Alexey Brodovitch’s Ballet

Alexey Brodovitch, Astonish Me, Yale University Press, 2024

Alexey Brodovitch: Astonish Me! assesses the career of the hugely influential Harper’s Bazaar art director, who changed the course of twentieth-century American photography and graphic design

This lavishly illustrated volume explores the influence and significance of the Russian-born photographer, designer, and instructor Alexey Brodovitch (1898–1971), best known for his art directorship of the American fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar between 1934 and 1958, as well as his tutelage of many celebrated documentary and fashion photographers, including Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Eve Arnold, and Lillian Bassman. Though disparate in their aesthetic approaches, these figures are unified by their responses to Brodovitch’s dictum to “astonish me.” The authors address Brodovitch’s impact on photography as an artistic medium in the mid-twentieth century and explore how European art and design became the foundation of a new American print culture. Brodovitch’s own work will be illuminated through his personal projects—such as the magazine Portfolio and the photographic project Ballet, which depicted performances of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in the United States (whose evolution echoed Brodovitch’s own émigré condition). Case studies of his transformative collaborations with photographers such as Arnold, Avedon, Penn, Lisette Model, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Hans Namuth, and André Kertész reveal pivotal encounters that may surprise even the most ardent photography aficionado. An illustrated chronology offers an important tool for scholars on this influential but often overlooked figure.

David Campany contributes an essay about Brodovitch’s 1945 photobook, Ballet

Exhibition: Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia
(March 3–May 26, 2024)

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