The Unforgettable Photography of Louise Dahl-Wolfe

Apr 11, 2018 by Lisa Scarpa
15 MIN

Louise Dahl-Wolfe was an American photographer. She is most well known for her work with Harper’s Bazaar. Mrs. Dahl-Wolfe studied at the San Francisco Institute of Art, traveled in Europe, and worked in interior design before taking up the camera. Dahl-Wolfe didn’t begin her photography career until the 1930’s, after being a fan of Pictorialist, Anne Brigman. In 1932, she published her first photograph, (Tennessee Mountain Woman).

Thanks to her first photograph being published in Vanity Fair, she headed to New York City and decided to open a studio that she kept until 1960. She spent some years working in advertising, shooting for mega stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bonwit Teller until she was hired as fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar in 1936. She remained with the magazine until 1958 and later retired in 1960. Dahl-Wolfe's significant contribution in the fashion world, including 86 covers for Harper's Bazaar, helps you visualize her substantial body of portraiture. Dahl-Wolfe was especially well-known during the infancy of color fashion photography for her exacting standards in reproducing her images. ''I had no intention of being a photographer,'' said Mrs. Dahl-Wolfe.

"Her insistence on precision in the color transparencies made from her negatives resulted in stunning prints whose subtle hues and unusual gradations in color set the standard for elegance in the 1940s and 1950s. She pioneered the active yet sophisticated image of the "New Woman" through her incorporation of art historical themes and concepts into her photographs." She has become the role model and inspiration for many photographers after her time such as, irving penn and Richard Avedon. Take a look as the pictures below and you'll understand why. 

Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Harper's Bazaar Cover, June 1950


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Mary Jane Russell in Dior dress, Paris, 1950


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, California Desert, 1948


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Suzy Parker in Balenciaga along the Seine, Paris, 1953


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Dior Ballgown, Paris, 1950


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Luki in Balenciaga Coat, 1953


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Natalie in Grès coat, Kairouan, 1950


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Mary Jane Russell in Balenciaga, Harper's Bazaar, July 1962


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Rubber Bathing Suit, 1940


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Twins at the Beach, 1955


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Liz Gibbons is wearing a hat from Bergdorf Goodman, October 1940


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Model in a Nettie Rosenstein suit with brooch by Tiffany worn at the waist, 1941


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Vera Maxwell in her own design with hat by Lilly Dache and jewelry by Verdura, March 1942


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Shirt top and pencil-skirt in printed wool-rayon crepe with belt and buttons in blond calf by Traina-Norell, panama hat by John Frederics, May 1944


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Beachwear by Claire McCardell, 1946


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Betty Bridges (l) in Carolyn Schnurer and Bobby Monroe (r) in Duchess Royal, Home of Raimundo Castro-Maia (1894-1968) in Tijuca, Brazilr, May 1946


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Model is wearing gown and stole by Lanvin, Hôtel Soubise (now site of Musée de Archives), Paris, November 1946


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Christian Dior redingote, November 1947


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Betty Bond wearing a hat by Lilly Dache and jewelry by Schlumberger, March 1942


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Bijou Barrington in skirt and halter top by Jay Thorpe, Taliesen West - Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home in Phoenix, Arizona, January 1942


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Evelyn Tripp in Hattie Carnegie, March 1949


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Liz Benn in emerald green satin gown by Omar Kiam for Ben Reig, Miriam Haskell jewels, October 1949


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Mary Jane Russell in dress by Henry Rosenfeld, 1949


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Playsuit designed by Tina Leser, 1949


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Dorian Leigh in Claire McCardell's fitted tweed suit with hood that folds down into a turtle neck, 1944


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Exquisite ball gown by Christian Dior, Chateau de Madrid, 1947


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Grey wool suit by Hardy Amies, 1947


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Inga is wearing a yellow wool coat by Original Modes, January 1947


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Leslie Dickson wears bathing suit by Hermès, Useppa Island Club, Sarasota, Florida, May 1947


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Model Betty Threat in a Charles James evening dress, April 1947


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Natalie Paine in dress by Philip Magone, hat and matching gloves by John Frederics, Louise Dahl-Wolfe's studio in New York City, March 1947


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Sandra Payson in suit by Roxspun, hat by Sally Victor, Louise Dahl-Wolfe's studio in New York City, March 1947


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Betty Threatt (r) and model wearing summer dresses, May 1948


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Model in gold swimsuit interwoven with Lastex is by Mabs of Hollywood, model in pink suit is by Gantner, 1948


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Virginia Stewart is wearing a sundress by Joset Walker in the California desert near Yuma, May 1948


Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Betty Threatt in ruby-red silk velvet dinner-suit by Christian Dior, September 1949

Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Betty Threatt is wearing Traina-Norell's knit dress appliqued with beige silk flowers embroidered in gold, black fox stole by Maximilian, October 1949


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