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George Platt Lynes

A self portrait of George Platt Lynes

George Platt Lynes (15 April 1907 – 6 December 1955) was an American fashion and commercial photographer.

Growing up Edit

Born in East Orange, New Jersey to Adelaide (Sparkman) and Joseph Russell Lynes he spent his childhood in New Jersey but attended the Berkshire School in Massachusetts. He was sent to Paris in 1925 with the idea of better preparing him for college. His life was forever changed by the circle of friends that he would meet there. Gertrude Stein, Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler and those that he met through them opened an entirely new world to the young artist.

Career Edit

He returned to the United States with the idea of a literary career and he even opened a bookstore in Englewood, New Jersey in 1927. He first became interested in photography not with the idea of a career, but to take photographs of his friends and display them in his bookstore.

Returning to France the next year in the company of Wescott and Wheeler, he traveled around Europe for the next several years, always with his camera at hand. He developed close friendships within a larger circle of artists including Jean Cocteau and Julien Levy, the art dealer and critic. Levy would exhibit his photographs in his gallery in New York City in 1932 and Lynes would open his studio there that same year. He was soon receiving commissions from Harper's Bazaar, Town & Country and Vogue including a cover with perhaps the first supermodel, Lisa Fonssagrives.

Photographing dancers and fashion Edit

In 1935 he was asked to document the principal dancers and productions of Lincoln Kirstein's and George Balanchine's newly founded American Ballet company (now the New York City Ballet).

While he continued to shoot fashion photographs, getting accounts with such major clients as Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue during the 1930s and 1940s he was losing interest and had started a series of photographs which interpreted characters and stories from Greek mythology.

By the mid-1940s he grew disillusioned with New York and left for Hollywood in 1946 where he took the post of Chief Photographer for the Vogue studios. He photographed Katharine Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Gloria Swanson and Orson Welles, from the film industry as well as others in the arts among them Aldous Huxley, Igor Stravinsky and Thomas Mann. While a success artistically it was a financial failure.

His friends helped him to move back to New York City in 1948. Other photographers, such as Richard Avedon, Edgar de Evia and Irving Penn, had taken his place in the fashion world. This combined with his disinterest in commercial work, meant he was never able to regain the successes he once had.

Male photography Edit

Focus on homoerotic imagery started to take over his photographic life. He had begun in the 1930s taking nudes of his circle of friends and performers, including a young Yul Brynner, but these had been known only to intimates for years. He began working with Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his Institute in Bloomington, Indiana. The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, as it is known today holds one of the largest collection of his male nudes. Twice he declared bankruptcy.

The end Edit

By May 1955 he had been diagnosed terminally ill with lung cancer. He closed his studio. He destroyed much of his print and negative archives particularly his male nudes. After a final trip to Europe, Lynes returned to New York City where he died.

Bibliography Edit

Books about/featuring Lynes and/or his work Edit

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