Where does fashion photography come from? If that question has always interested you, it's time to meet Cecil Beaton, the outstanding photographer of the twentieth century, one of the most important masters of fashion photography, costume designer, writer and trendsetter. He became famous for his work with celebrities and royalty, as well as for his pioneering approach to photography.
Cecil Beaton was born on January 14, 1904, in London. His father was a lumber merchant, and the family never needed money. In his photobiography, Beaton says his fascination with photography started from an incident at the age of three, when he saw several postcards with images of Lily Elsie, a British singer and actress. He was so impressed by the images of the celebrity that later he spent all his pocket money on postcards with images of different actresses. Beaton's father supported his son's hobby and regularly brought him magazines and theater programs.
At the age of 11, his parents gave the boy his first Box-Brownie camera. His first pictures were portraits of his sisters and parents. Even then, however, he depicted them like his favorite actresses from postcards.
In 1922 Beaton began his studies in history, fine arts and architecture at St. John's College, Cambridge, but he spent most of his time working in the theater. Three years later, he dropped out and moved to a full-time job in the theater. Surprisingly, his first solo exhibition of photographs, held at Cooling Galleries in London, was extraordinarily successful and led to a lucrative contract - Beaton was invited to be a staff photographer at Conde Nast.
The success brought Beaton fame on both sides of the ocean. He photographed Hollywood actresses, singers, celebrities and the British royal family. Beaton's skills even came in handy during World War II. Between 1940 and 1944 he worked as a war photographer, taking pictures of ruined buildings, soldiers and airmen.
After the war, Cecil Beaton refined his skills as a portrait photographer. Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Grace Kelly and Joan Crawford appeared before his lens. In 1953 he painted the official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
Although Beaton is known as a photographer, he also worked as an illustrator and stage costume designer. His designs for such productions as My Fair Lady (1956) and Gigi (1958) defined the glamorous look of the era and won three Oscars for costume and art direction.
His many covers for Vogue are also worth mentioning. Beaton managed to convey the sophistication and femininity of female nature. It was as if he could see through the girls and reveal their inner beauty like no one else could.
During his career Cecil Beaton has also received four Tony awards, was elected a member of the Royal Photographic Society and was knighted. He passed away in 1980, but he remained forever one of the best portrait photographers in England and a trendsetter in fashion photography.