Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Return Visit

 "This town is the queerest place with the strangest people in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading and dining".

That's what Charles Dickens said about my home town, on a visit in 1858.

The restaurants have been booked, the dancing arranged and the newspapers ironed.
I will see you there.

 Tim Gustard

Wishing all my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fabulous Photographer, David Seidner

The Debutante 1994
David Seidner is one of my favourite photographers so choosing works to put in this post has been quite a challenge.  David was an artist and his work really draws you in, his love of history is apparent, most of his inspiration comes from the past, and he continues to be an inspiration to many today.  Sadly David was taken too soon, claimed by Aids in 1999, had he lived, there is no doubt that he would have been one of the greatest artists/photographers around. 

To read a full biography on him go here.

Betty Lago, Chanel 1986


Jessye Norman, 1995

Betty Lago, Azzedine Alaia, 1986

Guitar 1985

Paloma Picasso, Jardin de Modes 1987

Daniela Stinea, 1987

Ahn Duong, YSL 1986

Rosima with Vase 1984

Anne Rohart, YSL 1983

For YSL 1983

Francine Howell, 1987

 Dragana Kunjadik, 1988

Jaques Fath, "Caran d'Ache" 1990

Taya Thurman Mme. Gres 1980

 Mme. Gres/Peinture, 1991

Suzanne McClelland 1994

Louise Neri, 1999

Honor Fraser, 1994

Alexandra Brown, 1994

Bernadette Jurkowski 1995

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Something For The Weekend

Belle and the Boys, Ferdinando Scianna 1996, (From the 1996 Lavazza Calender)

An American Girl in Italy, Ruth Orkin 1951, read the story of this photo here

Wishing you all a happy weekend.

Lisa Fonssagrieves-Penn, Artist, Muse and Model

Irving Penn

 Lisa Fonssagrieves-Penn, born Lisa Birgitta Bernstone, in Sweden 1911 has often been described as the worlds first supermodel, although there is some truth in this she was so much more than just a model, she was also a dancer, artist, photographer and sculptress as well as model and muse.  Her name might not trip so easily off the tongue as later more famous models but almost every image she appears in is iconic.  This was no accident, with her background as a dancer and artist she knew how to move and how to turn a fashion image into an art form.  Rather than just turning up for a shoot, she worked with the photographers helping to create the image and it's no wonder that some of the worlds greatest were queuing up to work with her.  For a career that is renowned for having a short shelf life, Lisa's modeling career lasted around twenty five years, she modestly described herself as "a good coat-hanger".

I have found a rather interesting interview by David Seidner from Bomb 1985...

Fernand Fonssagrieves 1930's

David Seidner How did you initially get from Stockholm to Paris?

Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn Originally I went to Berlin to study dance with Mary Wigman. She had a sort of comprehensive art school where we not only studied dance but studio art, art history, and everything pertaining to art in general. My parents were very supportive of the arts, in fact my childhood vacations were spent driving through Europe with them, visiting museums. My father painted and encouraged us a great deal, me and my sisters. My mother too was very creative. She made all our clothes and created such an atmosphere of magic and beauty that all throughout this enchanted childhood I wondered how I could possibly do anything better than what I was living and make something of myself. I painted and sculpted and danced as a child so when I heard about Mary Wigman’s school, it sounded so ideal that I wrote to her and she wrote back asking me to come. So my parents sent me. Then I returned to Stockholm and opened up a school of dance. There was a very well known choreographer in Sweden at that time called Astrid Malmborg. She invited me to participate in an international competition in Paris and we went and won some kind of honorary mention. I immediately fell in love with the city and decided to stay and study other forms of dance besides modern, so I enrolled in ballet classes with a Russian woman called Princess Egorova…a fantastic teacher. Mia Slavenska was in the class too; she danced so beautifully! What an inspiration. About that time I met my first husband, Fernand Fonssagrives, who was also a dancer, and we went together to people’s homes to give private lessons. One day we were coming home after a very long day, and in the elevator (we lived on the 10th floor), a man told me that he was a photographer and asked if I would like to model hats for him. I was terribly shy but flattered that he would want me to pose. I was so young and naive. Anyway, I did these pictures with this man called Willy Maywald, and my husband took them up to Vogue. They asked me to do a test with Horst and I arrived terrified. I had never seen a fashion magazine, I didn’t know what fashion was. I made all my own clothes and I remember the suit I was wearing, dark brown wool, and I arrived so frightened with my hair long and wild and completely unmanageable. No one knew what to do with my hair. But it was my hands that troubled me most; what to do with one’s own hands while posing. And even though Horst himself was so young and inexperienced, and made me feel so confident, I still had no idea of what to do with myself.

Fernand Fonssagrieves 1935

DS How did you learn to move the way you did? Was it natural or were you imitating things you saw in other women?

LFP After that test with Horst I went straight to the Louvre and studied how differently dressed people did different things. Especially in evening clothes. The next day, Vogue asked me to do a sitting and we had the most exquisite gowns by Alix and Lelong. It must have been about 1936, or 7. I would imagine what kind of woman would wear the gown I was wearing and assume different characters. I would look at myself in the dressing room mirror before going on the set and instinctively try to solve the photographer’s problems. I would look at the cut of the dress and try different poses to see how it fell best;, how the light would enhance it, and basically try to create a line the way one starts a drawing. I would objectify myself and become more of a director than an actress. I became this girl and not Lisa Fonssagrives. So that when I saw the contacts I would think, There that girl stands correctly, there she looks awkward…The photographer of course would have a lot to do with how one moved. Huene and Hoot created a kind of reality within a reality. Often they constructed sets for the type of woman who would wear the clothes to be photographed. There was time to prepare and time to work, and the sense of collaboration and camaraderie was marvelous. It was also a kind of game, that exchange that takes place through the lens. That is why I hate the word “shooting.” It implies something so one-sided and impersonal. It was never a “shooting,” but a sitting or a seance. I was terribly serious about being responsible and even studied photography to learn what the problems might be. I would stand before the camera on a set and concentrate my energy until I could sense it radiate into the lens and feel the photographer had the picture. It was very hard work! There were no strobe lights in those days, but very hot spots, often live thousand watts on either side of you and the exposures were long. You could feel the sweat trickling down your face and the assistant would come over and hand you a towel. In fact I remember one time in New York in the ‘50s when I was modeling fur coats in the summer. And there were no air conditioned studios then. It was so hot that I just fainted. And they propped me right back up and I went straight back to work. Can you imagine what would happen today if a model fainted on a set?

Fernand Fonssagrieves Le Plage de Cabasson 1936

DS The approach was certainly much more serious then. Did you think of yourselves as making more than just a fashion photograph? Was the idea of making art ever present?

LFP It was never an issue. But making a beautiful picture is making art, isn’t it? Especially with Huene, one really had the impression of creating something. He was very considerate, George Huene. He would set tile lights up before one arrived on the set, using a stand-in. So one was led from the dressing room onto a very dark, dramatic set with a column or stairway or some other greek-inspired element, and there was silence. It was like some mystic ritual. He spoke very little and in a very low voice and there was only one assistant, who moved like a cat. No one was allowed on the set in those days, not even an editor.

Sailors Hat 1949

DS Wasn’t Fernand Fonssagrives a photographer?

LFP Yes he was. Just when I began modeling, he had a back accident and had to stop dancing. I gave him a Rolleiflex and he started to take pictures. Between the collections, there were endless vacations and we spent a lot of time traveling. Fernand photographed me constantly and sold the photographs to magazines all over Europe. In those days, a picture did not have to be assigned to be published. If it was beautiful the magazines would run it.

 Fernand Fonssagrieves 1949

DS How did you end up in New York?

LFP We had taken a trip to Sweden and were on our way to New York when war was declared, so we decided to stay in America. Eventually my marriage dissolved and I began taking photographs for Ladies’ Home Journal. I lived in one of those big old apartments on Central Park West and had a darkroom where I did all my developing and printing. In fact, when I met Irving [Penn], we were both doing experiments with ferrous cyanide to whiten the image and dissolve the outline of form. Eventually, after I remarried, my darkroom became a nursery, and all my prints had to be ordered. They were constantly late for the assignments so I finally gave it up.

DS And you continued modeling?

LFP Yes, mostly for American Vogue. This was in the early ‘50s and by the mid-’50s, I began designing clothes. At first it was just an occasional dress for one of my husband’s advertising campaigns, but then people began to special order evening gowns, and suddenly I found myself designing a line of at-home clothes for Lord and Taylor. Eventually I did sportswear for them too. This lasted a good six years. Eventually we had to move from Central Park West because they were tearing down the building, and since the dining room was my atelier, and I wasn’t allowed to have a business in our new apartment, I just stopped…wanted to do something else. I began spending more and more time in my sculpture studio in our house in Long Island, where previously, we had only spent weekends. I also enrolled in the Art Students League to hone my drawing skills. Finally we moved completely to Long Island, so I could spend more time in the studio without having to commute.

Fernand Fonssagrieves

DS When did you first return to Paris after the war?

LFP In 1950 to do the collections with my husband. We had the most beautiful daylight studio on the Rue de Sevres. We’ve been back to Paris almost every year since.

DS Weren’t you petrified when you hung off the Eiffel Tower for Blumenfeld?

LFP No, I was too young and too strong. I was a dancer and a skier and very athletic. But I was frightened on another sitting when I had to parachute from a very high exhibition tower.

DS What a contradiction in terms. You presented to the world such a sophisticated, almost decadent image of yourself, and you are in reality very wholesome.

LFP I know. Whenever I would come home after a vacation, rested, Vogue used to say to me: “We can’t use you for at least 10 days, you’re much too healthy looking.”

 Erwin Blumenfeld 1939

DS And did you work with Blumenfeld in New York too?

LFP Yes, in the ‘50s. He was marvelous. He made you feel so beautiful. He used to hold my face in his hands like some fragile flower, so gentle, to pose it in the right light. He lived and worked at the Gainsborough Studios at 222 Central Park South, where I had lived when I first arrived in New York. It was easy in those days to find apartments like that, and would you believe there was never any problem finding parking? In fact, you could pull your car right up in front of your door, and just leave it there overnight.

 Lisa's hands by Horst

Louise Dahl-Wolfe

 Lillian Bassman

 Toni Frissell

William Klein, Smoke and Veil, 1958

 Irving Penn

 Irving Penn

Irving Penn

Irving Penn

Irving Penn

Thank you all so much for your lovely heartfelt comments on my previous post, I was really touched.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grab Your Glasses Dahlings! French Sampler is Two

Norman Parkinson, photo shoot for Vogue at the former Paris home of...actually I will let you guess, if you need a clue look at the photographs on the piano.

 It's two years ago today, that I tentatively put finger to keyboard and wrote my first blog post, after I pressed the publish button, I thought to myself, well it's out there now.  I kept checking my post to see if there were any comments, but there were none, I considered deleting it and forgetting about the whole thing but something made made me persevere. My blog did not have a raison d'etre in fact it still does not know what it wants to be when it grows up, let's just say French Sampler is continually evolving.

The thing that amazes me the most about the blogging process are the friendships and support I have made and received from fellow bloggers, readers, commenter's and people who follow this blog, you guys are wonderful. Your blogs continue to; inspire, educate, make me think, make me laugh and sometimes cry, have my jaw dropping by the sheer beauty of your content, poignancy of your words and your boundless creativity, and yes, all too often you make me want to part with my money! You are an incredible bunch of talented individuals,  I raise my glass and I make a toast to you, cheers.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Waldeck, Make My Day, For No Reason Other Than I Love It

From the album Ballroom Stories

When I first saw the video it reminded me of something else, it reminded me of this...

 From the film 'Frida'

Oh and whilst we are on the subject...

 From the film 'Easy Virtue'

Wishing you all a happy weekend.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


 The lovely Jean Shrimpton, all cosied up. Dressed by Yves Saint Laurent, photo taken by David Bailey for Vogue 1964.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Au Revoir Loulou

Loulou de la Falaise
4th May 1948 - 5th November 2011

 Great style speaks for itself...

Loulou talks about her collaboration with Oscar de la Renta

Au Revoir Loulou.