Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Toni Frissell

click to embiggen
I've been thinking a lot about Toni Frissell this week, since I have one of her stunning underwater fashion shots as my Facebook banner. She's remembered today, principally for her high-fashion photography for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, but she also volunteered her photographic services to the American Red Cross, Women's Army Corps, and Eighth Army Air Force during WWII. On their behalf, she produced thousands of images of nurses, front-line soldiers, WACs, African-American airmen, and orphaned children.

Frissell's leap from fashion photography into war reportage echoed the desires of earlier generations of newswomen to move from "soft news" of fashion and society pages into the "hard news" of the front page. On volunteering for the American Red Cross in 1941, Frissell said: "I became so frustrated with fashions that I wanted to prove to myself that I could do a real reporting job." 

Frissell's work usually involved creating images to support the publicity objectives of her subjects. Her photographs of WACs in training and under review by President Franklin Roosevelt fit into a media campaign devised to counter negative public perception of women in uniform. Likewise, Frissell's images of the African American fighter pilots of the elite 332nd Fighter Group were intended to encourage positive public attitudes about the fitness of blacks to handle demanding military jobs.

Here are faces that I have found memorable. If they are not all as happy as kings, it is because in this imperfect world and these hazardous times, the camera's eye, like the eye of a child, often sees true.   ―Toni Frissell

source: The Library of Congress


  1. http://www.shorpy.com/node/786?size=_original

    This is one of my favorites.

  2. Amongst my quite extensive group of professional photographer friends, I think the best (by far) are women.

  3. Not sure about the similarity between the camera eye and the eye of a child, but the rest is fascinating.

  4. Thank you for yet another illuminating lesson. I was totally unaware of this photography and really appreciate the prompt to find out more!

  5. Goneferalin yes mine too...that's the one I have on Facebook...a fabulous image...

  6. Thanks for bringing Frissell to light. I was always fascinated with her way of approaching life :)

  7. Underwater shot made me think "Ophelia".

  8. VERY interesting! The underwater photo is amazing. Now I'm off to check this lady out...

  9. I have been researching Toni Frissell's life for the past two years, having been inspired by her photographs to learn more about her. Her pioneering and adventurous spirit led her, among other things, to take the only professional photographs of the Tuskegee Airmen during WWIi, and the first shot of a bikini-clad woman in an American magazine, and to become the first woman photographer at Sports Illustrated!
    I'm happy to see that others also find her fascinating!


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)