PRINT Summer 1985


Louise Dahl-Wolfe: A Photographer’s Scrapbook

Louise Dahl-Wolfe: A Photographer’s Scrapbook.

By Louise Dahl-Wolfe, NewYork: St.Martin’s Press, 1984, 145 pages, over 200 black and white illustrations.

If you love the fashion work of Louise Dahl-Wolfe, her own A Photographer’s Scrapbook is not the best place to find it. The book intends primarily to present a fuller view of her interests in life and in photography. For this it is a good resource, but the best part is her wry look at the behind-the-scenes of the great, glamorous world of fashion. Dahl-Wolfe is discreet, generous, and concise in her text. She lets the photographs do most of the talking.

The picture that emerges is of a confident but extremely modest (by 1985 standards, anyway) woman as serious and unpretentious in her life as in her work, who shows tremendous good humor, especially about herself. A delightful example of this is a funny on-shoot picture of Dahl-Wolfe in 1946 photographing a model dressed in Dior’s “New Look” in front of the Louvre—while she herself is wearing virtually the same suit, only with camera and sensible shoes as well.

This down-to-earth involvement with fashion seems to have been behind the success of her great work, which she did primarily for Harper’s Bazaar between 1936 and 1958. Rather than trying to create a fantasy of glamor, sex, wealth, or other high-falutin’ fashion play, Dahl-Wolfe took fairly straight, well-groomed shots of models posed against strongly graphic sets or in structurally dramatic locations, and produced a direct, formal art.

The book includes a brief statement of the author’s attitude toward photography as art, as well as advice about how to train to make good photographs, fashion or otherwise.

Judith Shea