From February 15 till April 14 2019, the Foam photography Museum in Amsterdam is hosting Erwin Blumenfeld in Color – His New York Years, a fantastic exhibition that you must go see if you have the chance. The exhibition will interest fashion-lovers and photographers in particular. The German fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969) is one of the most celebrated and best paid fashion photographers of his time. He is most renowned for his black and white work. However, the exhibition in Foam Amsterdam concentrates on his color photography which he developed during his years in New York in 1941-1960. It were these works that made him renowned across the globe. His unique style influenced fashion photography in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Foam exhibits approx. eighty color prints, a few black and white vintage productions from his time in Paris and Amsterdam, and multiple original magazine spreads and covers.
The early years
His early work of fashion photography in Paris is the first you will see when entering the exhibition. It’s only in black and white and female nudity is his favourite subject. The female body and its shapes and forms are the focus of his photos. He experiments with light, different techniques, blurring, solarisation, chemical effects and deformation.
Transition from black and white to color
In 1941 Blumenfeld flees the war in Europe and settles in New York. This was also his transition from black and white to color photography. He starts to work for Harper’s Bazaar followed by Vogue in 1944 and many more magazines like Life, Cosmopolitan, Caleidoscope and Picture Post. He produced more than 100 magazine covers. His unique aesthetic of forms and colors makes him so original at the time. His style is surrealistic as he unveils the hidden nature of things. He understood that it wasn’t just about photographing fashion, but about creating iconic images. He described his work as ‘the smuggling of art’ into fashion. He created innovative cover photos with groundbreaking graphic quality as you will see at the exhibition.
In 1955 he evolves towards advertising and works for Elisabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and L’Oréal among others.
Modern color prints
Blumenfeld’s studio archives contain two types of color photographs: his original slides and vintage publication materials such as magazine covers, advertisements and fashion shoot pages. Due to deterioration of his slides because of time, climate and physical treatment, the original colors had to be reconstructed with digital techniques.
The modern color prints in the exhibition, produced on the basis of the original slides in his archives, show his images in their purest form. They are without intervention of art directors or illustrators. Blumenfeld detested it when art directors would resize or manipulate his photos for magazines. He would like to control everything from make-up to lighting and color, including artistic design. Nevertheless, Blumenfeld’s close relationship with Vogue’s art director Alexander Liberman resulted in innovative covers which absolutely did justice to Blumenfeld’s work.
More information: https://www.foam.org/
Foam photography Museum – Keizersgracht 609, Amsterdam