Fashion photographer Melvin Sokolsky has died

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A model in a 1960s orange dress hovers over New York City in a clear bubble of glamor at Harper's Bazaar by Melvin Sokolsky.

The model hovers over the city In New York, One of Sokolsky’s stunning “bubble” photos from the March 1963 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Melvin Sokolsky

Melvin Sokolsky is a photographer who brings the power of experimentation to his wonderful and rare self-made work Harper’s Bazaar And fashion images in 2010. He died in Beverly Hills, California on August 29, 1960. He was 88 years old.

Sokolsky’s death was announced on Instagram by David Fahey, founder of the gallery at Fahey/Kline in Los Angeles. No reason given.

In an age of cultural confusion, Sokolsky sought to uproot fashion photography from its more classist—and classist—roots. His stories were ambitious, otherworldly, and often technically and logistically complex, all in the days before digital technology simplified the process of capturing and manipulating images.

Perhaps the most famous of them is In March 1963, “Bubble” was the sequel. Bazaar, model Simone d’Ailencourt showed off floating in a space-age-y expressive orb, which began its journey in New York before perching above the Seine in Paris. The session becomes Sokolsky’s calling card at a time when various youth subcultures and social movements are challenging the European stereotypes that have long dominated old society circles and high fashion. Bazaar The magazine’s celebrated post-war golden age saw many notable creative forces under its editor-in-chief, Carmel Snow, also in a period of transition. fashion editor Diana Vireland; art director Alexey Brodovich; And not long ago, photographer Richard Avedon either retired or was on his way.

A model in a leopard print coat and matching hat, pencil skirt and kitten heels stands in front of the door, while photographer Melvin Sokolsky poses with his camera behind.

Model Carmen Del Orifice with Melvin Sokolsky (background) published by Harper’s BazaarNovember 1960 issue.

Melvin Sokolsky

In the year Born in New York in 1933 and raised on the Lower East Side, Sokolsky was self-taught and trained as a photographer. As a child he was always interested in art and experimented with his father’s camera. But from a young age, Sokolsky was driven to work to support his family after his father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while still in high school.

Sokolsky’s big break came in 1959, when Brodovich was succeeded by Bazaar, Henry Wolf, saw an advertisement in the magazine where Sokolsky was shot. Wolf called Sokolsky and offered him a job, which included testing a cover image. Sokolsky was scared, but then Vreeland’s assistant, Ali McGraw—after he showed up love story (1970) and with her future husband Steve McQueen The way of travel In the year Sokolsky didn’t get the cover, but soon became a regular contributor Bazaar.

In this 1965 fashion photo, a model wears an elegant evening gown and rises above a dinner party in a formal room.

SidekickA variant of the photo of Sokolsky Harper’s BazaarMarch 1965 issue.

Melvin Sokolsky

However, the Bubble series came at an inauspicious time for Sokolsky and the magazine. Wolf left in 1961, Vreeland moved to the next year Voguewhere she will soon be named Editor-in-Chief. In December 1962, Sokolsky was asked to shoot a story on the Paris sets, but Wolfe’s replacement Marvin Israel and BazaarEditor-in-chief Nancy White was both skeptical of his proposal: He wanted to photograph a model in a giant bubble hovering above the city.

However, Sokolsky based his idea on a 15th-century triptych inspired in part by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Garden of Earthly DelightsIt depicts the story of creation and includes miniature figures and animals in a floating transparent bubble-like sphere. Sokolsky remembers being fascinated by the painting as a teenager, imagining himself in one of them, enthusiastically roaming the city. He recalled seeing a department store window display where the shoes and bags were lined up in clear round plastic containers.

While White and Israel discussed the feasibility of the project, Sokolsky agreed to do some test shots. Two giant plexiglass hemispheres are made and connected by a metal ring that expands the perimeter of the bubble and is attached to a thin metal cable. He set up camp in Weehawken on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, rented a crane, and used D’Ailencourt to lift the foam into the air, photographing it against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

In late January 1963, Sokolsky headed to Paris with Deilencourt and McGraw. Bazaar Along for the ride with assistant, producer and editor to work for him in a mixed role. “Melvin asked me if I could skip my high school French to meet with the Paris police to get permission to spend the day and night to set up our crane,” McGraw recalled of last year’s shoot. “They had a lot of fun and let us shoot anywhere.”

A model in a checkered dress and a white head piece stands in a large bubble in front of a Paris bridge.

Foam on the SeineAlso from the “Bubble” footage; Harper’s Bazaar

Melvin Sokolsky

Suspended in midair in a plastic bubble, the elegantly dressed images of Dillencourt felt eerily futuristic—and completely different from the established fashion photography of the time. The women in his paintings were not creatures that filled living rooms, lush gardens, and surroundings that read immediately like opportunity. They were individuals with agency trying to navigate a changing world. As he later reported, D’Aillencourt’s character in the Bubble series was, in his mind, not trapped in the device but at his command. In the year He said in 2019 that he could “stealth fly anywhere like a Sokolsky plane on an engine built into the ring.” It was a woman who was in command of the spaceship.

Sokolsky’s bubble series became a blockbuster fashion story for the first time Bazaar In the post-Verryland period. It also marked the beginning of a prolific creative run for Sokolsky, whose images evoke multi-character and fairy-tale narratives but also realistic—and in some cases, hyper-real—environments.

In the year For the shoot that appeared in the November 1963 issue, Sokolsky again looked to art for inspiration. In 1952, Rene Magritte painted on a realistic scale personal values, showing the contents of the bedroom – a mirror, a comb, a match and a brush – large and leaning against the furniture; He shot a feature that involved models climbing and jumping off common chairs and other furniture. “My mother’s old kitchen chair is stored in the studio props—the simple kitchen chair I grew up sitting in,” he says. Bazaar In the year In 2021, “I asked the carpenter to raise it to 10 feet.

In this 1963 fashion photo, a model in a reclining and red coat sits in a ridiculously large white chair.

Big chair reclineinput photo difference Harper’s BazaarNovember 1963 issue.

Melvin Sokolsky

In the year In early 1965, Sokolsky returned to Paris for another story, this one with model Dorothea McGowan, flying around the city (sans bubbles). McGowan Sokolsky is again suspended by a self-made corset-laced contraption. “It’s not fun to see Dorothea hanging five stories above the street, hanging from a thin rope,” Sokolsky said. “To this day, I can still picture her flying above the city, hovering at the end of the cable and enjoying the experience.”

In the year In the early 1970s, Sokolsky moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. He began working as a commercial director and cinematographer, which would become his main focus for the next several decades. But a resurgence of interest in photography in the late 1990s prompted him to return to creating still images, which he has continued to experiment with and push boundaries in recent years. b BazaarIn the December 2014/January 2015 issue, he even broke the bubble for a cover story on Jennifer Aniston.

Sokolsky saw his appreciation for his work evolve, but continued to enjoy it all. It marked a departure from color from last year’s all-black-and-white chair story. In the image, model Irish Bianchi is seen in a red print coat leaning back on a giant chair, looking like she’s about to either fall forward or get out of her seat. Above all the pictures that appeared in the magazine, Sokolsky said – there were always galleries and museums in demand for exhibitions. “The art department thought the picture was very unusual,” he said Bazaar. “At the time, most of the print selections were high-end symbols by models,” he said. But times and preferences have changed. It will be a choice to come out with a new standard.

Sokolski is survived by his son Bing Sokolski and daughter-in-law Yuki Sokolski. He was preceded in death by his wife and longtime partner, Button Sokolsky.

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