Center for Creative Photography - University of Arizona

photo by John Hazeltine

Tucson, AZ



Louise Dahl-Wolfe: The American Image


The Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona and The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) open up their collections of work by Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895-1989), one of America's foremost fashion photographers, for the exhibition Louise Dahl-Wolfe: The American Image, on view from September 23 through November 26, 2000 at the Center for Creative Photography.

This rare full-scale retrospective features more than one hundred and thirty vintage and modern prints, tear sheets, and other memorabilia, such as letters, scrapbooks, and personal photographs. The exhibition is selected from CCP's Louise Dahl-Wolfe Archive of black-and-white photographs, correspondence, clippings and memorabilia created for Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and Sports Illustrated, with color proof sheets and related documentation of her fashion work from FIT's collection, and work from private lenders. On view exclusively in Tucson will be additional unique objects from CCP's Louise Dahl-Wolfe Archive including portraits of the artist and her journal and camera from her Europe and Africa trips. (left: Isamu Noguchi, New York, 1955, gelatin silver print, Louise Dahl-Wolfe Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona)

"This exhibition gives contemporary audiences the opportunity to experience the stunning career of Louise Dahl-Wolfe, a woman who brought a profoundly fresh and influential approach to American magazine photography," said Trudy Wilner Stack, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections at the Center for Creative Photography. " By reintegrating her color and black-and-white work, her fashion and portraiture, and documents that reveal her working process with the final spreads in Harper's, Louise Dahl-Wolfe: The American Image presents a full picture of this talent whose archive is among the Center for Creative photography's most researched and accessed collections."

Renowned as one of the world's leading fashion photographers from the 1930s to 1960, Louise Dahl-Wolfe received universal acclaim for her fashion and portrait photography. She produced eighty-six cover images and thousands more pictures for Harper's Bazaar magazine. Her elegant, beautifully composed photographs -- many shot on location, in natural light, and in color -- helped define a new American style that was wholesome yet sophisticated. In addition, her oeuvre included significant black-and-white portraits of such luminaries as Mae West, Cecil Beaten, Eudora Welty, and Josephine Baker -- which taken together evoke a glamorous and unforgettable era in post-war international life. (left: Bijou Barrington on Location at Frank Lloyd Wright's Tallesen West, Phoenix, Arizona, Harper's Bazaar, January, 1942, Tearsheet, Collection of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Gift of Louise Dahl-Wolfe)

Louise Dahl-Wolfe joined the staff of Harper's Bazaar in 1936. Working alongside the legendary art director, Alexey Brodovitch, and editor, Carmel Snow, they put the magazine in the vanguard for design and content. For the next two decades, Dahl-Wolfe evolved a signature style of "environmental" fashion photography. She was one of the first photographers to move beyond the dominant fashion aesthetic of studio props and lighting to photograph naturally posed models outdoors and on location in far-flung places, from South America to Africa. This style was also an ideal match for such pioneers of American sportswear as Bonnie Cashin, Tina Leser, Claire McCardell, and Pauline Trigére, since it was during this time that American designers began offering smart, relaxed, ready-to-wear fashions as an alternative to more elaborate French styles. Dahl-Wolfe's depiction of the easy but exotic American style perfectly captured the essence of the new American woman: spirited, sophisticated, and above all, independent.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe: The American Image is presented as part of the Center for Creative Photography's 25th Anniversary year, which runs through the end of 2001. During this celebration, CCP is presenting a dozen exhibitions, several publications, and many educational programs and special events, each accenting aspects of CCP's history, mission, collections and programs. Visitors can also make an appointment for a PrintViewing at CCP to view other photographs in the Louise Dahl-Wolfe Archive. In 1985, CCP acquired the Dahl-Wolfe Archive which now includes letters, scrapbooks, negatives, contact prints, and 443 photographs. Additionally, the Center for Creative Photography owns and administers the Dahl-Wolfe copyright, giving international access to her work through CCP's Rights and Reproductions department. (left: Edith Sitwell, 1961, ©1989, Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents)

Publication scheduled for release in September, 2000: Louise Dahl-Wolfe, A Retrospective, introduction by Dorothy Twining Globus; essays by Vicky Goldberg and Nan Richardson; interviews with Richard Avedon, Suzy Parker, Eileen Ford, Lillian Bassman, Mary Jane Russell, and Lauren Bacall. 196 pages with 140 illustrations, 100 in full color. Published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe: The American Image is organized by The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and is co-curated by Nan Richardson, former editor of Aperture, and Irving Solero, museum photographer at The Museum at FIT. It is sponsored by the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation, Inc. The exhibition premiered at The Museum at FIT in New York City where it is on view through August 12, 2000. (left: In Sarasota, 1947, ©1989, Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents)

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/4/11

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