Erwin Blumenfeld

German-American, 1897–1969

Blumenfeld was not only a photographer; he was an innovator and experimenter, mixing different techniques. His body of work includes beauty and fashion photographs, personalities, landscapes, advertising campaigns, as well as paintings, drawings and collages. He reached success as a fashion photographer while keeping an avant-garde and radical spirit tinged with humour, in the late 30’s in Paris and after barely escaping occupied France with his family in 1941, in New York, where he worked for Harper’s Bazaar, LIFE and American Vogue. His practice was highly influenced by Dadaism, Surrealism and German Expressionism.

Born in Berlin, Blumenfeld experimented and redefined freely the potential of photography with distortions, superimpositions, solarisations and photomontages. In the United States he experimented with colour photography using the same daring features as he had done with black-and-white. Examples include the Vogue cover of January 1st, 1950: The model’s face is reduced to one distinctively marked eye, a mouth and a beauty mark. This black-and-white composition was then colourised to become a strikingly graphic and iconic image.