In next week’s issue of Amateur Photographer (June 24) we reveal how we recreate Edward Steichen’s unique 1920s portrait of Gloria Swanson in the studio. Here’s a sneak preview of our behind-the-scenes footage of this latest Classics Revisited shoot.
Steichen created this iconic portrait of Gloria Swanson in 1924. Captured at the end of the session after various costume changes, Steichen said in his autobiography A Life in Photography, “I took a piece of black lace veil and hung it in front of her face. She recognized the idea at once. Her eyes dilated, and her look was that of a leopardess lurking behind leafy shrubbery, watching her prey.” The image was published in the February 1928 issue of Vanity Fair.
Steichen was a key figure in 20th century photography. Born in Luxembourg in 1879, his family emigrated to America in 1881. At the age of 15, Steichen began working as an apprentice for a local lithographic firm in Milwaukee. In the 1890s he studied both painting and photography, which led him to develop his own fine-art style of photography. To emulate the emotion and aesthetic value of paintings in his photography, Steichen utilised his training as a painter and took a Pictorialist approach with his work.
In later years, Steichen moved to New York in 1923 and immersed himself into the world of commercial photography and became Chief Photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair. He ran a successful studio and was one of few photographers to successfully transition from the artistic movement of the Photo-Secession to the profitable industry of commercial photography. Over the next 15 years Steichen made his mark on fashion and portraiture photography by capturing dramatic and striking images of key figures such Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chapli, Eleanora Duse and J. Pierpont Morgan.
In 1947 after a successful career working for the Condé Nast fashion titles, Steichen went on to become the Director of MoMA’s Department of Photography, succeeding Beaumont Newhall. One of his most successful exhibitions he curated was the famous The Family of Man, a compilation of 503 photographs that toured throughout America and overseas.
To find out how we recreated this stunning portrait, get the June 24 issue on sale next week, Tuesday 20th June, 2017. If you miss it in the shops, click here to buy a copy online.