Deborah Turbeville at Deborah Bell Photographs, through January 28, 2017

An exhibition of works by Deborah Turbeville (American, 1932-2013), one of the most influential and renowned fashion photographers of the 20th century. Turbeville is known for her iconoclastic fashion photographs, elaborate tableaux that depict brooding, introspective models wearing haute-couture clothing and posed in barren, desolate settings. Her pictures were widely published in the editorial pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, Nova, Mirabella, The New York Times Magazine, and other major publications. The exhibition presents Turbeville’s prints and collages of her fashion photographs from 1974-1982.

Turbeville describes her philosophy in the introduction to Wallflower  (1978):

Through a series of vignettes in stills, I wish to use the medium of photography to explain a group of rather eccentric people – sometimes one or two, sometimes many – placed in settings that help describe them. These people perform like a repertory company, often reappearing in different roles.

My pictures walk a tightrope. They never know. … I am one of the very few “enfants terrible” still claiming to take fashion photography. I am not a fashion photographer, I am not a photojournalist, I am not a portraitist.

The photographs are a little like the women that you see in them. A little out of balance with their surroundings, waiting anxiously for the right person to find them, and thinking that perhaps they are out of their time. They move forward clutching their past about them, as if the ground of the present may fall away. Their exteriors seem walled-up and introverted; the interiors endless…airless. The very print quality reflects something in the women that is hesitant, a little faded and scratched; or that, having emerged into a light too harsh, stand frozen in space, overexposed.


Diana Vreeland, 1981, collage of seventeen gelatin silver prints mounted on paper, affixed with T-pins and mounted on handmade paper


Untitled [Women in the Woods “Passport” collage], 1977, collage of eight gelatin silver prints on handmade paper


Italian Vogue, February 1977 / Isabelle Weingarten, Mantova, Italy [Women in the Woods], toned gelatin silver print


Mantova, Italy, 1978 [sic] from the series l’heure entre chien et loup, gelatin silver print


November 24, 1980 [Comme des Garçons, Passage Vivienne, Paris], gelatin silver print


Façade/Mary Martz & Isabelle Weingarten, Normandy, 1978, gelatin silver print


Mantova, Italy, 1977 [Isabelle Weingarten] [diptych], two [2] gelatin silver prints


Untitled, 1978 [“Glass House”], gelatin silver print on handmade paper


Model on Stairs [Comme des Garçons], 1980


Untitled [Comme des Garçons collage], 1980, collage of twelve [12], gelatin silver prints on black paper fastened to handmade paper with t-pins


Asser Levy Bathhouse, New York, 1975, for Vogue, gelatin silver print


Maurice Tannenbaum [and model], 1976, gelatin silver print


Betsey Johnson, Chinatown, New York, 1972, for Mademoiselle, chromogenic color print

Images: Copyright © The Deborah Turbeville Foundation, Courtesy Deborah Bell Photographs.