Eve Arnold was born in 1912 in Philadelphia and she was one of nine children born to her Russian parents. She began photographing in 1946, whilst working in NYC, and then in 1948 went on to study at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan. The project that projected her into the world of photography began around this time, focusing on the fashion scene in Harlem, and following fashion shows here.
These images followed mainly black women in this fashion community, and saw fashion shows taking place in venues such as abandoned churches. Because of the time in which these photos were taken, American magazines refused to publish images of black models, so Arnold’s husband went ahead and sent her images to Britain – to the Picture Post. Although these images were published, the captions were changed and from then on Arnold said that her images were to portray everything she wanted to say.
The images from this project portrayed the models as doing something of which they enjoyed. One of the images shows a young girl in a dress, captioned that the girl had made this dress herself, which clearly was important to Arnold for her to mention it. There was clearly creativity in what Arnold was seeing, which is why this project has so much life and meaning within it.
Personally, I like these images because they are simple, behind the scenes style images. There is nothing posed or false about them, and they are not established “celebrity” models, they are young girls doing something they enjoy. I also like how Arnold hasn’t shied away, there is nudity, there is emotion, and they just present a different world to the world of modelling that I personally know of now. Looking at these images 60+ years after they were taken is particularly interesting, as modelling now is all about the model, all about the publicity behind this model, all about her dress size etc. whereas these images, as I’ve said before, are just a bit of fun. Perhaps these girls do want to go on to be professional models, and one image does show a professional (Charlotte Stribling), but they don’t promote the models, just show them in a new, natural light.
Arnold won many awards in her lifetime, such as the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award, National Book Award, Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Society of Magazine Photographers, USA and she also became a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, UK. Sadly, she passed away in 2012, at the age of 99.
– Sigmond, A. (2012) “Adamant Eve”, American Photo, Vol. 23, Issue 2, pages 52 – 63
– Dashkin, M. (2015) “Eve Arnold”, Library Journal, Vol. 140, Issue 15, pages 81 – 82