Louise Dahl-Wolfe

"I believe that the camera is a medium of light, that one actually paints with light. In using the spotlights with reflecting lights, I could control the quality of the forms revealed to build a composition...One can work with taste and emotion and create an exciting arrangement of significant form, a meaningful photograph."

— Louise Dahl-Wolfe, 1984

Night Bathing, 1939 

Another common reoccurring feature that Louise Dahl-Wolfe presents in her photos is her contrasts between light and dark. In the majority of her photos she takes the item of clothing first and foremost into consideration. Depending on the shade of the clothing, she chose a background with the opposite shade. In doing this, it allowed Louise to ensure that the article of clothing was the main focus of the photograph. Afterall, she was a fashion photographer.

The photo to the right of Mary Jane Russell on leopard sofa is a perfect example of this. The dress the model is wearing appears to be black, therefore, Louise chose to pick a background that was not just a solid white, but one that would not fully take away all the attention away from the gown. This photograph shows how Louise could make an otherwise boring outfit alone and make it look feisty and yet chic. 

SHADOWS                                                                                                         Shadows create fascinating pictures on their own, and they also are beautiful when paired with their parent object. The contrast between the image and its shadow makes an amazing photograph. Louise liked using shadows in her photographs because they created depth and added a weight to the focal point of the picture that drew your eyes towards it.

Louise's photograph of Mary Jane Russell in Dior dress is a great example of this technique. The shadow in this photo adds weight to the left side of the composition, which pulls your eyes to that direction. Thus, resulting in the viewer to take in the beauty of the utmost important feature; the fashionable clothing. Which nevertheless, was what Louise Dahl-Wolfe was trying to accomplish.

Mary Jane Russell is one of the more prominent models that Louise Dahl-Wolfe used in her photographs. A lot of time was spent together and they became fond of each other.

"One was never selfish with Louise. There was an extraordinary, immediate communication of her conscientiousness, her seriousness. She was wicked, challenging, exasperating, and heavenly. It was a rare, rare, extraordinary experience. She was the most beautiful person in my working life."

                                                                                          -Mary Jane Russell

California Desert, 1948 


Text References:

Dahl-Wolfe, L. (1984). A Photographer's scrapbook. New York:  
       St. Martin's/Marek.

Usually when looking at a photo we notice the objects that are in the foreground of the picture first, then move on to what is in the rest of the picture. In the photograph to the left, Louise has used the effects of lighting to highlight the woman in the background. This effect captures our attention and demands our eyes to focus on this figure.

Another aspect that Louise tended to use in her photographs was the use of reflection. In the case of the photograph Night Bathing (to the left), Louise has used the reflection of the woman's leg in the pool to tie together the woman in the background with the statuesque figure in the front. By doing this, she creates a mirror effect that forces the looker to view the picture as a whole. By making a connection between these two figures, Louise points out that the same beauty and elegance of a statue can be seen in a woman's body. 

Mary Jane Russell on leopard sofa, 1951

Mary Jane Russell in Dior dress, 1950 

In her autobiography, A Photographer's Scrapbook, Louise mentioned that she "stole the chance to portray nudes wherever I could". Seeing photographs of nudes is how Louise became so interested in photography in the first place. She also enjoyed her courses at the San Fransisco Institute of Arts on nudes very much.

"I was bowled over by my first look at Brigman's slides, her nudes taken in ice caves in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and in cypress trees on Point Lobos. I was overwhelmed by the possibilities of the camera."
                                                                                    -Louise Dahl-Wolfe

The photograph to the left (California Desert) was actually supposed to be a shoot done for swimming suits, but with much excitement, Louise got her to pose nude for her.

Louise also had a fascination for the woman's body, which made her career at Harper's Bazaar perfect, because most of the fashion revolved around women. Therefore she got to photograph them in any way she liked in ways that accented their beauty even further.


Image References: 

[California Desert] Dahl-Wolfe, Louise. (2005-2009). Louise dahl-wolfe. Retrieved from http://collections.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=browse&f=maker&s=Dahl-Wolfe%2C+Louise&record=30

[Mary Jane Russell in Dior Dress] Dahl-Wolfe, Louise. (2005-2009). Louise dahl-wolfe. Retrieved from http://collections.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=browse&f=maker&s=Dahl-Wolfe%2C+Louise&record=20

[Mary Jane Russell on leopard sofa] Dahl-Wolfe, Louise. (2005-2009). Louise dahl-wolfe. Retrieved from http://collections.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=browse&f=maker&s=Dahl-Wolfe%2C+Louise&record=19

[Night Bathing] Dahl-Wolfe, Louise. (2005-2009). Louise dahl-wolfe.              Retrieved from http://collections.mocp.org/detail.php?t=objects&type=browse&f=maker&s=Dahl-Wolfe%2C+Louise&record=28

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