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Paul Outerbridge (1840-1882)Paul Outerbridge

Fashion/Glamour, Fine Art

Biography: Paul Outerbridge, Jr. was born into a wealthy family in New York and went to various private schools before studying at the Art Students League. In 1917 he joined the Canadian Royal Flying Corps, but was soon discharged following an accident; he then joined the US Army and took his first photographs as a part of his service.

In 1921 he went to study at the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York, photographing nude and still life on large format. His prints were finely made on expensive platinum paper, and one was publihed in Vogue the following year.

His work at this time was very much in the style of Paul Strand's which had been published in Camera Work some years earlier. Featuring everyday objects in still-life abstractions, Outerbridge's work was marked by an attention to every detail in both lighting and composition. Outerbridge often worked from detailed sketches and the sculpture classes he was taking with Alexander Arpichenko doubtless aided his appreciation of form. Soon he was busy with similar commercial work, which appeared in Vanity Fair and other magazines.

Outerbridge went to London in 1925 and lived for several years in Paris, where he joined the avant-garde artistic establishment. It was in Paris where Outerbridge got to know photographers such as Man Ray and Berenice Abbott, as well as artists including Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso and others. Outerbridge also photographed for Paris Vogue with Edward Steichen.

In 1929 he returned to New York, where he experimented with the technically difficult tri-color carbro process; soon he was a successful commercial colour photographer, shooting many covers for House Beautiful. His classic book 'Photography in Color', was released in 1940.

In 1943 Outerbridge moved to Hollywood, but found it impossible to get work in the film business due to the tight grip of the unions. He opened a portrait studio in Laguna Beach, but soon closed this to work away from photography in the fashion industry. In the late 1940s and early 1950s he travelled and produced a number of illustrated stories for magazines and for a short time had a monthly column in US Camera magazine.

Working with colour gave Outerbridge's models a reality that the American public was not ready for during his era. This, together with the surreal and often fetishistic nature of some of his work, made it impossible for his work to be shown in public at the time. Outerbridge's work did, however, sell at high prices to private collectors. His pictures seem very much to be a collaboration with the models, and although unusual and at times erotic, they would hardly be considered pornographic now.

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