludwig Haskins, I had looked at her work and recognised it instantly. It was then only a few weeks later she passed away and I realised how well known she was within the photographic industry. Her images are primarily black and white and she used to use darkroom techniques and manipulation to achieve a unique effect to her images.

Her work appeared in Harper’s Bazaar from the 1940’s through to the 1960’s but whilst she photographed for the famous fashion magazine she also did a lot of commercial work for lingerie, food and beauty products. She always had an intimate relationship with her models, this I find very important, especially when photographing female models. You can relax the model a lot more when the relationship with the photographer is positive. This shows in Bassman’s work and I believe this is an important factor to remember when I am photographing with a female subject.

When the 1960’s fashion arrived Bassman was against various things such has stylists and the type of model that was used, so she gave up on fashion and destroyed her commercial negatives and dumped her editorial ones in a bin. For her own satisfaction she then photographed abstract subjects. A friend of Bassmans  then found the thrown away editorial negatives and brought them to life. She then printed the negatives she loved and the images were then admired by fashion editors.She then photographed the Paris collection for the New York Times in 1996 and then went onto photograph for Vogue until 2004. She has had many exhibitions in Europe and the U.S and has many books published on her subjects such as Lingerie and Women.

My attraction to her work is her dedication after such a long time of giving up on fashion as well as her relationship with her female models. Her images are always a delight to view and give me plenty of ideas and inspiration for my shoots. She died on February 13th 2012 at the age of 94 and I believe her work will still be admired in many more years to come.


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