Once he was one of the highest paid photographers in the world. Fernand Fonssagrives (1910-2003) was linked to the early ‘Design Laboratory’ classes of Alexey Brodovitch, and was a key member of the close knit group of photographers now celebrated as The New York School. His most memorable work traces the unique partnership he had with his first wife, legendary model Lisa Fonssagrives, a former dancer who went on to marry Irving Penn. A major influence and inspiration to both men, Lisa was responsible for Fonssagrives picking up a camera – she gave him a Rolleiflex after his own dance career ended due to a diving injury.
Fernand and Lisa helped to define the natural, effortless beauty that has become the mainstay of fashion photography as we now know it. Lisa’s elegant dancers’ figure and enigmatic look were a constant inspiration to Fonssagrives whether he photographed her dancing in the open air, or experimentally draped in shadows to define the contours of her naked body. When World War II forced them to return to New York, they were catapulted into separate but highly successful careers.
Unfortunately, their careers diverged and the marriage ended in 1950; Lisa was the epitome of fashion, a form of photography Fonssagrives began to resent as too commercial, and which limited his creative freedom. After becoming disillusioned with advertising photography, he moved to Spain, taught himself to sculpt, and regained his creative independence. Lisa married Irving Penn, and her collaboration with him is an acknowledged landmark in the maturity of fashion photography. Fernand Fonssagrives died in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2003.
Photographs courtesy of YourDailyPhotograph.com