Camen, New York, Harper's Bazaar, 1963/1994
silver gelatin print
12 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches on 14 x 11-inch paper
Signed Edition of 40
(United States, b. 1917)
Lillian Bassman is a self-taught photographer who began her education in the darkroom. Later in her career, selective toning and bleaching and other darkroom manipulations would give her photographs their impressionistic feel. After decades of struggling to fit her artistic choices with commercial demands, she closed her commercial studio in the 1970s and jettisoned her negatives. During repairs to her darkroom in 1991, however, she discovered more than 100 batches of negatives from the 1940s and 1950s. It was a small portion of the lost archive and many of the remaining negatives had been damaged in the interim, but the cache included negatives from some of the more important sittings and Bassman began to reinterpret them. The long-necked model, the foregrounding of the upper half of the body (and of the arms in particular), and the moody elegance of "Carmen, Harper's Bazaar, New York, c. 1963" is characteristic of Bassman's fashion work. The resemblance to fine charcoal sketches or paintings in black ink created through toning and bleaching is characteristic of her reinterpretations.