Slim Aarons was an American photographer noted for his images of socialites, jet-setters, and celebrities. At 18 years old, Aarons enlisted in the United States Army, worked as a photographer at the United States Military Academy, and later served as a combat photographer in World War II and earned a Purple Heart. Aarons said combat had taught him the only beach worth landing on was "decorated with beautiful, seminude girls tanning in a tranquil sun."
After the war, Aarons moved to California and began photographing celebrities. In California, he shot his most praised photo, Kings of Hollywood
, a 1957 New's Year's Eve photograph depicting Clark Gable
, Van Heflin
, Gary Cooper
, and James Stewart
relaxing at a bar in full formal wear. Aaron's work appeared in Life
, Town & Country, and Holiday magazines.
Aarons never used a stylist, or a makeup artist. He made his career out of what he called "photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places."
An oft-cited example of this approach is his 1970 Poolside Gossip
shot at the Kaufmann Desert House designed by Richard Neutra, with owner Nelda Linsk
as one of the models in the photo. "I knew everyone,"
he said in an interview with The (London) Independent in 2002. "They would invite me to one of their parties because they knew I wouldn't hurt them. I was one of them." Alfred Hitchcock
's film, Rear Window
(1954), whose main character is a photographer played by Jimmy Stewart, is set in an apartment reputed to be based on Aarons' apartment.
When you photograph a lot of women, you get to know things.
-- Slim Aarons
In 1997, Mark Getty
, the co-founder of Getty Images, visited Aarons in his home and bought Aarons' entire archive.
In 2017, filmmaker Fritz Mitchell released a documentary about Aarons, called Slim Aarons: The High Life
. In the documentary, it is revealed that Aarons was Jewish and grew up in conditions that were in complete contrast to what he told friends and family of his childhood. Aarons claimed that he was raised in New Hampshire, was an orphan, and had no living relations. After his death in 2006, his widow and daughter learned the truth that Aarons had grown up in a poor immigrant Yiddish-speaking family on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As a boy his mother was diagnosed with mental health issues and admitted to a psychiatric hospital, which caused him to be passed around among relatives. He resented and had no relationship with his father and had a brother, Harry, who would later commit suicide. Several documentary interviewees postulate that if Aarons's true origins had been known, his career would have been unlikely to succeed within the restricted world of celebrity and WASP privilege his photography glamorized.
Slim Aarons was a celebrated American photographer who chronicled the leisurely lifestyle of the rich and famous in his captivating shots of beguiling figures in luxurious environments. The glamorous world of his photographs, in which effortlessly beautiful and wealthy people lounge poolside, became an iconic series that allowed Aarons access to shoot some of the most candid portraiture of the 20th century.
We love how Aarons worked without any need for stylists or elaborate lighting, instead preferring to photograph celebrities just as they were, creating alluring scenes that are a window into a different lifestyle. In presenting glimpses of the rich and famous engrossed in leisurely pursuits, the artist exposes elements of a life that would otherwise not be on view, allowing his audience to live the high life - vicariously.
Born and raised in New York, Aarons began taking pictures at the age of eighteen, after enlisting in the US Army, where he served as an official combat photographer during WWII. In a career that spanned six decades, Aarons’ camera lens moved from soldiers to stars and celebrities, and the self-proclaimed realisation that the only beaches worth photographing were "decorated with beautiful, seminude girls tanning in a tranquil sun."
Over the course of his 50 year career, Aarons was a regular contributor to magazines such as Life, Town & Country, Vogue and Holiday and received an exclusive look into the lives of figures such as the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. In 1997, Mark Getty of Getty Images bought Aarons’ entire archive of photographs, and published a book of his work Poolside with Slim Aarons a decade later. Aarons’ intimately candid scenes have given him an era-defining legacy as one of the most influential photographers of his generation.
Source: Art Republic