For the first time since his death, an exhibition of fashion photographs from the 1960s and 1970s by the trailblazing photographer Gösta (Gus) Peterson is presented by presented by Deborah Bell Photographs.
Peterson (1923-2017) was one of the most innovative and progressive fashion photographers of the 20th century, known for breaking barriers and challenging conventional approaches to fashion photography of the time. His playful, graphically rigorous compositions were widely published in the editorial pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Mademoiselle, The New York Times, Elle, Marie-Claire, and British Harper’s Bazaar, among many other major periodicals. He approached high fashion with irreverence and an unconventional sense of humor while photographing clothes by the most influential designers of the late 20th century, including Pierre Cardin, Comme des Garçons, Fendi, Rudi Gernreich, Halston, Ralph Lauren, Pucci, Sonia Rykiel, and Yves Saint Laurent.
Peterson launched the careers of several famous Black models, including Naomi Sims and Barbara Summers. His photograph of Naomi Sims on the cover of the August 27, 1967 Fashions of the Times, the Sunday supplement to The New York Times, made fashion history for being the first cover of a major fashion magazine with mixed-race readership to feature an identifiably Black model. And Peterson photographed Twiggy for her first modeling assignment in New York, the pictures appearing in The New York Times Magazine of April 16, 1967.
With few exceptions, Peterson insisted on shooting real people with quirks and personality in place of trained fashion models, rejecting assignments from editors at Vogue who would not grant him that freedom. Peterson admitted to Harrison, “I was famous — or notorious — for finding girls who didn’t look like fashion models.”
Peterson thrived in the atmosphere of freedom prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s, when photographers and art directors were far more experimental. Roger Schoening, Art Director for Mademoiselle from 1961-1978, and for Vogue from 1979-1988, remarked, “I never send Gus out on a job that I don’t wonder what he’s going to come back with. Is he going to give me fashion pictures or a W.P.A. portfolio?…I can never get a simple fashion picture from him. It always looks like it belongs in an art gallery. There’s something – just little details, gestures, looks — that creep in and divert you from the clothes.” Bea Feitler, the former Art Director for Harper’s Bazaar, Ms., and Rolling Stone declared in the 1960s, “The most interesting fashion pages now – the ones that say the most about our times are Gösta Peterson’s for Mademoiselle.”
Gösta Peterson : Photographs 1960s-1970s
from April 13 through June 29, 2023
Deborah Bell Photographs
526 West 26th Street, Room 411
New York, NY 10001