Around this time of year, I find myself settling into the mundane cycle of school life. School has been in session for months already, Christmas break rife with relaxation and twinkling lights is almost here, and the weight of impending exams and papers has significantly increased. As a result, my sense of fashion has also fallen into a rut. I’ve found myself settling into a daily pattern: boots, jeans, sweater, and scarf. It’s not that I don’t have time to think about an outfit—I just feel uninspired. So in the hope of curing an enduring sense of ennui, I looked to fashion idols, photographs, and the people around me. After searching for a source of inspiration, I found mine in a series of photographs by Lillian Bassman.
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Bassman died earlier this year at the age of 94, and for most of her life, she was known as a master of fine-art photography. Bassman was a true New York woman: she was born in Brooklyn, grew up in the Bronx, and studied in Manhattan. Her life changed when she became an unpaid apprentice at Harper’s Bazaar in 1941, as she would go on to become one of the magazine’s top photographers. A true artist, Bassman experimented with lighting, contrast, and the willowy forms of her models to create beautiful, dreamy portraits of women who seem almost abstracted.
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Bassman, however, was known most famously, or infamously, for destroying almost all of her commercial negatives in 1969 after becoming disgusted by the models and changing aesthetics of the fashion industry. Later in life, Bassman would re-interpret her remaining negatives with further experimentation and revisit what made her so popular in the first place.
Despite the vicissitudes of her career, I have felt the power of her photography. Many of the images are simply breathtaking, and looking at them is like stumbling upon a hazy dream of remarkable fashion and remarkable women. Hopefully, these photographs can serve to inspire anyone who is currently suffering from this listless sense of ennui.