The Judges

Lillian Bassman


Lillian Bassman was born in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. Her work in black and white reflects her experimental and romantic vision — as seen mostly in Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s which brought a sophisticated new aesthetic to print photography. From the 1940s Bassman was at the cutting edge of fashion working as both fashion photographer and art director for Harper's Bazaar. Under Russian émigré and Modernist guru Alexey Brodovitch, Bassman started shooting pictures herself — diffuse, moody images with an idiosyncratic vocabulary of gestures and an unsettling edge. With their blurred silhouettes and unusual compositions, Bassman’s images flirt with abstraction and conjure up a sensuous dreamworld.

By the 1970s, her increasing disenchantment led her to abandon fashion photography in favor of her own projects. In a bold attempt to free herself creatively from the past, she jettisoned 40 years of negatives and prints — her life’s work. Over 20 years later, luck resurrected a forgotten bag, brimming with hundreds of images. She is now working with digital technology and abstract color photography to create a new series of work. Her work stands as testimony to one of the great creative personalities of our time.