The introduction of American photographer John Rawlings to Vogue's visual team in 1936 was certainly one of Conde Nast's best strategic moves. At a time when opulence, pretentiousness, and theatrical lighting were prevalent in fashion photography - fueled by the European school led by the British Beaton, the German Horst, and the Russian Hoyningen-Huene - Nast and Vogue's editor in chief Edna Woolman Chase decided they needed a change of direction and placed their bets on a talented but unknown twenty-four-year Midwestener.
In two memos sent by Chase, one to her staff in 1937 and another to the photographers in 1938, she demanded more information and less art in Vogue pictures: "Several of the photographs for September fifteenth are nothing but black smudges," she wrote in the second. "Concentrate completely on showing the dress, light it for this purpose and if that can't be done with art then art be damned. Show the dress. This is an order straight from the boss's mouth and will you please have it typed and hung in the studio".
Фрагмент из книги Норберто Ангелетти, Альберто Олива "Vogue: иллюстрированная история самого известного в мире журнала мод"
Norberto Angeletti, Alberto Oliva. In Vogue: The Illustrated History of the World's Most Famous Fashion Magazine
The change of direction would take a few years, but the man to lead it, John Rawlings, would become one of the most prolific and important photographers of the twentieth century, with more than two hundred Vogue and Glamour covers to his credit.
His beginnings were unremarkable. Born in Ohio in 1912, John Rawlings attended the local Wesleyan University, and upon graduation in the early 1930s he relocated to New York, where he became a freelance store window dresser. After buying a Leica to photograph his work and show it to potential clients, Rawlings discovered that he enjoyed taking pictures and eventually started to photograph some of the aristocratic clients themselves, alone or with their dogs. A few of those shots found their way to the desk of Nast, who decided to offer Rawlings a job at the Vogue studios as prop builder, studio hand, and apprentice to the legendary masters Beaton and Horst. The young Midwestener was so dedicated and worked with such unbridled enthusiasm that four months later he not only was promoted to first assistant to the masters but also got his first photo published in the September 15 issue of Vogue. Impressed by his precocious talent and visual style, Nast and Chase rewarded him in 1937 with a job at the British Vogue studio in London, where he would train and work until the early 1940s.
Бессменный редактор Vogue на протяжении 37 (!) лет - с 1914 по 1951 - Эдна Вулман Чейз / Edna Woolman Chase
Although his early work for British Vogue showed the strong influence of Hoyningen-Huene and Horst, Rawlings would slowly depart from their style. "Rawlings was certaily th first major Conde Nast photographer to demonstrate a truly American eye... John Rawlings' photography has a practical, no nonsense feeling...he focused his lens on the vibrant world surrounding him," writes Charles Dare Scheips Jr., former director of the Conde Nasr Archives, in his introduction to Kohle Yohannan's book John Rawlings: 30 Years in Vogue. "Rawlings brought a realistic visual style, presenting fashion as a force rather than a decoration."
During his trainin in England, Rawlings had the opportunity to explore new photographic and lighting techniques without censorship from his masters. He went back to daylight, taking more descriptive and informative shots, incorporating the environment in the shoot, starting to experiment with mirrors, and combining natural and artificial lighting. "Enjoying an amount of autonomy he would never have been granted had he remained an assistant in New York, Rawlings produced such impressive work during his first months in London that, in a break from standing tradition, many of his British editorial pages found their way (with increasing regularity) in the international circulation of both French and American Vogue", writes Yohannan. Rawling's London trainin proved to be excellent preparation when he was called back to New York, which in the early 1940s was becoming the center of world culture. His return to Manhattan coincided with a cultural shift in which commercial photography was quickly catching up with art. Rawlings seized the moment to break with the artificial status-based formula of fashion photography inspired by Horst and to achieve a fresher, more American and lifestyle-driven look. " Once back on native soil as the American rising star," says Yohannan, "Rawlings began almost instinctively to realign himself with the markedly less-labored glamour of the American ideal of beauty, what Christian Dior had offhandedly termed 'Le Look sportif'."
The personal and independent path that Rawlings had created for himself led him to clash with the photographers of the time, who he said underestimated sunlight, did not crop enough, and always got themselves in the picture. Above all he criticized the ones who took themselves too seriously; without naming names, Cecil Beaton was surely on the list because, among his other eccentricities, he worked in the studio in his beret and cape, to proclaim his artistic and aristocratic standing. Like many of his colleagues, Rawlings had a list of favorite models. In the late 1930s and the early 1940s these included Dana Jenney, Helen Bennett, and Betty McLauchlen. Meg Mundy, whom he discovered by chance in a waiting room at the CBS studios, proved to be an all-time favorite, and he helped her greatly when she jumped from singer-model to Broadway actress.
A few months later Rawlings would start a new creative stage at Vogue when he became the first photographer to systematically associate fashion with Hollywood celebrities.
Mrs. Lawrence S. (Mary) Rockefeller, wearing a dark jacket with a striped scarf.
Actress Gene Tierney wearing bonnet by Punchinello.
Gene Tierney carries a suitcase as she walks on a city sidewalk photographed by John Rawlings,1946.
Gene Tierney, 1940s
Gene Tierney, March 11, 1946
August 15, 1942
Author of more than 200 covers for Vogue and Glamour, Rawlings showed fashion in a direct, informational way that combined beauty with clarity.
November 1, 1942
With his informative style, Rawlings was an acknowledged grounbreaker in fashion photography. For experts, he was the first American to show fashion in this way.
Anne Saint-Marie in Maximillian fur, November 15, 1957
Carmen Dell'Orefice, model and championship swimmer, demonstrating waterproof make-up. Face is framed with wet hair.
Jean Patchett among the flowers, 1950
Jean Patchett Auer models a golden brown open neck satin evening dress with multistrand rhinestone choker.
Actress Lauren Bacall wearing yellow bare-midriff suit with black halter from B.H. Wragge.1945
Byra Hemingway, wife of John Hemingway,1947
Actress Loretta Young in Brown Suit with Conical Hat and in white silk jersey bodice and black silk crepe skirt.
Actress Loretta Young wears a cashmere turban with silk flowers,1940.
Actress Paulette Goddard in Dressing Room
Greer Garson in black six-button trench coat.1943
Babe Paley wearing black rayon dinner dress with cap sleeves and draped neckline by Omar Kiam for Ben Reig.
Constantin Brancusi's Bird in Space, July 1944
Cover photo, January 1, 1946
A chic couple prepares for a dockside clambake, a breeze to pull off, thanks to the new accessories of the "portable age"—folding tables and chairs, freezer packs, plastic bags and aluminum foil—documented by John Rawlings for the August 1952 House & Garden. All this convenience, including frozen food, does not preclude the handmade touch, an embroidered Mexican cloth.
In a Mediterranean Mood
John Rawlings photographed a perfect midsummer moment complete with champagne and lobster for the August 1948 House & Garden. A painting of the Mediterranean coast and urns of geraniums provide the romantic backdrop.
Dressed for the Evening
Suzy Parker wears a strapless white chiffon dress, its Empire waist banded with rhinestones, paired with an emerald green cloak by Gunther Jaeckel. The marbled background so complements the dress that it's almost as if the model stepped out of a painting. John Rawlings's photograph appeared in the October 15, 1953, Vogue.
Suzy Parker in Givenchy
John Rawlings turns his attention to model Suzy Parker in this photograph, which appeared in the October 15, 1953, Vogue. She wears Givenchy's Chinese swinging lacquer-print full skirt, complete with a layered lace petticoat and quilted satin jacket. The marbled background beautifully complements her attire, and her deliberate pose gives this work a painterly feeling.
Suzy Parker 1954
Photographer John Rawlings captured model and photographer Suzy Parker in profile for this image, which appeared in the August 1954 Vogue. She wears a black off-the-shoulder dress, with a gem-laden brooch and a small knotted hat.
Suzy Parker and Dovima