“Day and night I try, in my studio with its six two-thousand watt suns, balancing between the extremes of the impossible, to shake loose the real from the unreal, to give visions body, to penetrate into unknown transparencies.” – Erwin Blumenfeld
Erwin Blumenfeld (1897–1969) was a photographer and artist born in Germany. He was best known for his fashion photography published in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in the 1940s and 1950s.
In addition to fashion photography, he produced an extensive body of celebrity portraiture, fine-art photography (including black and white nudes), drawings, and Dada collages. He made photographs while a resident of Germany, the Netherlands, France, and the United States, and has been called “one of the most innovative and influential photographers of the 20th century.”
His more personal work was in black-and-white; his commercial work in fashion, much for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, was mostly in color. In both media he was a great innovator. The work drew on his extensive background in classical and modern painting. He was one of the few artists to do all of his printing, both color and black-and-white, in the darkroom himself. Among other techniques in his photography and darkroom work, he used mirrors, veils, double exposure, solarisation, and sandwich printing.
His Dada-style collages were “never meant for public airing… [and were] given away as gifts and sent as letters, mainly to his future wife.”The themes for his collages included anti-Semitism.
In 1921 Blumenfeld married Lena Citroen, the cousin of his friend Paul Citroen.They had three children: Lisette (later Lisette Blumenfeld Georges), Heinz (Henry), and Franck (Yorick).From 1936 until 1949 his daughter Lisette was regularly in the studio and in the darkroom with him. Furthermore, Lisette was the muse of his career; Blumenfeld photographed her more than any other model.
Blumenfeld had affairs with Kathleen Levy-Barnett, who married Henry, and with his assistant Marina Schinz. His relationship with Schinz began in 1961 when she was 19, and led to an estrangement with his wife without legal separation.
Blumenfeld died of a heart attack 4 July 1969 in Rome, Italy.He had not taken medication for his heart condition, and had been intentionally running up and down the Spanish Steps to cause a heart attack.
He left his estate, including thousands of prints, transparencies, and collages, to his three children and Schinz.His autobiography and his book « My One Hundred Best Photos » were published posthumously, in 1975 and 1979 respectively.[Although the “first major retrospective” of his art occurred only in 1996, his work is thought to have influenced many photographers (e.g., Irving Penn, William Klein, and Richard Avedon), and between 2004 and 2013 at least six books containing his work were published.
– The Man Who Shot Beautiful Women –
(15min clip) by Remy Blumenfeld