George Platt Lynes
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
George Platt Lynes (15 April 1907 – 6 December 1955) was
an American fashion and commercial photographer.
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.
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 displayed 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.
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
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 the largest
collection of his male nudes. Twice he declared bankruptcy.
By May of 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.