Press release | 20 December 2018
The German fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969) is one of the most celebrated and best-paid fashion photographers of his time. He was mostly known for his oeuvre in black and white, but the exhibition in Foam focuses on the color photography he made in his period in New York (1941-1960) which brought him worldwide recognition. The unique style of self-taught Blumenfeld has been a major influence on fashion photography in magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. Foam displays some eighty color prints, a number of vintages from his periods in Amsterdam and Paris in black and white, original magazines and some of his experimental fashion films.
Erwin Blumenfeld was born in Germany. In 1918 he moved, then a painter and enthusiastic photographer, to the Netherlands to marry the Dutch Lena Citroen, the niece of his good friend and artist Paul Citroen. In Amsterdam he opens Fox Leather Goods, a leather goods store on one of the main shopping streets in the city center. When he discovers a dark room in the shop, he turns back to photography and starts experimenting. He exhibits the portraits he shoots in the window of his shop. The photos quickly become more popular than his leather goods. In 1936 his business goes bankrupt and he decides to venture to in Paris, the city of fashion and arts. In the first years of his career in fashion photography in Paris, he only works in black and white. The female nude is his favorite subject, as for many photographers at the time. The female body forms the core of his experiments with photographic techniques such as double exposure, distortion, solarization and chemical effects. But from the moment color photography is possible, he transforms his original compositions in black and white into color. With a kaleidoscopic oeuvre as a result.
THE NEW YORK PERIOD
In 1941 Blumenfeld fled the occupation in France with his family. The move also leads to a transition from the black and white photographs he made in Paris to an oeuvre in color. Arriving in New York, he immediately starts working for Harper's Bazaar, after which he would work with Vogue for a long time from 1944 onwards. His unique aesthetic of forms and colors that he created after his arrival in New York makes him one of the most original fashion photographers of his time. Despite the frivolity of fashion, he distinguishes himself by the surreal way he depicts the hidden nature of his subjects; the goal of his quest is not realism, but the mystery of reality. He understood that it was not about showing beautiful clothes, but about creating iconic images. He described his practice as 'smuggling art' into the territory of fashion. In addition to the experimental photographic techniques that he applied, he was also one of the first to think beyond the frame of the photo and make fashion films. His work became known worldwide, partly because of the many innovative covers he shot, of unprecedented graphical quality, in which his photographs were shown to their full potential.
The works of Erwin Blumenfeld can be seen from 15 February - 14 April 2019 at Foam. Open daily 10am - 6pm, Thurs/Fri 10am - 9pm.
Foam is supported by the BankGiro Loterij, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Foam Members, Gemeente Amsterdam, Olympus, and the VandenEnde Foundation.
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