French fashion and nude photographer Fernand Fonssagrives was born on June 8, 1910. He met his first wife, Lisa, at dancing school in Paris and they both became professionals and dance instructors. A broken back due to a diving accident forced a long convalescence on Fernand. Lisa bought him a Rolleiflex camera to help him pass the time. He became one of the top photographers of the day and Lisa became the first “supermodel.” He’s more famous for his nudes of Lisa than the fashion shot of her, above, however. His nudes featured a play of light and shadow on the body that give a very abstract feel. Sometimes, you have to look twice to realize that you’re looking at a human form.
He and Lisa moved to New York where he became the highest paid fashion photographer. Model agency owner, Eileen Ford said, “I wish for Christmas I could give one of Fernand’s prints to every photographer who works with our models. If they lived with these pictures, they could learn how it should be done.” High praise, considering that Richard Avedon was his competition! Fonssagrives was truly gifted as an artist and produced bronze sculptures, paintings, and written work as well. His marriage to Lisa ended when she left him for Irving Penn, one of the other iconic photographers in New York. Fonssagrives chaffed against the increasing need to produce commercial work and spent more of his time on sculpting than photography. He died in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2003.
Today’s expression, du jour au lendemain (do joor O lehnduhmah) literally means “from one day to the next” or “overnight.” Fernand Fonssagrives became an overnight sensation upon his arrival in New York, but seems to have just as quickly slipped into relative obscurity, just the way his photographs move from sun to shadow.
- Lisa Fonssagrives (fashionmayann.wordpress.com)
- Lisa Fonssagrives at Paddington Station, London, 1951 (weheartvintage.co)