A regular contributor to Life from 1940 until it ceased weekly publication in 1972, Leen covered fashion for the magazine. She was also known for her photographs of animals, and for capturing the Abstract Expressionist painting group in the seminal 1951 "Irascibles" picture. Born in Russia, she arrived in New York in 1939 as a refugee from Berlin.
Louise Dahl-Wolfe: Lauren Bacall - Harper's Bazaar, March 1943
The photo that took Bacall to Hollywood was taken by Dahl-Wolfe, Harper's Bazaar's star photographer until Richard Avedon arrived in the late 1940s. Trained in California, her career flourished in tandem with the introduction of color film. Although this picture doesn't demonstrate it, she was known for her use of natural light and often worked outdoors.
Kay Bell: Summer Beach Wear - Glamour, ca. 1945
As legend has it, Liberman dared Bell to pick up a camera when she was still an associate editor at Vogue. Two years later, having become a successful photographer, she opened her own studio in her East Side town house, where she worked for Vogue, Harper's and Glamour, among others. She later married the publisher Eugene Reynal, whose dust jackets often featured her casual portraits of his writers, including T. S. Eliot and Eudora Welty.
Louise Dahl-Wolfe: The Fashion for Shoulders, the Fashion for Legs, the Fashion for Black and White – Harper's Bazaar, May 1945
Lisa Larsen: It's Going to Be a Man's World Again - Charm, Oct. 1945
Lisa Larsen arrived in New York with her parents as a precocious teenage refugee from Germany, having already completed college. She started as a fashion photographer for Vogue, Mademoiselle and Charm, and soon moved on to journalism, becoming an award-winning photojournalist for Life before her death from cancer at 34.
Genevieve Naylor: Claire Mc Cardell - Harper's Bazaar, 1945
Naylor started her career in 1936 as one of two women working for the Associated Press. After studying photography with Berenice Abbott at the New School, she turned to fashion in the 1940s, working for Harper's, Mademoiselle and others. She, like Franny, was a pioneer of the street photography that William Klein became known for in the 1970s.
Nina Leen - Life, Sept. 2, 1946
As the magazine says, the French actress Barbara Laage wears this two-piece "with no fear of disaster, except in a rough surf, because it has been tied on with good strong knots."
Kay Bell: Cool and Easy - Harper's Bazaar, May 1947
Genevieve Naylor: Make it from a Pattern and Make it in Suede - Harper's Bazaar, Aug 1947
Shot in Alexander Calder's studio
Lisa Larsen: Marlon Brando and his sister Jocelyn - Life, 1948
Lillian Bassman - Next to Nothing, 1948
Bassman, Brodovitch's assistant at Harper's Bazaar, became driven to make her own, increasingly experimental photography after she was put in charge of the magazine's teen-focused offshoot, Junior Bazaar, in 1945. She became especially well-known for strikingly modern-looking pictures of lingerie.
Lillian Bassman: Monday's Child is Fair of Face – Harper's Bazaar, Feb. 1949
Karen Radkai: The Elegant Bystander – Harper's Bazaar, March 1949
Radkai taught herself the trade after years of booking models for her husband, the fashion photographer Paul Radkai. She eventually became as well-known as he was.
Lillian Bassman: The Fishwife Skirt - Harper's Bazaar, Apr 1949
Karen Radkai - Junior Bazaar, June 1949
Radkai, The Homespun Skirt – Harper's Bazaar, Oct. 1949
Ruth Orkin: Undiscovered American Beauties–Geraldine Dent, Ladies Home Journal, March 1950
Orkin first made headlines around America at 17, when she left home in Los Angeles and bicycled across the country with a camera to see the World's Fair in New York, taking pictures en route. She later moved to the city and, like most young women photographers, worked briefly in fashion. She's known primarily as a photojournalist and filmmaker: she and her husband, Morris Engel, made the 1953 movie "The Little Fugitive," among others, later taken as an inspiration for the French Nouvelle Vague.
This picture, made of a woman who had never modeled before, is the first 35 mm. color photograph to be used on the cover of a popular magazine.
Ruth Orkin: American Girl in Florence - Cosmopolitan, Sept. 1952
Made in collaboration with the model Jinx Allen, whom Orkin met in Florence while on assignment, this picture depicts a beautiful young woman being ogled and propositioned by a horde of men, as she sails through, blithely unconcerned. Although it isn't exactly a fashion photograph, it helped broadcast the image of the poised, self-confident American girl.
I write about art, design and culture, in NYC and beyond – for WSJ., 1stdibs, Ursula and more.