Leslie Ann Jones
I've often not understood why credit has not been given to the models in photographs. While working in New York as a fashion photographer, casting the models was an integral part to the success of the photograph. It was their magical ingredient that spelled the success of the contents in the photographer's camera frame.
While having the privilege of assisting Irving Penn during his assignments from Vogue magazine, I observed that he gave no instruction or gave no indication of what was working or what was not working while the model was in front of the camera. The model's instinctual talents, through experience, allowed her to perform her best in front of the camera. The models in most cases were booked by the editors at Vogue, who were constantly on the lookout for new faces. The model's chance to perform in front of Penn's camera was not easily won. Usually it was her portfolio of photographs that revealed her talents, that of invention and fresh moves in front of the lens.
My first job as a photographer's assistant was with the very talented commercial fashion photographer Ray Kellman. He worked 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. religiously five days a week and then was on the road to his family and home in Oyster Bay. Ray was very much in demand and would have two and three clients a day. His studio manager and darkroom technician, Irving Frankel, booked the models. Not only did he charm the bookers but cried and wept to get the top girls for Ray. "You got to do this favor for me," he would say to the bookers. Our time frame is 1959 and the beginning of the golden age of the super model such as Dovima, Suzy Parker and Sunny Harnett. You can see all three in the opening titles of the 1967 classic film, Funny Face. To name a few other models of many in the time frame, there was Jean Patchet, Evelyn Tripp, Iris Bianchi, Ann Saint Marie, Delores Hawkins, and the enduring legendary, Carmen. I got to see them all work in front of Ray's camera.
In those days the models created their own look. It was their signature. They had little trust in a make-up man for fear they would lose their identity. They did their own make-up and hair. You could actually book them for one or two hours instead of today's standard day rate only. To watch them in front of the camera was pure magic. Things rapidly changed by the time I entered the business as a fashion photographer. Hair and make-up people became standard on assignments. They became sought after as well as the models, all earning their reputations in their own right.
In later years when I started my own studio as a fashion photographer, it was essential that I work with the top girls. I often gave instruction to the model on the type of movements in front of the camera I wanted, but it was the pure talent of the model in front of the lens that gave her own interpretation of the movements, plus a little more, that won the day. If I can remember their names, I will always give the models credit in my work. They were the essential ingredient to the success of the fashion photograph.
Transformation of Model Kim Alexis: National Revlon Cosmetics Ad 1981
© Copyright—Neal Barr