In magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar or Elle, women wear the clothes and men take the photos.

So it seemed through much of the 20th century when the marquee names in fashion photography were guys like Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and their ilk. Avedon’s fashion career was even mythologized in the 1957 film “Funny Face” starring Audrey Hepburn.

Though never so well-known, women photographers were getting their work published at the same time in top magazines, advertisements and newspapers. “The Fashion Show,” organized by Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis, corrects their neglect with 40 images by a dozen prominent female photographers whose work spans more than 75 years. On view through Jan. 17, the elegant show features mostly black-and-white pictures beginning with Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s shy portrait of a svelte beauty taking a night swim in 1939 and ending with nearly abstract color images by South Korean journalist Ina Jang from 2013.

Gazing at their lush and beguiling photos, it’s tempting to look for psychological or stylistic differences between the sexes. Surely the women’s work is more sensitive to female gestures or temperament, more attuned to women’s moods or movement. Don’t male photographers more often push a story line, or impose expectations on the models and the clothes they wear?

Not necessarily, insisted Weinstein director Leslie Hammons, who gathered the pictures from galleries and artists’ archives around the country. After scrutinizing portfolios and careers of innumerable artists, including many she didn’t have room to exhibit, she cautioned against generalizations based on sexual stereotyping. Female photographers influenced their male counterparts, and vice versa, Hammons said. Photographing models in motion, taking them from studio to street, introducing film noir theatrics, or psychedelia, or humor — such innovations moved too quickly for anyone to claim exclusive ownership.

“The point is just to shine a light on this aspect of fashion photography — on women photographers working in the field,” Hammons said.

High fashion then and now

Following a casual chronology, the show loosely tracks the evolution of 20th-century fashion photography.

Starting as a regular Harper’s Bazaar photographer in the 1930s, Dahl-Wolfe cast a columnar “Patricia Morrison” into deep shadows in a 1940 studio shot and brilliantly echoed the aristocratic profile of an Egyptian queen in “Lisa Fonssagrives in Nefertiti Hat” in 1945. Then she took off to Europe for a high-contrast shot, “Jean Patchett, Grenada, Spain, 1953,” in which the model’s white-trimmed black swimsuit and matching sunglasses are dramatically silhouetted in blinding sunlight.

Frances McLaughlin-Gill’s 1941 picture “Mary Tice, 3rd Avenue Series” shows a waiflike girl in a plaid smock and matching booties strolling past a graffitied brick wall. Still winsome after 70 years, the picture radiates a schoolgirl innocence that must have been heart-wrenching when it was published in Vogue as World War II engulfed the nation. At war’s end, Genevieve Naylor’s playful “Fashion Bowling” of 1946 signals renewed exuberance as knee-socked teens twirl their plaid skirts and practice bowling.

The long career of Lillian Bassman links generations and photographic styles across three decades. Famous for emphasizing the languid, swanlike grace of her models, Bassman was a master of romantic shadows that dissolved arms, torsos and gowns into the moody air of Parisian salons and bistros. Her “Mary Jane Russell, Harper’s Bazaar, New York (Hat)” of 1950 reduces the model’s face to a cinematic blur seen through the hat’s translucent brim.

In “It’s a Cinch: Carmen, New York, Harper’s Bazaar,” the nearly nude model bounds past Bassman’s camera like a deer across a country road at midnight — glimpsed and then gone. For a 1958 Chanel advertising campaign, the white face of “Anne Saint-Marie, New York” is invisible save for her dark eyes and lips surrounded by a buzz of net and flowers. But by 1970, when she shot “Mesh Cap, California,” Bassman did a hard-edge Pop silhouette of a head wrapped in what looks like chain link fencing.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Deborah Turbeville carried Bassman’s moody aesthetic into new psychological territory with androgynous kohl-eyed models and edgy bathhouse photos. About the same time, Sheila Metzner was turning out dreamy color images of sybaritic luxury and idealized romance as seen in “The Passion of Rome: The Kiss,” a 1988 ad for Fendi in which a woman tries, futilely, to bring a stone god to life with a kiss. Additional images are by Olivia Bee, Toni Frissell and Ellen von Unwerth.

Highlights of the contemporary section include amusing 2006 Sarah Moon pictures of fluffy black-and-white furs for the designer Azzedine Alaïa. And in a nod to Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Cass Bird put running shoes on models wearing voluminous “Vogue Ballgowns” and snapped a woman in a satin evening cape queued up for a food-cart snack.

As all of these smart photographers know, such incongruous bits are closer to how we live now, even in couture satin.

 

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