Erwin Blumenfeld proved himself to be one of photography’s greatest pioneers during his 35-year-long career, breaking new ground in formal experimentation, developing innovative concepts through his fashion shoots, and enjoying unprecedented commercial success as a result.
Blumenfeld’s entry into photography was somewhat serendipitous: in the early 1930s, while running a leather shop in Amsterdam, he uncovered a fully equipped darkroom behind a boarded-up door in a storeroom, allegedly left behind by a previous tenant.
So he began experimenting, eventually forging a path for himself as a portrait photographer and displaying his photos in the shop’s windows. His earliest creations – collages and satirical pieces created in the Dadaist tradition to channel his anti-war sentiment – are a fascinating insight into his work.
As his practice evolved, Blumenfeld continued to reject photography’s formal limitations, playing instead with double and triple exposures, solarisation and high-contrast printing to achieve his uncompromising artistic vision.
As Blumenfeld turned from art to fashion photography – he made his debut in Vogue with the help of fashion royalty Cecil Beaton in 1944, and his dynamic concepts and exaltation of women made him a favourite among the most influential fashion magazines of the day – these progressive techniques only continued.