Iconic fashion photographer Lillian Bassman passed away this week at 94. A pioneer in her field, her graphic, expressive, black and white images have been cited as inspiration by countless creative luminaries, from John Galliano drawing on her “painterly strokes of light” to W’s Fashion and Style Director Edward Enninful’s recent “From Jazz Age to Space Age” shoot in W’s January issue. And during her almost 20-year career at Harper’s Bazaar and Junior Bazaar, she is also credited with forwarding the careers of Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, and Louis Faurer.
In the 1970s, she became increasingly disillusioned with the fashion photography industry and famously destroyed 40 years worth of negatives and prints, instead turning to more artistic works. Though fortunately more than 20 years later, some remaining photos were discovered which rekindled her interest in the field. She continued to work until her death, even embracing digital photography and editing. As she told WWD, “Everybody’s fascinated with the idea of someone who is productive at my age. But I don’t know where or how or who I would be if I weren’t working. Plus, I’m convinced I’m really 25.”
Here, W takes a peek into her epic career.