Text: Kris Desipri
One of the most successful photographers in the fashion industry, Steven Meisel has distinguished himself by the sheer eclecticism of his work. “He is an absolute chameleon,” Charlotte Cotton, the photography curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has said. “It’s a remarkably risky position to take. It’s like starting from scratch every time you go on a shoot, because it’s based on whatever influences you’ve cherry-picked from the culture at that moment”.
Because of his creative parents, his fascination with glamour started at an early age. Escaping into the glossy pages of his mother’s fashion magazines, he dreamt to be part of the world illustrated in Richard Avedon’s photographs. When Meisel was about twelve, his cousin took him on a shoot with fashion photographer Melvin Sokolsky. Meisel recognized the models, “I was obsessed even then,” he later said.
By the early eighties, Meisel felt it was time to move on. He bought a camera. One of his first assignment at Seventeen and his career as a photographer was launched. His first muse was no other than his youner sister, Robin.
As the years pasted by his first assignment for Vogue came after he met the Conde Nast editorial director Alexander Liberman, who sent him to Europe to photograph the collections. It was on the streets of Paris, as a photographer without a crew and with only one model, that he began to develop what would become a unique collaborative relationship with his subjects.
Meisel’s influence has reached beyond fashion into the pop realm. An early example of his many projects with Madonna was the cover for her album Like a Virgin in 1984.
Anna Wintour recalled his auspicious beginnings in the industry, then noted, “What distinguished his work then remains true to this day: his unmatched ability to pick the right girl and mold her into a great mode, his intuitive and learned sense of fashion and his love of picture-making and the history of photography. He’s just sensational and has been from day one”.
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