When researching for a little background story to accompany my sketch which is taken from a 1949 photo by Sir Cecil Beaton, I found Beaton himself being interviewed that the BBC had aired in 1962. Because Beaton had not just “one vocation” – his photography, theatrical stage design, and writing, to name a few – he was asked “Does photography keep going all the time?” In answer Beaton says, “No, uh… I don’t want to get stale at it. … I want to try to remain an amateur at it in order that I have the amateur’s freshness and spontaneity.”
I feel rather aligned with that belief a great deal of the time. Yes, there are times when I yearn for a level of decisiveness in mastering a medium; but would it also feel painfully repetitive?
Evelyn Tripp by Cecil Beaton 1949 9″ x 12″, Graphite and Colored Pencils
After viewing the BBC interview, I continued on this YouTube track by watching a film entitled “Beaton by Bailey”. In this, photography legend David Bailey more or less profiles Cecil Beaton in documented snippets. Some of these, lovingly. But then some, a bit tarnished. What I had taken away from the contrast is that Beaton’s works were better with seasoned muses. For Vogue, he had captured Evelyn Tripp – who does not at all fade amidst numerous Matisse cut-outs added to the set.
From the archives of Harper’s Bazaar, I was very touched by a 1948 picture that had been taken by Louise Dahl-Wolfe. As we are all now vulnerable, the way in which this [uncredited] model held a handkerchief in front of a porch beam gave me some sense of empathy and reassurance. In my own illustration and more than anything else, I tried to bring out what I sensed – rather than what is seen in the original.
Geranium Porch 2020 8″ x 11.5″, Mix Media
Photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe [b. 1895, d. 1989] is credited with influencing a number of the most coveted fashion photographers of the Mid-century era. Dahl-Wolfe did so by using naturalized settings and the advancement in producing full color images during the Forties and Fifties for fashion shoots in her role as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar.
Despite having her work exhibited in galleries and museums, Louise Dahl-Wolfe – according to a quote I found online at Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago – was not of the opinion that photography could be considered Fine Art.