Toni Frissell – Pioneering Female Photographer

Day 307 of Colourisation Project – March 10

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

There is a hauntingly beautiful image of a model floating in water, which has to be one of the most emulated photos of all time.

Shot at Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida in 1947 for Harper’s Bazaar by photographer Toni Frissell, it has an ethereal quality about it not seen in fashion photography of the time. The image was also later published by Sports Illustrated in 1955 and has been used as cover art for many music albums and books.

Passport Photo 1942 ~ Toni Frissell – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Born in Manhattan, this day, March 10, 1907, Toni Frissell was one of the most innovative photographers of her time. Though the passage of time has seen her name fade somewhat into obscurity, her work was highly influential and deserving of greater status. Frissell brought a creative freshness and a cinematic quality to the fashion genre by using imaginative angles, both physical and metaphorical to convey her story. While working for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, she took fashion photography out of the studio and into the outdoors to work with natural light.

Though she was better known for her pioneering fashion photography, she also worked as a photojournalist during World War II. Frissell produced some of the more compelling images of World War II, focusing in particular on women’s contributions during the war. She worked for the Eighth Army Air Force, the Office of War Information and became the official photographer of the Women’s Army Corps, travelling twice to the European front capturing moving images of nurses, front-line soldiers, WACs, African-American airmen and orphaned children.

In 1953 she became the first female photographer to work at Sports Illustrated and continued to be one of very few female sport photographers for several decades. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, her work appeared regularly in Life and Look magazines.

Frissell was also well regarded for her candid-looking portraits of the famous and powerful, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; Winston Churchill; Eleanor Roosevelt; and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She also shot the wedding of John and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Toni Frissell died of Alzheimer’s disease on April 17, 1988, in a Long Island nursing home at the age of 81.

In 1970, well before her death she had donated her collection of prints and negatives to the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. The collection contains 340,000 items, including her own selection of her 1,800 best prints.


“Here are faces that I have found memorable. If they are not all as happy as kings, it is because in this imperfect world and these hazardous times, the camera’s eye, like the eye of a child, often sees true.”   –   Toni Frissell

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, History, Photography, USA, Women, Women Photographers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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