When visiting a fashion forum, I came upon the name of Steven Meisel, who is mentioned in the same breath as boring and predictable as he supposedly repeats core concepts in his images over and over again. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll agree yet, I will reserve judgement on this subject.
Steven Meisel was born in America, in 1954 where his fascination for beauty and models started at a young age. Instead of playing with toys, Meisel would draw women, using magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as sources of inspiration. Meisel dreamt of women from the high society, who personified to his eyes the ideas of beauty and high society. Other icons were his mother and his sister. He studied at the High School of Art and Design and Parsons The New School for Design where he attended different courses but finally majored in fashion illustration.
One of Meisel’s first jobs was to work for fashion designer Halston as an illustrator whilst teaching illustration part-time at Parsons. He admired photographers like Jerry Schatzberg, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Bert Stern but never felt he could become a photographer himself. Later on, while working at Women’s Wear Daily as an illustrator, he went to Elite Model Management where two girls working there allowed him take pictures of some of their models. He would photograph them in his apartment in Gramercy Park or on the street. Some of these models took their pictures to Seventeen magazine to show their model books and the people at Seventeen subsequently called Meisel and asked if he wanted to work with them.
Meisel has shot campaigns for Versace, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Prada and Louis Vuitton. He is a close friend of designer Anna Sui for whom he also shot several campaigns and works closely with digital artist Pascal Dangin. As one of the most powerful photographers in the fashion industry, Meisel is credited with “discovering” or promoting the careers of many successful models, including top models Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Kristen McMenamy, Amber Valletta, Iris Strubegger, Lara Stone, Coco Rocha, Caroline Trentini, Liya Kebede, Karen Elson, Doutzen Kroes, and Raquel Zimmerman. Meisel has been a protégé of both Franca Sozzani and Anna Wintour, editors-in-chief of Italian and American Vogue, respectively. For the former, he photographs the cover of every issue, something generally unheard of in the ever changing fashion industry.
Meisel often creates layouts which are controversial, by juxtaposing fashion and politics and/or social standards. For example, in the September 2006 issue of Vogue Italia, Meisel played with the concept of restricted liberties post-September 11 America, with the models portraying terrorists and highly trained policemen. It caused a stir in the press, as the models were presented in violent compositions where they could be seen as being victimized. It also elicited a negative response from feminists which saw the role of the women as being undermined by their male counterparts.
Meisel has contributed photos for the covers of several popular albums and singles, including work by Madonna and Mariah Carey.
He currently works for many different fashion magazines, including US and Italian Vogue, in which he has photographed every cover for two decades. His studio is located in New York City at 64 Wooster Street but he often rents the studios at Pier59 in New York and Smashbox Studios in Los Angeles.
It seems that Steven Meisel uses a wide arrange of camera’s including large format, medium format, 35mm, film and digital. His images are carefully composed before the lighting is set-up by him and his team. The images are taken and then put through post-production.
My favourite images: