Monday, August 18, 2014
I've always admired the work of photographer Lillian Bassman. The women depicted in her ethereal photographs seem to be inspired by Old Masters' paintings but with the forms of modern dancers. I especially enjoy her lingerie ads from the 1950's which evoke a gentle intimacy - a stark contrast to today's brash sexual ones. These days, it is rare to see lingerie images in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, except in the September issues which usually bring one or two. Still, they are flagrant and lack the tender femininity found in a photograph by Bassman, whose fascination rested in long flowing arms and graceful necks. And surprisingly, most of her photographs are of lone women.
Some portraits show these women in their boudoirs, dreamily slipping hosiery over willowy legs, delicately painting toenails, or simply gazing through blinds onto imaginary scenes below. The images are beautiful, yet haunting. Bright, yet dark. Often there is a moody light casting shadows through gossamer curtains which makes one ultimately wonder what the woman in the photograph is thinking, so alone is she.
Lillian Bassman created secret, feminine worlds where women took pleasure in their own company and lingered with their own thoughts. These are photographs of quiet solitude and luxurious privacy. And from this blusterous world, it seems like the height of bliss.