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2 Dec

Sheila Metzner’s Fashion Photography Journey on Display on the

Sheila Metzner recalls her first commission from a serious Latest York magazine that catapulted her profession.

It was within the early ’80s when she received a call from Lloyd Ziff, the creative art director at Vanity Fair, the magazine recently resurrected by Condé Nast. He had seen Metzner’s name on a listing of photographers the previous creative art director, Bea Feitler, desired to work with. However the 44-year-old Feitler had passed away before acting on her wish list.

“Lloyd called and said, ‘Can I see your portfolio?’” Metzner says. “But I never had a portfolio because for years I had been making photos by myself and numerous them were on my pool table. So I told him he would have to return to my apartment, which he did.”

Ziff saw the photos and said he would call when something got here up. Soon he was on the phone asking her to photograph legendary French actress Jeanne Moreau for the revamped magazine’s second issue. “But I didn’t have a studio. I needed to photograph her in my apartment,” the photographer says.

That Vanity Fair task caught the eye of Condé Nast’s legendary editorial director Alexander Liberman, who asked her to work with Vogue and later other of the group’s magazines.  “I got to Vogue and editors were asking, ‘Where did she come from?’ I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know learn how to light because I all the time used natural light. I needed to find out about production, fashion and the names that went with it. I used to be introduced to people like Karl Lagerfeld, but I didn’t know anybody. I used to be so naïve.”

Metzner hadn’t been rubbing shoulders with fashion designers or famous models because for nearly 10 years she and her husband, creative director and graphic designer Jeffrey Metzner, were in Latest York raising their five children and his two children from a previous marriage while working on their careers.

But Sheila, a former ad agency art director at Doyle Dane Bernbach, took inspiration from 19th-century British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, who raised five children in the course of the Victorian era and worked as a photographer. Metzner desired to do the identical thing and independently studied photography, developing negatives and printing photos at night when her family was asleep.

For many years, the 84-year-old Metzner, a charismatic and curious woman with long curly white hair, was known for the artistic qualities infused in her well-composed photographs.

Metzner photographed Brooke Shields for Vogue. Courtesy: J. Paul Getty Museum.

These photographs are on display until Feb. 18 on the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The exhibition, called “Sheila Metzner: From Life,” has 40 works that include a mix of her well-known fashion photographs for Fendi, Balenciaga and Ralph Lauren in addition to portraits of model and actress Brooke Shields in 1985, model Tina Chow in 1987 and fellow photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in 1984. There are also several eye-catching landscapes that were included in her book “Inherit the Earth.”

Paul Martineau, the Getty Center curator of photographs who organized the exhibition, has known Metzner for 3 many years and included two of her works in his 2018 book “Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion.”  “I felt it was an extended enough time since her work had been seen, so it will be recent to numerous individuals who could look on it with a fresh eye,” the curator says.

Metzner hasn’t had a solo museum exhibition within the U.S. since 1991, when the International Center for Photography in Brooklyn organized a show. But there have been loads of gallery exhibitions and shared shows of her work, including a retrospective of American photography from the ’70s and ’80s, which was organized three years ago by the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin.

Along with the Getty exhibition, the Paul Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif., has organized its own exhibition called “Sheila Metzner: Objects of Desire,” which runs through Jan. 5. “That is a special curation from the Getty show,” says Fetterman, a long-time collector and dealer of artistic photographs. “For my exhibition, I used to be attracted more to her still lifes of things just like the Brooklyn Bridge. I feel they are only pure beauty, craft and incredible mastery of sunshine.”

Sheila Metzner. Courtesy: Sheila Metzner.

Metzner burst onto the style photography scene within the early ’80s and held her ground there for many years. A lot of her photos were reproduced with the Fresson printing method  — a carbon printing process done with pigments, that are archival, reasonably than dyes, that are fugitive, lending a moody quality and textural richness to pictures.

Metzner discovered this method after being mesmerized by an Edward Steichen photo done in that carbon printing style. She was searching for something similar.  

Sooner or later Marvin Heiferman of Castelli Graphics called her to his Latest York City gallery to point out her a photograph by French photographer Bernard Plossu, whose image used that method. When Heiferman was diverted by someone stealing a framed photo from his gallery and ran out, Metzner saw a Rolodex with the address for the corporate that had done Plossu’s wealthy photographic print. It was Atelier Fresson outside of Paris.

Metzner wrote the Fresson workshop a six-page letter inquiring about becoming a client. They wrote back with a price list and said they might work together with her, but her communications needed to be written in French, which she did.

When her first two still life prints were done, she traveled to outside of Paris to view them. “After I first saw the pictures, I cried,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Mr. Fresson, I’m going to work with you for a very long time.’ It has been over 40 years now.”

After being noticed by Latest York Times art critic Hilton Kramer in 1978 for a photograph included within the Museum of Modern Art group show “Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960,” she later had a show on the Daniel Wolf gallery in Latest York displaying a few of her Fresson printed photographs. Those photos caught the attention of many influential people, which led to the Vanity Fair task.

Metzner’s years at Vogue saw her photographing Brooke Shields, Uma Thurman, Paloma Picasso, Kim Basinger, Isabella Rossellini, Molly Ringwald and plenty of more.

Uma in Dress by Patou; Sheila Metzner (American, born 1939); New York, New York, United States; 1986; Pigment print; 62.7 × 41.8 cm (24 11/16 × 16 7/16 in.); 2016.90; In Copyright (https://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/)

“Uma. Patou dress,” as photographed by Metzner. Courtesy: J. Paul Getty Museum.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los An

Her profession as a industrial photographer happened after she talked to Liberman about increasing her rate. He told her her best bet was to shoot promoting photos. “That’s after I wrote a letter to Ralph Lauren. We had a gathering, and I brought him my Fresson prints. We soon began working together,” she says.

Over time her industrial clients have included Valentino, Elizabeth Arden, Perry Ellis, Shiseido, Fendi, Saks Fifth Avenue, Levi’s, Club Monaco and Neiman Marcus.

“The Kiss,” taken for a Fendi men’s fragrance campaign. Courtesy: J. Paul Getty Museum.

Amongst all those industrial assignments, one in all her favorite shoots was for the Fendi fragrance campaign done in Rome. “There have been mood boards that got here from Karl Lagerfeld. It was about Mannerist paintings. He called it ‘The Passion of Rome and The Colours of Rome,’” the photographer says. “Then Elizabeth Arden, who was making the fragrance, sent these Pygmalion drawings. So, we were searching for locations with antiquated partitions.”

She and her crew had gotten a permit to shoot within the gardens outside a museum, however the guard contained in the gate maintained the permits were for the outside of the gates, which was a car parking zone.

“We left and went to the house of Alda Fendi [one of the five sisters whose father started Fendi]. We opened the door and right there, within the foyer, was the statue utilized in the famous Fendi photo of the girl kissing a statue.”

But Metzner didn’t confine herself to fashion. Within the early ’90s, she began photographing landscapes around the globe after she met the editor of American Way, the American Airlines magazine. The editor gave Metzner two tickets and $2,000 to fly to any American Airlines destination to take photos. Metzner photographed icebergs in Alaska and traveled to Easter Island, Egypt, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Utah.

It was just yet another facet of the photographer’s long and successful profession. “It has been an amazing journey,” she says. “It is tough to elucidate how really, really marvelous it has been.”

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