Erwin Blumenfeld is regarded as one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. An experimenter and innovator, he produced an extensive body of work throughout his thirty-five year career including black and white nudes, celebrity portraiture, advertising campaigns and his renowned fashion photography.
Born in Berlin in 1897 to Jewish parents, Blumenfeld began his career working as an apprentice dressmaker to Moses and Schlochauer in 1913. He opened his own company in Amsterdam in 1923, the 'Fox Leather Company', a leather goods store specialising in ladies handbags. After moving to new premises in 1932, Blumenfeld discovered a fully equipped dark room and began to photograph many of his -predominantly female- customers. The company went bankrupt in 1935, just as Blumenfeld's photographic career was beginning to take an upward turn.
Following a move to Paris in 1936, Blumenfeld was commissioned to take the portraits of personalities including George Rouault and Henri Matisse and secured his first advertising work for Monsavon. Blumenfeld quickly captured the attention of photographer Cecil Beaton who helped him secure a contract with French Vogue.
After World War II in 1941, Blumenfeld moved to New York where he was immediately put under contract by Harper's Bazaar and after three years, he began freelance work for American Vogue. Over the next fifteen years, Blumenfeld's work was featured on numerous Vogue covers and in a variety of publications including Seventeen, Glamour and House & Garden. During this period, he also worked a photographer for the Oval Room of the Dayton Department Store in Minneapolis and produced advertising campaign for cosmetics clients such as Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden and L'Oreal.
In the late 50s, he also began to create motion pictures, hoping to use them commercially and began work on his biography and his book 'My One Hundred Best Photos' which, despite being a renowned fashion photographer, only included four of his fashion images.
Following Blumenfeld's death in 1969, numerous books on his work have been published, namely 'The Naked and the Veiled' by his son, Yorick Blumenfeld, and his photographs have been exhibited at international galleries including the Pompidou Gallery in Paris, The Barbican in London and The Hague Museum of Photography in the Netherlands.
- Erwin Blumenfeld features in a project.