Vince Aletti on Lillian Bassman

The look that defined the stand-alone Junior Bazaar didn’t belong to any one photographer. It originated in the art department with the team of Lillian Bassman and Alexey Brodovitch, who immediately called in all the young photographers they knew. Avedon was at the top of a list that included Louis Faurer, Bassman’s husband Paul Himmel, and Robert Frank, although, Bassman notes sadly, »I don’t think he really understood us«. They also appealed to a few sympathetic regulars from Big Bazaar, including Leslie Gill, Toni Frissell, John Engstead, Ronny Jacques, Henle, Naylor, and Landshoff, the last of whom contributed some of Junior’s liveliest and most distinctive pages. Notably absent: Dahl-Wolfe, whose once vivid work Bassman thought had become »lifeless, soulless«. Dahl-Wolfe had tried to get Bassman fired on at least one occassion, so there was no love lost between the two women, for Lillian, keeping her nemesis out of Junior Bazaar was also a matter of principle: »I was very much against the kind of static, composed, beautiful things she was doing.«

An extract from Vince Aletti’s preface to Hall of Femmes: Lillian Bassman. Vince Aletti is the former art editor at the Village Voice. He now reviews photography exhibitions for the The New Yorker.

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