Deborah Turbeville was born in Massachusetts and raised in New England. When she was twenty years old she moved to New York City to become a sample model and assistant for designer Claire McCardell, who will later introduce her to Diana Vreeland . Having a fond interest in designer clothing Deborah became a fashion editor, but not long after she realized that her heart was in photography. She has been taking amazing photographs ever since.
Deborah Turbeville is born in 1937. Spending her upbringing in New England and summers in Ogunquit, Maine, she always stays fascinated with environments: “very bleak, very stark, very beautiful,” she later remembers. “Since then I have always had to have mystery and atmosphere in my life. They draw me out more than anything.” Deborah dreams of becoming a dancer or actress.
Early Fashion Photographs/ Women in The Woods, 1977Vogue Italia, 1977
While working at Diplomat magazine, she begins to shoot her own pictures. In 1967 Deborah becomes an associate fashion editor at Mademoiselle. “I was able to ask them if ever I could do a sitting of my own and take the pictures. That’s how I built my portfolio at Mademoiselle, shooting my own sittings.”.
She continues for a time to do both styling and photography. “That helped me, because I didn’t have to earn a living being a photographer at first,” she later recalls. “I never could have done that because I was too special. My pictures were in soft focus. It was a completely new thing. Had I been out on my own, I might have had to compromise my work.”
It isn’t long before she begins working alongside the photographers she used to collaborated with as an editor. She becomes a sought-after photographer in her own right. The New York Times single her out as the only American in a threesome —also including Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton—that bring “eeriness, shock, and alienation” to the formerly pleasant and pretty business of selling clothes. .
In 1975, Vogue publishes what is probably Deborahs most infamous images, the Bathhouse series: skinny and world-weary-looking women wearing maillots and robes in a bathhouse that broke nearly every rule about how models in swimsuits were supposed to look. “I didn’t expect them to cause trouble,” she later says. (I already published these pictures in my last post: Polly Mellen styled the controversial Bathhouse Series & Nastassja Kinski )
She begins work on Unseen Versailles, a book dreamed up by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, an editor at Doubleday, in 1979. “I wanted her to conjure up what went on there,” Jacqueline later tells People magazine, “to evoke the feeling that there were ghosts and memories.” Despite having encountered a beautiful restored palace when she arrived to scout it, Deborah delivers—after two years of research and work—just the haunting imagery that Jacqueline had envisioned. “I destroy the image after I’ve made it, obliterate it a little so you never have it completely there,” Deborah says. Alexander Liberman, editorial director of Condé Nast publications, calls Unseen Versailles “a pioneering breakthrough in photography.” It wins the American Book Award.
She remains consistently popular with fashion editors, working continuously with Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and W Magazine, shooting for Ungaro, Karl Lagerfield and Valentino, in the meantime receiving personal requests from personalities such as Jackie Kennedy. Taking photographs for more than 30 years, her aesthetic has never changed. Deborah divides her time between New York and Mexico and always spent a great deal of time in St. Petersburg, Russia, the city that inspires her most.
The Fashion PicturesBook description:
From internationally acclaimed photographer Deborah Turbeville comes the first book on her highly influential visionary avant-garde fashion photography. Celebrated for her poetic grace and cinematic vision, Deborah Turbeville has produced fashion tableaux that draw the viewer into her otherworldly environments. A romantic and modernist, Turbeville bridges the boundaries between commercial fashion and fine arts photography. In this remarkable presentation, Turbeville reveals her highly individualistic point of view of fashion photography and the stories behind her photographs.
This first retrospective presentation of Turbeville’s fashion photography was selected by the artist herself. In addition, she has designed the evocative layouts to create yet another masterwork. The presentation includes Turbeville’s most famous photographs, among them the controversial Bathhouse series of 1975 for American Vogue with disturbingly isolated figures and her Woman in the Woods series of 1977 for Italian Vogue showing psychologically charged emotions, along with her numerous photography campaigns for labels like Sonia Rykiel, Valentino, Yamamonto, Ungaro, and Commes des Garçons, as well as commissions for Chanel and work that has never been seen before. Her most current project for Casa Vogue–Italian nobility dressed in special couture outfits–evokes Turbeville’s vision of everlasting beauty.
Info for this story: Another Magazine & Voguepedia.
Next week: More Work by Deborah Turbeville