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Harper's Bazaar Legendary Photographer Melvin Sokolski: "The More Radical Your Point Of View Differs From The Generally Accepted, The More Interesting The Shot Will Turn Out."
Harper's Bazaar Legendary Photographer Melvin Sokolski: "The More Radical Your Point Of View Differs From The Generally Accepted, The More Interesting The Shot Will Turn Out."

Video: Harper's Bazaar Legendary Photographer Melvin Sokolski: "The More Radical Your Point Of View Differs From The Generally Accepted, The More Interesting The Shot Will Turn Out."

Video: Фотограф Melvin Sokolsky vol 2 2022, December
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SHOT FROM HARPER'S BAZAAR USA, FEBRUARY 1961
SHOT FROM HARPER'S BAZAAR USA, FEBRUARY 1961

You started working in the American Harper's Bazaar in the very late 50s, in the golden age of gloss. Was the atmosphere there as incredible as it is customary to talk about it?

As I remember now, the first time I got there was in September 1958. I came to Alexey Brodovich, the great and terrible art director, about whom I had heard many legends. At me, a 24-year-old, this middle-aged man was looking at me with a mixture of weariness and condescension. I looked through the photos and asked: "Are you a romantic, right?" I didn't find what to answer. Then he said: "Not suitable for Bazaar" - and escorted me to the elevator. To say that I was crushed is to say nothing. A year later, in December 59, I received a call - and a voice with a strong European accent said: “Good afternoon, my name is Henry Wolfe, I'm the new art director of Harper's Bazaar. I saw an advertising shoot in a magazine signed with your name and would like to meet you. I think your photos are clear. " And then I hung up: the purely American word neat did not fit well with his pronunciation, and I decidedthat this is another trick of my brother, who adored practical jokes and tortured everyone around him. But Wolfe immediately called back with the words “It looks like we were separated. Come to the office, I want you to try making a cover for us. " Needless to say, having finally believed in what was happening, I rushed to Hearst headlong. The cover was a success and I was immediately offered a permanent rate.

How did you feel at that moment?

It's hard to describe. I’m from a very poor New York family. My father was a bus driver, but he was fired from his job: he was accused of going on a flight drunk, but in fact he developed multiple sclerosis. We could hardly make ends meet and often did not know where to get money for rent. I worked part-time as best I could, until I got a job as a coach in a sports club, where people from show business went. They liked the way I drilled them, and I was able to make money on the camera and started filming. Lots of things, but mostly advertising. And then Wolfe saw one such photo and entrusted me with the key shooting of the issue. Sounds like a fairy tale, and it was. Try to imagine something similar today! Richard Avedon, Hiro and other giants were filming for the magazine then.

Melvin Sokolski was born in 1933 in New York. He did not receive a formal education, which did not prevent him from becoming a successful fashion photographer, and later an advertising director
Melvin Sokolski was born in 1933 in New York. He did not receive a formal education, which did not prevent him from becoming a successful fashion photographer, and later an advertising director

What was it like competing with them?

Yes, now they are idolized, but you need to understand a simple thing. The main advantage of the photographer was the ability to get a star. No one cared that the light for the great portraits of Avedon was exhibited by a completely different person - his name was Frank Finocchio, and I'm sure you never heard that name. But Richard was ready to pose for Marilyn Monroe, and with her famous writers and even politicians.

What quality do you think is the most important for a photographer?

The ability to see differently from everyone: the more radically your point of view differs from the generally accepted one, the more interesting the shot will turn out. And still be a dreamer.

That is, Brodovitch was not mistaken and you are still a complete romantic?

Well, I never lost touch with reality, and if I had an idea, I knew for sure that I could bring it to life. You've probably read about shooting a model in a balloon over Paris and about the fact that everyone thought I was crazy and did not believe in the success of my idea. But I was persistent, indefatigable, and walked around New York a lot in search of a solution. And in a shop window of a department store decorated for Christmas, I saw balls of plexiglass about 30 centimeters in diameter, in which bags were floating. I went in, found out the name of the workshop in New Jersey, where they were ordered, and there I asked to make the same, only huge, 180 centimeters. The manager was surprised and said, "It will be very expensive." "How many?" I asked. He announced $ 1.5 thousand for one hemisphere, I agreed and paid out of my own pocket, because I understood that it was unrealistic to issue such an invoice to Bazaar.The next hurdle was my production assistant. He was hysterical and forbade me to push a living person into this plastic cage. But he also managed to convince him and hold a rehearsal.

SHOT FROM HARPER'S BAZAAR USA, MARCH 1963
SHOT FROM HARPER'S BAZAAR USA, MARCH 1963

Did you then realize that you were preparing a filming that will go down in history?

I didn't think about it. I had a lot of practical tasks before me: how to transport it to France without damaging the structure, how to secure it on the Seine, how to put Simone D'Allencourt inside without ruining her hair, and ideally not drowning her. You know, we finally closed them in a ball together with the hairdresser, and then he carefully slipped out … It was such an acrobatic stunt!

You remake this shoot with Jennifer Aniston for the December 2014 issue of Bazaar. Wasn't there photoshop there either?

Of course, everything is for real. But to be honest, I really regretted that I agreed. Times have changed, tasks and models have changed too. Simone knew how to move like no one else, and completely trusted me. And Aniston just didn't listen to me and when I, for example, asked her to lean forward, I took it as an insult. But want to laugh? I was recently at my own exhibition and overheard a conversation. The guy said to the girl, pointing to one of the pictures with D'Allencourt floating: "Look, the dude is so cool with Photoshop." I could not resist and noticed as I passed: "Was it already invented in 1963?" “Here's a clever guy,” his interlocutor snorted in response. Young people are so funny.

PORTRAIT OF DONNA MITCHELL, 1967
PORTRAIT OF DONNA MITCHELL, 1967

But on the story with Simona, you did not close the topic of flights?

Your truth. I really did a lot more of this. Remember the feeling when in childhood you are sick with a temperature and at night, as if you were taking off and levitating over the bed? So once I experienced it as an adult. We hung Dorothy McGowan above the San Regis Hotel in Paris for what is today known as Fly Dior. She was wearing a corset of the kind worn by people with back problems, several rings were soldered to it, and metal lines were passed through them, which were held by two people. Another line was tied to the leg - with its help, the assistant could turn the model and change the angle. The situation, to put it mildly, is not conducive to sentimental flashbacks: any inaccurate movement or technical failure - and Dorothy would have fallen headlong on the rue Jean Goujon pavement and crashed to her death.But when I picked up my Hasselblad and in the viewfinder found only her in an airy dress and a roof, I again felt like a child in a magical, albeit a little feverish dream.

Why did you become a fashion photographer and not a reporter, for example?

The answer is extremely simple and not very popular in the #MeToo era, but truth is more important than correctness. I have always loved very beautiful women, I was even married to one for 60 years. But she never wanted to pursue a career in fashion. When she was very young, she worked part-time at Bergdorf Goodman and saw enough of actors who came to choose a fur coat for their wife, stealthily slipping business cards with telephone numbers to pretty saleswomen. Such a life was not to her liking. But she had a great eye, she collected folders of advertising and editorial footage for me that I might have missed, she moved my imagination forward.

TOOKER LIPS, 1965
TOOKER LIPS, 1965

Have you ever been jealous?

I'll tell you so. When Eli McGraw (in 1960, the future actress began her career as an assistant to Diana Vreeland, and then worked as a stylist for six years with Sokolski. - Approx. HB) moved from Bazaar to me, everyone asked: "Are you lovers?" And I answered honestly: “You know, I tried adultery a couple of years ago, and the next morning it turned out that I had absolutely nothing to talk about with this person. So I quickly learned to keep myself in check."

You are experiencing a pandemic at your home in Beverly Hills. Has she greatly influenced you?

Not really, really. Unless I go outside less often and wear a mask. And so, I have a studio, a laboratory here, there are printers, I can make a print of any size. My son (Bing Sokolski, cameraman for Fear the Walking Dead and Criminal Minds - HB note) has organized the archive perfectly and makes me keep everything in order. So I am preparing books and exhibitions and, in principle, would not have worried about anything if not for the political situation. I have lived in the US for 87 years and have not followed too much who is at the helm. I liked some presidents more, some less, but now there is pure disgrace on all sides. Do you, for example, want to become president? I don't know you at all, but I think even you will do better.

INTERVIEW: Anastasia Uglik

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