Deborah Turbeville -Lingering Memories – Anatomy Films


dt-4Deborah Turbeville was born July 6, 1932 and was maybe the most stylistic American photographer of our time. She was an editor at Harper’s Bazaar,

Source: Deborah Turbeville -Lingering Memories – Anatomy Films



deborah turbeville Turbeville was born July 6, 1932 and was maybe the most stylistic American photographer of our time. She was an editor at Harper’s Bazaar, but had a vision that the photographers at the time weren’t living up to. (in her mind) She, along with Sarah Moon, brought a darker, dreamy mood to photography in the 70’s.  Along with Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, she essentially changed fashion photography as it was known. However, her dreamy images were a new direction for fashion at the time. No well lit, saturated colors here. Her photos were actually considered more art than fashion. But her commercial influence extended to ads for Bloomingdale’s, Bruno Magli, Nike, Ralph Lauren and Macy’s.

She was born into a well to do family in New England that preferred their extreme privacy. To the point of isolation. They would have been more suited to a city life, constantly traveling to Boston for shows and the opera, and almost seemed “stuck” in the suburbs,…as if self imprisoned. Deborah herself had very little interaction with other children, and grew up in a world of adults. Probably the source of that dark and mysterious attribute in her work. She was inseparable from her parents. If they attended the opera, she attended the opera.

She went to school around Boston Bay, and actually enjoyed the fog, snow and cobblestone streets. Probaby a great source of her inspiration throughout her life. Summers were spent on the coasts of Maine, and almost like Winslow Homer, seemed to absorb the dark energy of this isolated and sinister scenery, employing these memories through a soft filter in much of her adult work.

deborah turbeville

Her method of work just reinforces her calling as an artist,…not a technician. (as most photographers,…especially male) Deborah Turbeville photographs are recognizable by their grain and muted tones, whether color or black and white, and by deliberate  image blurring. She reworks her shots by scraping or taping them with the help of her assistant and collaborator, Sharon Schuster. She will almost “destroy” an image, making it a one of a kind. This alteration iswhat make Deborah Turbeville an artist much more than a sheer photographer.  She scrapes, twists and erases every image, contradicting the technical perfection most photographers seek. You can say she violates the true credo of most photographers, freeing herself of the bounds of ‘photographic documentation’.

deborah turbeville

The 70’s were a time of changing gender roles, and her grainy depictions with little interaction between models, seem to portray a sense of this female concept of beauty, introducing a new self to aspire to. Some have accused her of introducing the new anorexic archetype, or heroin chic, but I doubt this was her intention, any more than Botero was promoting larger women.

deborah turbeville

While Helmut Newton tended towards more provocative or taboo subjects in his photography, one cannot think of Deborah Turbeville’s work without seeing the mostly now defunct “bath house”. Her refusal to follow the norm produced true originals never to be reproduced again, and actuallycan be said “invented” a new strain of photography, elevating it to art as never before. The stereotypical sense of glamour and fashion was altered and made timeless. If you look at most photography from the 70s and 80s, it is  stamped with a time period it was taken. If you look at a Deborah Turbeville print,….ageless is all that comes to mind.

deborah turbeville

Deborah Turbeville died from lung cancer at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan in 2013, at the age of 81. I actually have a collection of every one of her books, and had the honor of meeting her in a West Greenwich Village restaurant in the 90’s. Although advanced in age at the time, she was still doing beautiful artwork, (being framed by a friend), and was a joy to meet. Get any of her books. You won’t be sorry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s