And then he died, of course.
February 16, 2014 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Editta Sherman was a portrait photographer who shot celebrities from Elvis Presley to the young Angela Lansbury to Andy Warhol to Joe DiMaggio to Tilda Swinton.

Called the Duchess of Carnegie Hall, Sherman lived and worked out of studio 1208 for 50 years before the music hall decided to clear out the rent-controlled apartments [NYT] to make room for offices in 2010. Just before the eviction, she (along with many other artist neighbors) were interviewed in their homes, in Josef Astor's documentary Lost Bohemia.

She was a decades-long friend, neighbor and muse to Bill Cunningham (yes, that Bill Cunningham) (previously 1, 2, 3), who featured her in his book of New York landscapes offset by period fashions, Facades.

Here's an interview from age 90. Here's one of her final interviews, discussing a retrospective of her work that showed last summer. Her favorite portrait? Probably this one of Tyrone Power (Mine is this color one of 60's model Veruschka)

She died this past November at the age of 101.

Bill Cunningham's Facades photos of Editta and New York will be on view at the New York Historical Society beginning next month.

Slideshow of more photos here [NYT]

A book of Sherman's portraits, Studio 1208: Camera Studies by Editta Sherman, is due out later this year (cite - with bonus portraits of classical musicians).
posted by Mchelly (9 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Great post. These portraits are wonderful. Also Tilda Swinton is just amazing, of course.
posted by sweetkid at 1:12 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I remember her from Bill Cunningham New York; she was fabulous and I loved her apartment.

posted by oceanjesse at 2:05 PM on February 16, 2014

Tilda Swinton's hair could crush the sky!
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:17 PM on February 16, 2014

Gosh, Angela Lansbury is pretty in that photo.
posted by KingEdRa at 2:31 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also remember her from the documentary oceanjesse mentioned. That Tyrone Power photo is fantastic.
posted by selfnoise at 2:41 PM on February 16, 2014

Gosh, Angela Lansbury is pretty in that photo.

Angela Lansbury might be my actual favorite person ever. I spent probably eight or ten minutes yesterday explaining to my husband all the ways in which I think Jessica Fletcher is incredible, and that doesn't even touch Angela Lansbury (you know, the actual person) in The Manchurian Candidate or Bedknobs and Broomsticks or The Court Jester or Beauty and the Beast or anything about her stage career. Seriously, Angela Lansbury is amazing and one of my big sadnesses is that I never got the chance to hang out with her and Jerry Orbach together which seems like it would have been unbelievably amazing in a grand old theater way.

Anyway, yeah, anyone who takes photos of Angela Lansbury is a hero and these look neat. Thanks!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:07 PM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

My goodness, Angela! *clutches pearls*! ;)

That's an awesome photo. The eyelashes. The eyes! The big do! It's so her but in a sex-vixen 20-years old way. I've never even seen a photo of her young, and here she is, being all come hither! Wow. What a great snap.

posted by dabitch at 5:17 PM on February 16, 2014

Those are all great portraits; I couldn't help but notice the cigarette in Yul Brynner's hand.

I take issue with this description in the NPR obit:

She had a giant Kodak 8x10 view camera on wheels — it looked like a person itself. The aperture holes ...were cut out of a piece of cardboard and she'd slip them in and out of the lens by hand. There was really nothing at all technical or automatic about it. In fact, it just tells you how she took those pictures — she was an intuitive type of photographer.

Although correct that there was nothing automatic about it, I can think of little more technical than making your own diaphragms. The next step might be grinding your own lenses. And the lighting was no accident either. Of course she captures the subjects so well that it looks intuitive, but she thought things out pretty closely I would wager. As for the 8x10 format and old studio camera, there are optical reasons why that big sheet of film can capture detail that's not posssible with a postage stamp sized (or smaller) digital sensor or piece of film, not to mention all the things you can do with the camera itself. Lots of explanation here.

Wonderful portraits. I recognized some of them and am glad to know the story behind the lady who took them.
posted by TedW at 5:44 PM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

On rereading that NPR quote I guess it doesn't say she cut out the apertures (isn't aperture hole kind of redundant?). But the rest of what I said still stands.
posted by TedW at 5:47 PM on February 16, 2014

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