Entertainment

Famous society photographer Slim Aarons releases new book iconic images taken jet set aristocrats


Around the middle of the twentieth century, princes, polo players, political scions, movie stars, and indolent heirs hopscotched around places like Marbella, Palm Beach, and the Amalfi Coast. 

Always there to capture their globe trotting antics was the legendary society photographer, Slim Aarons. His lush color saturated photographs of the haute monde lounging, lunching, gossiping and drinking in palatial splendor have become a source for present-day style icons. 

‘I didn’t do fashion,’ he once said. ‘I did the people in their clothes that became the fashion.’ Now, a new photobook titled, Slim Aarons: Styleshowcases a collection of the late photographer’s most iconic images of the fashionable elite.  

It features the legendary photo of Joan Collins laying in bed in a silky negligee while clutching her pink poodle, the shot of Jackie Kennedy looking dewy in a satin evening dress, and the picture of Princess Margaret and Peter Sellers aboard the Aga Khan’s yacht in Sardinia. There is also C.Z. Guest, the society doyenne, standing in front of the Olympic-sized pool at her Palm Beach estate. Flip the page and there’s the grand-dame Babe Paley, wistfully lolling about her cottage in Jamaica. 

These are the exalted precincts of Comtesse Jacqueline de Ribes by way of Mick Jagger – both, also pictured in the book.

The volume, published by Abrams Books, focuses on the evolution of style, spanning fifty years between the 1940s and 1990s. With over 200 images, Slim Aarons: Style doesn’t just chronicle what café society wore, but how they lived in ‘unapologetic self-indulgence.’ As interior designer Jonathan Adler, writes in his foreword: ‘Slim Aarons’ glamorous jet-set snaps were the big bang of FOMO that made Instagram possible.’

Slim Aarons was a society photographer who chronicled the fashionable jet set crowd between the 1940s- 90s. The Irish film producer Kevin McClory (above) cruises Nassau Harbor with his family in 1967. The amphibious car was an abandoned prop from the McClory-produced James Bond film, Thunderball 

Slim Aarons' midcentury subjects tended to be the moneyed set of Hollywood, Acapulco, Palm Beach and Palm Springs. Party-goers above mingle poolside at Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House in Palm Springs. The famous backyard was immortalized in a series of photos taken by Slim Aarons, and epitomizes midcentury glamour in 1970. Now the iconic house is currently on the market for $17million

Slim Aarons’ midcentury subjects tended to be the moneyed set of Hollywood, Acapulco, Palm Beach and Palm Springs. Party-goers above mingle poolside at Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House in Palm Springs. The famous backyard was immortalized in a series of photos taken by Slim Aarons, and epitomizes midcentury glamour in 1970. Now the iconic house is currently on the market for $17million  

Jim Kimberly (far left, in orange), known as a 'three-car, three-yacht sportsman' and heir to the Kimberly Clarke Company’s Kleenex fortune, talks with friends on the shores of Palm Beach in 1968. Slim called Palm Beach, 'the gathering place for families of fashion and fortune,' where 'the party is the principal indoor and outdoor sport'

Jim Kimberly (far left, in orange), known as a ‘three-car, three-yacht sportsman’ and heir to the Kimberly Clarke Company’s Kleenex fortune, talks with friends on the shores of Palm Beach in 1968. Slim called Palm Beach, ‘the gathering place for families of fashion and fortune,’ where ‘the party is the principal indoor and outdoor sport’

Aarons set off for Hollywood after WWII to photograph movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner and Audrey Hepburn while freelancing for Life magazine. Alfred Hitchcock was so taken with Aarons that he modeled Jimmy Stewart's character in Rear Window after him. In his famous 'Kings of Hollywood' portrait—Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart enjoy a joke at Slim’s expense during a New Year’s party in 1957 at Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills. The Smithsonian once described the photograph as 'a Mount Rushmore of stardom'

Aarons set off for Hollywood after WWII to photograph movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner and Audrey Hepburn while freelancing for Life magazine. Alfred Hitchcock was so taken with Aarons that he modeled Jimmy Stewart’s character in Rear Window after him. In his famous ‘Kings of Hollywood’ portrait—Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart enjoy a joke at Slim’s expense during a New Year’s party in 1957 at Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills. The Smithsonian once described the photograph as ‘a Mount Rushmore of stardom’

Though Slim Aarons became famous for capturing the rich at play, the reality of his childhood was a far cry from the glamourous lives of his subjects. Like all great American legends, George ‘Slim’ Aarons was his own magnificent invention.

It began with a fabricated origin story. For his entire life, Aarons claimed that he was an orphan who grew up on an enchanted farm in New Hampshire. ‘This WASPy narrative allowed him to operate freely among the bluebloods he documented,’ wrote Town & Country

A new photobook of Slim Aarons' pictures focuses on the evolution of style, spanning his five-decade long career as a society snapper between the 1940s and 1990s. Aarons became famous for , Aarons offers a rare glimpse into the unapologetic, glamorous lives of

A new photobook of Slim Aarons’ pictures focuses on the evolution of style, spanning his five-decade long career as a society snapper between the 1940s and 1990s. Featuring over 200 images, the book offers a rarified glimpse into the the private playgrounds of the rich and famous

In actuality, Slim’s childhood was far more traumatic. Born on the Lower East Side in 1916 to Yiddish-speaking immigrants, his impoverished family life was plagued with tragedy: an absentee father, a mother committed to a psychiatric hospital, and brother who killed himself. It wasn’t until 2016 when a posthumous documentary revealed the truth about his background, which was a revelation even for his wife and daughter.   

Nonetheless, Slim was given unparalleled entry to his jet set subjects in the private places they played and preened: French châteaux, Italian palazzos, ski lodges, members-only clubs, and yachts. ‘They would invite me to one of their parties because they knew I wouldn’t hurt them,’ he told The Independent in 2002. ‘I was one of them.’

The New York Times once wrote: ‘Noël Coward and Truman Capote used words to record this rarefied universe, but Mr. Aarons’ photographs in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and Life showed it.’ 

He didn’t just embrace high society, he looked the part too. The affluent snapper exuded  his own effortless charm. One writer described him as ‘perpetually ascot prone’ with a cigarette permanently fixed to one hand, and a camera in the other.  

Before chasing la dolce vita, Aarons cut his teeth in photography while covering some of the deadliest battles in World War II as an Army photographer. He was wounded and awarded a Purple Heart for bravery, but disillusioned by war. Combat had taught him that the only beach worth landing on was ‘decorated with beautiful, semi-nude girls tanning in a tranquil sun.’ 

After the war, Aarons worked for various magazines of calcified gentility such as Holiday and Town & Country. He developed his unique oeuvre of chronicling ‘attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.’ Marching orders from his editor before heading off on assignment were always simple: ‘Slim, bring back the snaps and make sure it doesn’t look like Brooklyn.’  

Slim Aarons followed the seasons of style, spending winters at ski resorts like Aspen, Charmonix, and Gstaad before chasing the jet set at glamorous summer resorts on the Amalfi Coast and Cote d'Azur. Above, Alexander Cochrane Cushing (in yellow), the son of a longline of American aristocrats, enjoys cocktails atop Squaw Valley ski resort in California in 1961. Cushing developed the resort in 1949, and is said to be responsible for elevating the post-war American ski industry. The New York Times described him as 'a shrewd lawyer, dealmaker and corporate cajoler who favored a tweed jacket cut by Davies of London over mass-produced ski clothing'

Slim Aarons followed the seasons of style, spending winters at ski resorts like Aspen, Charmonix, and Gstaad before chasing the jet set at glamorous summer resorts on the Amalfi Coast and Cote d’Azur. Above, Alexander Cochrane Cushing (in yellow), the son of a longline of American aristocrats, enjoys cocktails atop Squaw Valley ski resort in California in 1961. Cushing developed the resort in 1949, and is said to be responsible for elevating the post-war American ski industry. The New York Times described him as ‘a shrewd lawyer, dealmaker and corporate cajoler who favored a tweed jacket cut by Davies of London over mass-produced ski clothing’

The socialite, C.Z. Guest was Aarons' greatest muse. His collection of photographs starring C.Z at her Palm Beach home, Villa Artemis (above) 'remain some of the most iconic and influential pictures of their time,' says the book. Before her 1947 marriage to a Phipps steel heir, C.Z. was one of Boston society’s most sought-after debutantes. She had a vivid social life, which included a tight circle of friends like Cecil Beaton, Truman Capote, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

The socialite, C.Z. Guest was Aarons’ greatest muse. His collection of photographs starring C.Z at her Palm Beach home, Villa Artemis (above) ‘remain some of the most iconic and influential pictures of their time,’ says the book. Before her 1947 marriage to a Phipps steel heir, C.Z. was one of Boston society’s most sought-after debutantes. She had a vivid social life, which included a tight circle of friends like Cecil Beaton, Truman Capote, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Singer Marianne Faithfull, the Honorable Desmond Guinness (son of the Guinness beer baron), and Mick Jagger attend a party at Castletown House, Ireland

Singer Marianne Faithfull, the Honorable Desmond Guinness (son of the Guinness beer baron), and Mick Jagger attend a party at Castletown House, Ireland

Dimitris Kritsas, a young Greek couturier, shows off his latest collection among the gleaming Doric columns of the temple to Poseidon in Greece, 1961. (This is one of Aarons' last shoots to incorporate hired models). By the 1960s, Slim shunned standard industry mannequins in favor of snapping stylish socialites in their environment, 'He saw style in a broader context, as an expression of a place, a window on a culture, a way of capturing not just a designer’s or a model’s personal glamour but the spirit of a time,' wrote Kate Betts in the book

Dimitris Kritsas, a young Greek couturier, shows off his latest collection among the gleaming Doric columns of the temple to Poseidon in Greece, 1961. (This is one of Aarons’ last shoots to incorporate hired models). By the 1960s, Slim shunned standard industry mannequins in favor of snapping stylish socialites in their environment, ‘He saw style in a broader context, as an expression of a place, a window on a culture, a way of capturing not just a designer’s or a model’s personal glamour but the spirit of a time,’ wrote Kate Betts in the book

By the time Life wanted him to shoot the Korean War, Aarons declined, saying: ‘I’ll only do a beach if it has a blonde on it.’ Also true to his lifelong penchant for platinum tresses, he told Vanity Fair that he gave his Purple Heart away to ‘a blonde I knew after the war. She said she liked the color.’  

In Hollywood, he snapped one of his most celebrated images depicting Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart huddled around a table at the legendary Romanoff’s restaurant on Rodeo Drive. The Smithsonian described the photograph as ‘a Mount Rushmore of stardom.’ 

His groovy Acapulco photos include a snap of Douglas Fairbanks sitting next to fashion designers Oscar de la Renta and Emilio Pucci. Another picture shows the sixties supermodel, Veruschka, towering over an evening beach part in a lilac Pucci jumpsuit.  

Slim was also present at the cliffside Las Brisas hotel – always camera in hand – to document the non-stop debauchery hosted by vacationers like the rental car king, Warren Avis. These decadent parties became the perfect backdrop to the evolving style of the 1970s: string bikinis, headscarves, ropes of beads and baubles. 

Palm Beach proved to be another playground for the perma-tan set. Slim called it ‘the gathering place for families of fashion and fortune,’ where ‘the party is the principal indoor and outdoor sport.’ 

It’s where President Kennedy rolled down his car window to ask, ‘Was the girl from your story about Lake Como really that beautiful?’ It’s where Slim’s greatest muse, C.Z. Guest lived in a stunning beachside estate known as ‘Villa Artemis’ and posed against its whitewashed Greek columns in multiple pictures featured throughout the book. 

‘Aarons understood that what surrounded his subjects revealed as much about their style as what they were wearing, or how they were standing,’ wrote Katie Betts, former editor of Harper’s Bazaar, in her foreword. 

Shipping heiress Nonie Phipps (second left) and friends pose on the waterfront in Biarritz, France, 1960. She married the famed opera conductor, Thomas Schippers in 1965 despite him being a homosexual, and rumored to be intimately involved with Leonard Bernstein. Nonie died from cancer in 1973

Shipping heiress Nonie Phipps (second left) and friends pose on the waterfront in Biarritz, France, 1960. She married the famed opera conductor, Thomas Schippers in 1965 despite him being a homosexual, and rumored to be intimately involved with Leonard Bernstein. Nonie died from cancer in 1973

Spectators enjoy the 1951 Aiken Trials at the legendary horse racing track in South Carolina. The look of their refined mid-century leisurewear was first made popular by the influential designer Claire McCardell. The American designer eschewed fancier French influences in her clothing in favor of more casual separates: blouses, shirts, skirts, shorts and blazers. McCardell is credited with the creation of 'American sportswear'

Spectators enjoy the 1951 Aiken Trials at the legendary horse racing track in South Carolina. The look of their refined mid-century leisurewear was first made popular by the influential designer Claire McCardell. The American designer eschewed fancier French influences in her clothing in favor of more casual separates: blouses, shirts, skirts, shorts and blazers. McCardell is credited with the creation of ‘American sportswear’ 

Slim captures a party at the world-famous Romanoff’s restaurant in 1959. The Hollywood hotspot was the brainchild of the self-made and -mythologized Mike Romanoff during the 1940s and 50s. The host frequently rubbed elbows with the brightest stars and famously snubbed anyone that wasn’t an A-lister. Romanoff also preferred taking his meals with his dogs, who joined him daily at one of the restaurant’s famed and highly coveted booths

Slim captures a party at the world-famous Romanoff’s restaurant in 1959. The Hollywood hotspot was the brainchild of the self-made and -mythologized Mike Romanoff during the 1940s and 50s. The host frequently rubbed elbows with the brightest stars and famously snubbed anyone that wasn’t an A-lister. Romanoff also preferred taking his meals with his dogs, who joined him daily at one of the restaurant’s famed and highly coveted booths

Readers marveled over images of sun-soaked ski-slopes in Gstaad, and ‘suntanned arms clanking with statement jewelry’ in the bougainvillea-covered patios of Portofino. Armed with his camera, Slim chronicled trends, as much as he unwittingly created them. 

He started a fad for high-waist khakis in 1968 with his snap of Peter Pulitzer (scion of the Pulitzer publishing family), casually smiling with a jacket tossed over one shoulder, wearing the ‘must-have’ pants with a pink button-down shirt on the patio of his Florida home. ‘These pictures are life first, fashion second, which is one of Slim’s specialties.’

Meanwhile Peter’s wife, Lilly Pulitzer, revolutionized American resort-wear with a signature line of punchy colored shift dresses. Her tropical prints among the manicured lawns and sparkling pools in Slim’s photos are as ubiquitous as the ever-present cocktail. 

Slim palled around European aristocracy too. ‘Cocktailing,’ he noted, was a verb among his coterie of expat nobles in Montenegro Bay. 

He photographed the 10th Duke of Marlborough reading his newspaper on a garden bench outside Blenheim Palace; and the dapper Russian Prince Serge Obolensky on the charity circuit in New York. When Aarons was tackled by royal guards at the London Ascot races for snapping illegal photos, Prince Philip came to his rescue, ‘Slim, what the hell are they doing to you?’ he asked.

But not all his subjects were so genteel. Early in his career, when Lucky Luciano was exiled from Rome and sent back to his hometown in Sicily – the mob boss invited Slim to be his official photographer on the journey as reporters worked up a frenzy trying to get the exclusive. ‘His father came up and they kissed,’ Slim recalled to Vanity Fair. ‘Lucky said, ‘Don’t take a picture of that. People will think I’m a sissy.’ . . . It was a real Italian festival…The local boy who made good!’ 

American fashion designer, James Galanos poses with supermodel Dovima at his New York atelier in 1960. Galanos was an inspired designer who rejected artifice and superficiality. He shunned celebrity clientele and instead focused on a small and devoted group who could afford his particular vision of luxury and glamour, saying, 'I’m only interested in designing for a certain type of woman. Specifically, one that has money'

American fashion designer, James Galanos poses with supermodel Dovima at his New York atelier in 1960. Galanos was an inspired designer who rejected artifice and superficiality. He shunned celebrity clientele and instead focused on a small and devoted group who could afford his particular vision of luxury and glamour, saying, ‘I’m only interested in designing for a certain type of woman. Specifically, one that has money’

Fashionable diners sit poolside at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, 1961. Aarons once described his work as 'attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places'

Fashionable diners sit poolside at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, 1961. Aarons once described his work as ‘attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places’

More than anything, Slim Aarons had access. With his charm and journalistic training, the snapper gained the trust and entry to the private domains of the wealthy and well-connected. 

Once while sailing on a yacht with Katharine Hepburn, the legendary lensman spotted a man in the nearby water gasping for air. They pulled the man onboard but were surprised when he whipped out a camera to snap photos of Hepburn before she threatened to smash it over his head.   

‘The paparazzi stunt was the perfect opposite to Aarons,’ said New York Magazine. ‘He was never an outsider among Hollywood starlets and socialites, but a close, trusted friend’ to women like Diana Vreeland, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe.’ 

Shot over five decades, Slim Aarons: Style charts the evolution of fashion between the late 1940s through the early 1990s. Not only does the book offer a glimpse ‘into world of unapologetic privilege and effortless glamour’ but it also serves as a time-capsule to a bygone era defined by luxury and beauty.

His pictures track how Rosie the Riveter gave way to high Hollywood glamour during the 1950s, which loosened up during the 1960s when liberated girls tossed out their white gloves in favor of Lilly Pulitzer minidresses. Kate Betts writes how, ‘Beguiling European socialites like Pilar Crespi and Marisa Berenson reveled in the footloose look, layering ropes of beads over slinky mesh dresses.’ By the 1970s, psychedelic swirls of pink and purple muted to mustards and browns with bell bottom jeans.

He hated the 1980s, ‘executive women, dressed in their soulless uniforms,’ yet he found a way to capture the aura of ‘confidence, sexuality, and competence’ in the power shoulder pats and coneheeled pumps.  

‘Even Aarons’ outtakes are windows onto a time and a place and tribes of people,’ says Kate Betts, ‘a world whose intoxicating blend of glamour and recklessness is impossible to re-create.’



Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button