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Slim Aarons, Photographer

LifeRebecca O'ByrneComment

American photographer Slim Aarons’s iconically tantalising and delicately desirable images are recognised as some of the most absorbing snapshots into the lives of the jet-setters, celebrities and socialites who played subject to a considerable part of his life-long career in photography.

Known for photographing “attractive people in attractive places doing attractive things”, the Manhattan-born documentarian started out when, far from the prosperous world he ended up in, he was enlisted in the U.S Army where he was dispatched as a combat photographer during World War II. It was the beginning of photojournalism and when cameras were a mere fraction of the making of a great photographer, unlike today where anyone can take a pretty good shot, Aarons was of a time when, “you had to be a photographer to take pictures”. He ditched the Speed Graphic camera given to him by the military and equipped himself with a small Leica to capture the happenings of the war in full speed. And in hind sight, he never looked back.

After enough time witnessing the mass destruction of war and having worked in the presence of such harrowing situations he returned to the U.S, California specifically, where he quickly made a name for himself shooting celebrities and dignitaries. Of the time he noted, “after you’ve seen a concentration camp, you really don’t want to see any more bad things” and his life soon turned from the depressing scenes of battle and bloodbaths to beaches and blondes. 

It wasn’t long before he was part of the in-crowd too. Of those he photographed and whom of course would no doubt have had a certain amount of fame-enduced paranoia, Aarons said “I knew everyone. They would invite me to their parties because they knew I wouldn’t hurt them. I was one of them”. He worked with incredible creatives throughout the years and never used makeup artists or stylists to help in the orchestration of his creations. His infamous photos brought to light a now bygone era of exclusivity and privilege; one that saw him dipping into and sharing the realities lived in beautiful places around the world. From Newport and Palm Beach, Palm Springs and Acapulco to the heights and private homes of European regality in Naples, Lake Como and Costa Smeralda. There were no limits and his work was assembled into a book, A Wonderful Time, for the first time in 1974. At the time of publication the book was not received by the masses to great accord but as with many great people in life, he was eventually appreciated universally, with an extra precious respect from those in the fashion ND art industries who now use his work as a reference point for the time and in creating their own tales today.

His work has appeared in publications including Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, Life, Holiday and Travel & Leisure and his books A Wonderful Time, Once Upon A Time, Slim Aarons : A Place IN The Sun, Poolside with Slim Aarons, Slim Aarons ; La Dolce Vita and Slim Aarons ; Women have seen him acquire continued success and recognition the world over.


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