In Front of the Lens

These iconic photographs were taken in Paris in the spring of 1965 for Harper’s Bazaar. In picture below Dorothea McGowan in seen gracefully ‘flying’ through the air in a Parisian restaurant, fellow model Donna Mitchell in is the foreground.


The joyous leaps through the air of Dorothea McGowan in the streets of Paris and over the rooftops of the city are reminiscent of French photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue, whose stunning collection of photographs gained critical acclaim in 1963 when Lartigue was age 69. Many of Lartigue’s early photographs concentrate on the spontaneity and joy involved in movement, this same sentiment is reflected in Sokolsky’s ‘Fly’ collection.

Sokolsky said of his early photographs: “I have always loved telling stories. Early in my career, I found myself compelled to tell stories with my pictures. Stories about people who breathe and feel and suffer and dream. Stories that explore and create different worlds within the world we all live in.”

Behind the Lens

Melvin Sokolsky was born in 1933 in New York City; he was raised on the Lower East Side. Sokolsky began his career as a stills photographer, with his big break coming aged just 21 when he was invited to join the staff of Harper’s Bazaar (the magazine in which these photographs appear). As his reputation grew, within just a few years Sokolsky had become a major contributor to four prestigious magazines: Esquire, McCall’s Newsweek, and Show.

In 1962, Sokolsky made fashion photography history by being the first photographer to shoot the entire editorial content of a magazine – in this case it was McCall’s. Two years later he was invited by the School of Visual Arts in New York to teach a special class at his studio in New York.

In 1969 Sokolsky embarked on a new career path into the world of television commercials as a director/cameraman. Many of his commercials are now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

An extract from Melvin Sokolsky’s Affinities written by Martin Harrison:

“”Astonishingly inventive” and “technically consummate” are typical of the encomiums that Sokolsky’s photographs elicit. The constant stream of frequently audacious ideas that he brought, month after month, to the pages of Harper’s Bazaar certainly bears witness to the claims of fecundity. And the effects he achieved, apparently effortlessly, were the result of tireless experimentation and skilful craftsmanship. He stretched beyond the nominal brief of illustrating clothes, urged on by his tenacious imagination, fired up by an almost child-like thrill with the power of the image, with articulating the body-in-space, and the search to find new ways to make an impact on the magazine page.”

"Fly", Harper's Bazaar, by Melvin Sokolsky

The Bigger Picture

6 Responses

  1. EM

    I am always captivated by the images of Retronaut but I’m always annoyed by the lack of captions, or info about the images. Makes for a disappointment, when I click on the links in hopes for a satisfaction to my curiosity.

    • Avatar of Chris

      Hi Elle – thanks for your comment. I am glad you like the images, and sorry that you find the lack of captions and information annoying.

      We leave usually do leave captions and contexual information out, unless vital, for a number of reasons. The key one is that the images themselves contain huge amounts of information and we want people to focus on that information.

      We try to make the links as helpful as possible. When we began the site, we would link to the parent source, whereas now we always seek to link to the most informative page. We are also very happy indeed to answer any questions about the material.

      Very soon we will be launching a new version of the site. Anyone will be able to make their own time capsules on any subject, and they will also be able to add as much description as they wish to any capsule, and to any individual image. I hope you will like it.



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