In 1971, British Vogue ran a fashion spread shot by an unknown painter-turned-photographer named Arthur Elgort. That photographer would go on to become one of the leading lights of the industry, renowned for his vivacious “snapshot” style. A longtime contributor to Vogue, among other magazines, Elgort released a tremendous book of his work last month, Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture, for which Vogue creative director Grace Coddington supplied the introduction. The tome is a comprehensive retrospective of Elgort’s oeuvre, comprising not only his iconic fashion snaps, but also personal photos of his families, and portraits of dancers and musicians that he’s taken over the course of his nearly fifty-year career.
Elgort’s most memorable work includes the campaigns he shot for Valentino. He began shooting for the house in the late seventies, and worked with Valentino on advertisement for both Haute Couture and Ready-to-Wear periodically over the next two decades. All of Elgort’s Valentino campaigns were marked by his signature use of natural light, and his way of capturing models such as Nadja Auermann in seemingly candid moments. There is always a tremendous sense of life in Elgort’s work—never more so than when he shot Claudia Schiffer for the Spring/Summer 1995 Ready-to-Wear campaign. Schiffer, Elgort and Mr. Valentino and Mr. Giammetti repaired to Rome, Valentino’s home, for a shoot that paid homage to Fellini’s great film La Dolce Vita, and particularly the unforgettable scenes of movie star Anita Ekberg swanning around the Eternal City. A shot of Schiffer, standing among security guards and paparazzi in the Piazza del Campidoglio, is classic Elgort in its fusion of the ordinary stuff of daily life and otherworldly glamour. Another shot found Schiffer making faces at a kitten in front of Rome’s Trevi Fountain; in yet another, she’s in splendid repose at Valentino’s atelier, pulling on a pair of long gloves to go with her embroidered evening gown, as the petits mains look on. You can’t look at these photos without feeling that everyone involved was enjoying themselves—and the same sense of joy pervades the photos in Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture. This is one fashion photographer who’s never stopped having fun.