Liberal Arts Blog — Fashion — Three Iconic Photographs (Steichen, Avedon, Cole)

John Muresianu
4 min readNov 18, 2022

Liberal Arts Blog — Friday is the Joy of Art, Architecture, Design, Film, and All Things Visual Day

Today’s Topic: Fashion — Three Iconic Photographs (Steichen, Avedon, Cole)

Are you into fashion? Over the last decade, I have been astounded at the number of students in Adams House who plan to make a career in fashion. When I was a student at Harvard from 1971 to 1982, I did not meet a single student who expressed such an interest. My own attitude was one of total disdain, almost disgust at the very idea of high fashion. This morning I decided to stretch my soul a little bit and poke around for the most iconic fashion photographs of all time. I cam upon an intriguing article. Today, three highlights from it. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. “The decision of famed Pictorialist photographer Edward Steichen to assume the position of chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair by Condé Nast was one of the most controversial decisions in fashion photography.”

2. “To Alfred Stieglitz, Steichen’s friend and partner in the photo-secessionist movement, Steichen’s decision to become a commercial photographer damaged the cause of photography as fine art.”

3. “Yet, despite these doubts, Steichen’s years with Condé Nast were prolific and inspired.”

NB: “Steichen’s 1924 portrait of Gloria Swanson has taken on an iconic status over time. Made in the era of silent movies, this image caught the essence of Swanson as a haunting and inscrutable figure, veiled by gauzy light and soft focus.”


1.“Dovima was one of the most famous models in the world, and one of the last of an era that represented haute couture and classicism. An elitist world that began to change in the 1950s, as magazines began to favour girl-next-door looks over classic unattainable beauty, this editorial belonged in a transitional moment in fashion history.”

2. “By juxtaposing the strength of the elephants with the delicacy of Dovima’s body and gown- the first dress by Dior that was designed by Yves Saint Laurent- the picture also brings movement to a medium which had, until that point, been typified by stillness.”

3. “Avedon’s ability to capture the personality of his subjects elevated this image from the fashion photos of his peers, who often presented their models as mannequins, thus blurring the line between commercial fashion photography and fine art.”


1. “Tim Walker’s magical and eccentric images have been featured in the pages of Vogue since he was 25 years old. 23 years on he is still one of the best known and most original Vogue photographers to date.”

2. “Before entering university, Walker was already enamored with fashion photography, working on the Cecil Beaton archive. Following this, he briefly worked as an assistant to Richard Avedon in New York, before returning to London, full of confidence and ideas, to launch his own career.”

3. “His work is characterized by theatrical characters, magical scenarios, and extravagant sets.”

NB: “His use of pastel-colors is almost unparalleled, and this iconic shot of British model and environmentalist Lily Cole is the perfect example.”

Fashion Photography in 10 Famous and Iconic Images

Fashion photography — Wikipedia

Quote of the Month:

“Happy the man, and happy he alone,
he who can call today his own:
he who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.”

- Horace (65–8 BC)


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20


Please share the coolest thing you learned recently or ever related to art, sculpture, design, architecture, film, or anything visual.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And to cement in your own memory something cool or important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that is close to your heart.



John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.