Les Exclusifs de CHANEL 1957

LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL

Is it a year? An address? Two numbers combined? 1957 is all those things as well as the link between CHANEL and the United States.
A continent enamored with Gabrielle Chanel, captivated by her creations since her debut in 1912 and then by the personality of a free and independent woman who owed her success to no one other than herself. The fascination was mutual: Mademoiselle Chanel was drawn to America by her family’s past and dreams of her beloved father who set sail for the New World. Her desire to also live this dream and achieve lasting fame became a reality: «I admire and love America,» she confided to Paul Morand, «it’s where I made my fortune» (1). And it is also where she was hailed as the most influential designer of the 20th century in 1957.

Taking in Texas: Chanel and Marcus during the Marcus Western party outside Dallas on September 7th 1957 (this trip inspired Lagerfeld later for the Paris – Dallas Metiers d’Art show).

I ADMIRE AND LOVE AMERICA

The love story between CHANEL and America began with fashion. The young milliner’s hats were distributed in New York department stores, and the press raved about her avant-garde style: Women’s Wear Daily predicted a great future for the famous sweaters created in Deauville from the moment they appeared in 1914 (2) and CHANEL designs flourished in the pages of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair each season.

Coco Chanel for N°5, its first campaign as featured in Harper’s Bazaar in 1937.

And then there was fragrance, of course. France discovered the fragrance N°5 in 1921, and the Americans fell in love with it three years later in 1924, the same year the first makeup collection was launched. «Americans buy all things luxurious, and the greatest luxury is fragrance»: Gabrielle Chanel’s intuition was once again right.
In 1928, Vogue US slipped into the beauty salon of the Jay Thorpe department store and met the hostess trained in Paris by CHANEL, who, in addition to performing treatments with CHANEL skincare products, also guided women in their choice of fragrance, «one of the most difficult things in the world when you have tried three or four» (3).
In 1934, advertising campaigns for fragrances in American magazines began introducing Americans to new scents, unprecedented in their conception – N°5 was the first luxury fragrance to use aldehydes – and revolutionary by their rich and floral olfactory composition.

Illustrator unknown, via Vogue, October 1926

The name CHANEL was on all lips, and its style worn by all women. The iconic little black dress was celebrated by Vogue US in October 1926. By referring to the Chanel design as the «Ford dress», in reference to the Ford T automobile which had been a best-seller since 1908, the magazine ushered the little black dress into fashion history. On Broadway, actresses Katharine Cornell and Gertrude Lawrence took to the stage dressed in CHANEL. Hollywood also clamored for Gabrielle Chanel, who travelled to Los Angeles at the request of Samuel Goldwyn in 1931 to dress the actresses of MGM Studies, including Gloria Swanson, who became one of her friends.

Coco Chanel during a working visit to Los Angeles, in 1931.
Photo: © 1931 Los Angeles Times; Digital Colorization by Lee Ruelle / via Vanity Fair.

Delighted to finally discover the United States, the creator first stopped in New York with Misia Sert, where she was welcomed with great pomp. And, on their way back from California, the two friends visited Chicago and San Francisco before returning to New York. The trip lasted one month, and the American press took advantage of the opportunity to try to uncover the secrets of Gabrielle Chanel, the unstoppable businesswoman ahead of her time. From the New York Times to the New York Herald Tribune, not to mention The New Yorker, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Coco was everywhere and gave countless interviews from her suite at the Pierre Hotel. Each one of her outfits was observed in detail, her pearl necklaces and style drawing much admiration. From then on, in America, CHANEL incarnated French elegance and was synonymous with the fashion to be followed at all costs. At the end of her trip, an article in the June 1931 issue of Vanity Fair praised the designer in their “«We nominate for the Hall of Fame» feature: «Gabrielle Chanel was the first to apply the principles of modernism to dressmaking; because she numbers among her friends the most famous men of France; because she combines a shrewd business sense with enormous personal prodigality and a genuine enthusiasm for arts; and finally because she came to America to make a laudable attempt to introduce chic to Hollywood». The 1939 New York World Fair only confirmed the infatuation: the CHANEL showcases, in crystal and with sculpted heads, presenting objects and accessories that evoked the personality of Mademoiselle Chanel, were among the most admired by 44 million visitors.

CHANEL at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for the New York World’s Fair. (1939)

Although she travelled to the United States with her friends or photographers like Horst P. Horst, Gabrielle Chanel made her big comeback in 1957. Three years earlier, Mademoiselle Chanel had returned to the world of fashion with a collection that ran totally counter to the style of the time. While Paris gave her the cold shoulder, America heaped her with even more praise. Life magazine gave her an ovation: «At 71, Gabrielle Chanel is creating more than fashion: a revolution» (4). Truman Capote himself referred to her as a «fashion visionary». But how could the land where anything was possible forget when in 1952 Marilyn Monroe made N°5 immortal by declaring she wore nothing but a few drops of the fragrance to bed?

Marilyn Monroe and her Chanel N°5 in 1952

THE MOST INFLUENTIAL DESIGNER OF THE 20TH CENTURY

And so 1957. That year, Stanley Marcus organized the first Neiman Marcus Fortnight in Dallas to celebrate the department store’s fiftieth anniversary. Three hundred fashion designers were invited, but only one was welcomed like a star: after arriving by the first foreign aircraft ever to land at the Dallas Love Field airport, Gabrielle Chanel climbed into the only white Rolls Royce in the procession, exclusively reserved for her. Her destination ? The podium on which she was to receive the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion, thereby declaring her the most influential designer of the 20th century. At her side was Suzy Parker, the first true top model in fashion history. In 1959, the beautiful American star became the face of N°5 featured in a campaign by Richard Avedon, followed by actresses Candice Bergen and Ali McGraw, in 1965 and 1966.

Coco Chanel and Suzy Parker, 1962

The love affair between CHANEL and America grew even stronger through the art world: in 1959, the New York Museum of Modern Art exhibited the packaging of the fragrance bottle as an example of minimalist elegance, which was later reinterpreted by Andy Warhol. The Broadway musical Coco paid tribute to Gabrielle Chanel in 1969 with a run of 300 performances starring Katharine Hepburn in the role of the designer.

«Coco» was Katherine Hepburn’s only musical on Broadway (1969).

A unique, bold and passionate rebel at heart who let nothing stand in her way, an independent, hardworking woman driven by an innate desire for success, Gabrielle Chanel became America’s adopted daughter. A daughter to whom the country paid homage on January 10, 1971: having followed and championed her from the start, the New York Times devoted three front-page columns to her «incalculable» influence on fashion and its evolution (5). Still today, history has proven her right.

The pearl sculpture, designed by Jean-Michel Othoniel, extends down a central staircase within the newly opened CHANEL store on 57th street in New York City. 

A SKIN SCENT

Alongside the reopening of the New York boutique on 57th street, CHANEL is celebrating 1957 with a new eau de parfum in the LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL collection. 1957: the year of Gabrielle Chanel’s consecration in America, but also 19, like the day of her birth, and 57, like the street number of the biggest CHANEL store in the United States. A creation that builds an olfactory bridge between France and America, joined by that iconic style. A timeless style, the CHANEL style.

«Her special style is compounded from three ingredients: girlishness, comfort, and a generous helping of pearls. In a country where emphasis is on youth and free and easy living, her designs were bound to succeed». With this definition of the CHANEL allure, the New York Times said it all (6). A modern, avant-garde style that gave women freedom to move. An eternally young and modern allure that broke with the codes of the time and shifted the conventions of chic. An art of living with a simplicity that hides a painstakingly crafted complexity, steeped with a luxury that has no need to flaunt or justify itself.

The third LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL creation composed by perfumer-creator Olivier Polge, in cooperation with the CHANEL Laboratory of Fragrance Creation and Development, 1957 illustrates the mystery of the deceptively simple CHANEL style. A balance of creamy softness, enveloping comfort, and light perfused with discreet power. A fragrance one adopts like a clean skin scent that becomes unique and deeply personal on each wearer. «For each fragrance in the LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL collection, we explore a path we have never taken», explains Olivier Polge. «This time, I opted to work with musk, more specifically white musks. Their whiteness hides a great complexity: enveloping, they emit a more or less pronounced light, and vary in their soft and sensual effects. 1957 is a skin scent that, more than others, is revealed fully on the unique chemistry of each person’s skin».

A BALANCE OF CREAMY SOFTNESS, ENVELOPING COMFORT, AND LIGHT PERFUSED WITH DISCREET POWER

An assembly of eight white musks, 1957 is structured like a layered composition of transparent, translucent and opaque veils. An immaculate superposition, comfortable and enveloping, soft, almost cushion-like. One can imagine one of Gabrielle Chanel’s beloved pearls, its delicate contours rendered imperceptible by the changing reflections: the matte whiteness of certain musks blends into the iridescent pearl of others. In this interplay of depths, woody, honeyed, spicy and floral vibrations create a luminous, powerful and sensual prominence. Vanilla and honey notes thus slip into the white musks, some with a hint of cedar, others with pink pepper, coriander seed or orange blossom. The faux simplicity of whiteness is revealed and magnified… The precision of an expertly crafted and yet abstract trail, free to enhance the skin by diffusing a distinctive and singular scent.

Coco Chanel presenting her collection in 1957, the year of her comeback.

«1957 also conjures up a certain idea of America», according to Olivier Polge. «An idea that the country has of fragrance and particularly with respect to CHANEL and N°5, which has become a model of olfactory inspiration, even for hairsprays and soaps. But also a concept that the United States introduced: what is referred to as a «sent-bon», (7) a word that speaks to me especially because it was so dear to Gabrielle Chanel. 1957 is a link: it reinterprets American perfumery with the idea the USA has had about French fragrance since N°5 paved the way». The essence of CHANEL is reunited in its trail, filled with comfort and natural elegance, a presence within a chic, refined, personal and unforgettable discretion.

1957 Eau de Parfum Vaporisateur 75 ml CHF 230.-
1957 Eau de Parfum Vaporisateur 200 ml CHF 410.-

LoL, Sandra

Photos if not stated otherwise: © CHANEL

(1) Paul Morand, The Allure of Chanel, ed. Hermann, 1996, p.183.
(2) WWD, July 27, 1914.
(3) Vogue US, September 29, 1928.
(4) Justine Picardie, CHANEL sa vie, Steidl, 2010, p.330.
(5) The New York Times, January 11, 1971.
(6) Linda Simon, Coco Chanel, Reaktion books, Critical Lives collection, London, 2011 p.157.
(7) A pleasant smell.

Rodial Pink Diamond Instant Lifting Serum

Marilyn Monroe Diamonds

Rodial Diamond Lifting serumFinally a product that not only Marilyn Monroe would have adored. Diamonds for the face – a triple-action flash radiance serum, containing a powerful cocktail of age-defying peptides and proteins, that has an immediate lifting effect on the skin, evens out skin tone and adds luminosity to the complexion through skin tightening enzymes, vitamin C and real diamond powder.

Rodial PINK DIAMOND INSTANT LIFTING SERUM
Short Facts

Diamond Powder: Multi-dimensional light reflective particles infuse skin with a lit-from-within glow.

Vitamin C: Reduces free radical damage, aids in protection and production of collagen and elastic fibres for a younger looking complexion.

Skin Tightener ST: Skin lifting proteins and enzymes- A hydroglycolic substance which has an immediate skin tightening effect whilst also leaving the skin feeling fresh and smooth.

In Switzerland, Rodial PINK DIAMOND INSTANT LIFTING SERUM is available for CHF 330.- (30 ml) exclusively at Marionnaud.

LoL, Sandra

Photo: © Bert Stern / 1962, Still: Courtesy of Rodial

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend-Vainard Fine Jewellery

When Marilyn Monroe sang in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes‘, “Men grow cold as girls grow old, and we all lose our charms in the end. But square-cut or pear-shaped, these rocks don’t lose their shape. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” she became a legend.
I could go on and sing: “Talk to me VAINARD! Tell me all about it!”

The Zurich-based fine jeweler, who is a leading supplier in the natural colored diamond segment, seemed to have heard my request and flew me to its own factory in Idar-Oberstein, the famous German gemstone center, which is also the birth place of Hollywood actor Bruce Willis. There I was able to see the different stages of crafting an exclusive diamond ring, from the sawing and cutting process to the stone setting.

Ring vainard Selfmade 1

Moreover, I could lend a hand and make my own diamond ring which was an unforgettable experience. It is very rare that a jeweler has a factory in which the diamond cutting workshop is done in-house as well as the design and the setting. Needless to say, this close cooperation between all different stages results in extremely high quality.

The word diamond drives from Greek origin and means “unbreakable“. In fact, a diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material.

Finding a diamond

Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure at depths of 140 to 190 kilometers in the Earth’s mantle and are brought close to the surface through deep volcanic eruptions by magma, which cools into igneous rocks. The last volcanic activity to convey these valuable stones was almost over 100 million years ago. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source of a diamond, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years, which are 25% to 75% of the age of the Earth.

Dream ring 1

Speaking of which, the rarity of a diamond makes this precious stone a must-have among us ladies. There is no girl whose eyes don’t sparkle when gifted with this luxurious gemstone. Diamonds signify steadfast, enduring love because of their unmatched strength and beauty. They can be worn with any outfit, from an elegant cocktail dress to blue jeans.

Extremely important is the gemological characteristic of the stone which shows the value as a gem. Four characteristics, known informally as the four Cs, are today commonly used as the basic descriptors: these are carat (its weight), cut (quality of the cut is graded according to proportions, symmetry and polish), color (how close to white or colorless; for fancy diamonds how intense is its hue), and clarity (how free is it from inclusions).

Diamond ring yellow by Vainard Fine Jewellery

Because of its extremely rigid lattice, the stone can be contaminated by very few types of impurities. Nitrogen is by far the most common one found in gem diamonds and is responsible for the yellow color. Boron is responsible for the blue hue. Colored diamonds contain impurities or structural defects that cause the coloration, while pure or nearly pure diamonds are transparent and colorless. Their rarity and beauty makes some of the colored diamonds worth millions of dollars.

Sandra Bauknecht-Vainard Fine Jewellery-Making a diamond ring

Creating the final spectacle of a polished diamond jewelry piece can take years to master. Having an understanding of the construction of such a small object is in fact very fascinating. Let me show you what I observed and learned in Idar-Oberstein about the specific skills and techniques that are used to make such an object of desire.

Vainard FJ 37

It all starts with the sawing process of the raw diamond that takes several hours. The copper saw blade has to be coated with fine diamond powder to work with this extremely hard material. It takes many years to learn this skill to avoid damaging the stone.

Vainard FJ 36

The following multi-step process called “cutting” finally reveals the diamond’s outstanding beauty. This extremely delicate procedure also requires skills, scientific knowledge, tools and experience, as those gemstones can brittle and be split up by a single blow.

Diamond Shapes-VainardNine Stages of Diamond Cutting-Vainard

The most time-consuming part of the cutting is the preliminary analysis of the rough stone. It needs to address a large number of issues, bears much responsibility, and therefore can last years in case of unique diamonds.

Sandra Cutting 2

After initial sawing, the diamond is shaped in numerous stages of cutting. Unlike sawing, which is a responsible but quick operation, cutting removes material by gradual erosion and is extremely time consuming. Its final goal is to produce a faceted jewel where the specific angles between the facets would optimize the diamond luster.

Sandra Bauknecht at Vainard 1

Every facet in an ideal cut diamond must be placed at precise angles and contain precise proportions. This ensures the perfect balance between maximum brilliance and dispersion of light. Any discrepancy from these proportions will result in a loss of sparkle.

Ideal Diamonds

After the cutting of the stones is finished, the goldsmith will start his work according to the drawing the Vainard jewelry designer prepared beforehand.

Vainard 2

The stones depending on the shank need to go back to the diamond cutting workshop in order to achieve the perfect fit. Once this step is completed, the stone setter fits them into the setting.

Setting

I have to admit that I had a lot of fun making my own diamond ring. Needless to say, the Vainard team had prepared the most important steps and helped me with the execution.

Bright like a diamond-Vainard Fine Jewellery-Sandra BauknechtThe first step in soldering is to dip the piece of gold with the help of a brush into a solution of boric acid and alcohol before lighting it.

Vainard 9a

You have to be very careful as you work with temperatures above 3000 degrees Celsius.

Vainard 12a

For some work stages, you need to use a microscope to work as precisely as possible.

Sandra Bauknecht Vainard 6

The final step for me was to close the four claw prong setting with the help of a special working tool. What seems so easy is actually pretty difficult as you are looking through a magnifying glass for maximum precision which made me feel pretty uncoordinated.

Diamond Vainard Fine Jewellery-Final stp

Every Vainard Fine Jewellery piece undergoes a final inspection after its ensuing polishing. After having seen the craftsmanship, the expertise and love for detail, I truly appreciate the work of such a fine jeweler even more than I already did before.

Ring Vainard 11

When we went into the vault and I was able to indulge in the most beautiful pieces of jewelry, I fell in love with the emerald cut diamond ring and the bracelet you have been seen me a lot with recently. Those treasures make me happy every time I am wearing them and they are something that I will happily pass on one day to my daughter.

Sandra Bauknecht - Vainard 22

There is no doubt, diamonds are a girl’s best friend! If you are in Zurich, I truly recommend a visit to the Vainard Fine Jewellery shop at Schlüsselgasse 4, Phone +41 44 210 04 44.

Besides its large selection of  diamond jewelry, the renowned jeweler also works with colored gemstones and is happy to finalize your own designs as well as to remodel an existing piece.

LoL, Sandra

Vainard Fine Jewellery Ring 2

Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht
Photo of the shop in collage: © Vainard, Photo of Marilyn Monroe: Via Vanity Fair

Chanel N°5 – The Story of a Famous Quote

Cover Chanel

Once upon a time there was the most desirable woman of the 20th century…
Marilyn Monroe – the icon with a fresh sensuality – was the very essence of femininity. When she adopted CHANEL N°5, did she know what Mademoiselle Chanel had said of the bold fragrance back in 1921 : “I want a woman’s fragrance that smells like a woman” ?

1953 MARILYN MONROE

Back then, the legend that this free and passionate woman wore nothing to bed but a few drops of CHANEL N°5 rocked the world. Her candid declaration of love for the quintessential feminine fragrance was there in black and white, in an article published on August 7, 1952 that accompanied her first cover of Life Magazine (see photos below) : “Marilyn, what do you wear to bed ? So I said I only wear CHANEL N°5.”

Marilyn Monroe_copyright Philippe Halsman Magnum Photos

Today, that legend has become a reality. While perusing the archives on the star, the House of CHANEL discovered an unreleased recording capturing the spontaneous ambassadress’ original words. Flashback on the soundtrack : in 1960, Georges Belmont, editor-in-chief of Marie-Claire magazine *, interviewed the star of the film “Let’s Make Love” by Georges Cukor. On the spur of the moment, Marilyn confirmed the sincerity of her love for N°5 : “You know, they ask me questions. Just an example : ‘What do you wear to bed ? A pyjama top ? The bottoms of the pyjamas ? A nightgown ?’ So I said, ‘CHANEL N°5’, because it’s the truth… And yet, I don’t want to say ‘nude’. But it’s the truth !”

1955 Marilyn Monroe
With this declaration, and the photo by Ed Feingersh ** showing her with a bottle of N°5 nestled in her décolleté, she definitively established N°5 as the fragrance of timeless femininity
This advertising campaign will start this Fall in print and on TV.

PA2013_01_0024

N°5 – ODE TO SENSUALITY

N°5 is the first truly abstract fragrance: no identifiable dominant note stands out from the eighty ingredients used in its composition. A radical change that Jacques Polge, Creator of CHANEL Perfumes, describes as an olfactory symphony that blends notes of Ylang Ylang, Grasse Jasmine and May Rose, amplified by Aldehydes like a perfect accord.
N°5 has, since its creation, disrupted the codes of seduction and served the desires of women.
To complete the full perfuming ritual, CHANEL prolongs the trail of this legendary fragrance by creating a new sense-awakening moment with new bath and body products that invite you to fully immerse your senses in the world of N°5.

Chanel N5 - 1

THE FOAMING BATH – BOTTLE 200 ML
A fine, generous foam, true to the fragrance, forms immediately upon contact with water for a pure moment of sensory relaxation. CHF 62.00
THE CLEANSING CREAM – BOTTLE 200 ML
A cream with a rich lather that envelops the body and fills the shower with its scent. CHF 60.00

Chanel 5-7

THE BODY LOTION – BOTTLE 200 ML
Like a caress, it delicately wraps the body in a deliciously scented veil that moisturizes and protects the skin. CHF 68.00
THE DEODORANT – SPRAY 100 ML
A fresh breeze with the enveloping notes of N°5. CHF 56.00

Chanel 5-2
THE HAIR MIST – SPRAY 40 ML
A delicate and sensual application for an aura of seduction and femininity. A fragrant mist that is gentle on hair. CHF 59.00
INTENSE BATH OIL – BOTTLE 250 ML
A few drops are all you need for your bath to take on a fragrant milky appearance. CHF 125.00

LoL, Sandra

Photos: Courtesy of Chanel, © Bob Beerman, Philippe Halsman Magnum Photos, MOA/DALLE, © Sandra Bauknecht, * © Marie Claire 1960, ** © Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Marilyn Forever

Marilyn Forever

The 65th annual Cannes Film Festival commemorates Marilyn Monroe on the 50th anniversary of her death, featuring her on the festival’s posters. Festival sponsor Chopard pays tribute to Marilyn Monroe‘s most memorable movie moment, her famous performance of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” in the 1953 musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with a diamond necklace in honour of the blonde bombshell’s object of affection in the film, featuring almost 200 carats of diamonds.

Marilyn Forever2

On this occasion, the Swiss jewelry and watch brand exhibits “Marilyn Forever”, 25 unpublished images, captured by frequent Monroe photographer Milton H. Greene, previewed in the Chopard Lounge at Hotel Martinez. After the festival, it will travel to Chopard boutiques around the world alongside with the Monroe-inspired “Tribute Set”.

Eva H

Eva Herzigova wore the Marilyn Monroe Tribute set from the Red Carpet collection composed of a necklace in 18-carat white gold set with beads diamonds (151.64 cts), heart shaped diamonds (30.72 cts) and diamonds (18.53cts) with matching earrings on the Cannes Film Festival’s opening night.

IMG_5818

IMG_5826

I was able to explore this stunning tribute jewelry creation designed by Caroline Scheufele closely at the Chopard lounge. It is truly breathtaking.

Diamonds and glamour: Marilyn Monroe and Chopard were destined to cross paths. Below you can see how the tribute set was created, a piece of art and craftsmanship.

LoL, Sandra

Making the Marilyn Jewellery Set 1

Making the Marilyn Jewellery Set 4

Making the Marilyn Jewellery Set 5

Making the Marilyn Jewellery Set 6

Making the Marilyn Jewellery Set 9

Making the Marilyn Jewellery Set 10Photos: Courtesy of Chopard, © Getty Images and © Sandra Bauknecht

Brad Pitt – New Face of Chanel N°5

Brad

Interesting choice: CHANEL has selected world renowned actor Brad Pitt 
to be the face of the upcoming advertising campaign 
for CHANEL N°5The actor is the first male to represent the women’s fragrance. At least I cannot think of somebody else.

Chanel N°5

Marilyn Chanel 5

Chanel No. 5 was the first perfume launched by legendary French designer Coco Chanel in the early ’20s. It became associated with Marilyn Monroe after the actress famously said the fragrance was all she wore to bed.

I am pretty curious how the new campaign will look like and you?

LoL, Sandra

Photos: Courtesy of Chanel, Brad Pitt – © CHANEL 2012 – Greg Williams

Elliott Erwitt – A Photography Legend

Elliott erwitt

„To me, photography is an art of observation…
It is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place.“
-Elliott Erwitt

Recently I was invited by the Swiss private bank Clariden Leu to attend a very special soirée to celebrate the one year renovation of their headquarter on Bahnhofstrasse 32 in Zurich with the amazing exhibition A World of Pictures“ by Elliott Erwitt. The photography legend had been flown in especially for the evening and it was a real honour to meet him.

IMG_5060

Clariden Leu’s ‘Leuenhof’ was built in Neo-Gothic style between 1914 and 1915 and its impressive art gallery is the ideal venue for art exhibitions.

Clariden

Olivier Jaquet, CEO Clariden Leu, gave an introductory speech and Birgit Filzmaier, owner of the gallery “19th & 20th Century Fine Art Photography” (the place to go if you are interested in Elliott Erwitts’s work) the laudation.

Elliott Erwitt with Mike Baur, Clariden Leu's new Head Private Banking Switzerland Elliott Erwitt with Mike Baur, Clariden Leu’s new Head Private Banking Switzerland

“Elliott Erwitt’s Best Picture? The Next One.”

Elliott Erwitt was born in France of Russian émigré parents in 1928. His formative years were spent in Italy. At the age of 10 he moved with his family to France afterward immigrating to the United States in 1939.

 

IMG_5048Grace Kelly, New York City 1955.

„It was pure luck. Luck is essential in photography.”

-Elliott Erwitt

Distinguished as both a documentary and commercial photographer, Erwitt has taken some of the most memorable photos of the 20th century, including portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly, as well as astonishing scenes of everyday life, filled with poetry, wit and a special sense of humor. Famous for capturing absurd split-second moments and subtle glances, Erwitt’s work is truly masterful. He likes children and dogs.

Elliott_Erwitt_Photo_Jacqueline_Kennedy_Arlington_1963_JFK_FuneralJacqueline Kennedy, at the funeral of JFK, Arlington 1963

elliot-erwitt1Dog Legs, New York City 1974

In 1953 freshly decommissioned from military service, Elliott Erwitt was invited to join Magnum Photos as a member by its founder Robert Capa. To date he continues to be an active member and one of the leading figures in the competitive field of photography.


Interview Elliott Erwitt

Elliott Erwitt is said not to like talking about his photos as they talk for themselves. In the conversation between him and Ettore Gualtiero Robbiani, Clariden Leu’s art specialist and curator of the in-house private art collection, Elliott Erwitt’s evident sense of humour showed in his very witty answers and made him perennially quotable. Enjoy!

Elliott Erwitt, welcome to Zurich. How are you?

Most of the parts are working!

I have to confess I am really fascinated by you. What is this egg about?

Everybody has a tag here and I felt lonesome having no tag.

You are an eyewitness to history and a dreamer with a camera. You took some of the most memorable photos of the century. Where do you see your cultural roots?

Photographers don’t need to have roots.

Do you ask for permission taking somebody’s photos?

You never ask for permission. You shoot first and hope that they don’t realise. In Japan, it is very easy to be a photographer because everybody is. In Muslim countries it is hard as nobody likes their picture to be taken. In France, they have privacy laws, if people see themselves in the magazine, they can sue you if you don’t have a permission.

EE2Couple Kissing, Santa Monica, California 1955

 

Have you been sued ?

I was sued by people who thought that they were in the picture but they weren’t.

How did your interest in photography raise?

Because of family circumstances, I was on my own since the age of 16 and I had to make a living. Taken photographs was a good way. You don’t have a boss. My only permanent job that I ever had was with the US military army. Everything else has been freelance.

Did you like the army?

I didn’t mind it.

Did you have your camera with you?

Always. I took some of my best pictures when I was in the army.

What is today your favourite camera?

I don’t have a favourite camera. I divide between my professional and personal work. For clients, you have to use the tools you need to achieve the results that your clients expect. For my own personal work, I walk around with a small camera, my Leica usually and that is quite seperate. One thing is for business, one thing is for hobby.

IMG_5052Miami Beach, 1962

 

And talking about influences? What were your early influences in photography?

My early influences were Italian films after the war, neo-realist films of Fellini, Rosselini, people like that. That was my main influence and apart from that the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson which are the gold standards in my view of photography.

When it comes to being influenced you named Edward Steichen as a mentor. How did he influence you?

He didn’t influence me, he was just very helpful at that time. I was very young and I could use some help. He got me my first job by calling somebody up. He could do that, he was a very powerful man. My influences were as I mentioned before.

You once said that photography is a craft that everybody with normal intelligence could learn? But to take it beyond the craft is when the magic comes in? How do you actually approach your magic moments in a photo? Is it all staging, set-ups?

I don’t get up in the morning and expect to do magic. I think that magic is in the eye in the beholder. You don’t plan things. Good photography is not planned unless it is work which is planned. Photography which is interesting to me is simply an art of observation, organising elements, making fine prints.

MMMarilyn Monroe, New York City 1956

 

Coming to magic moments. In your career, you portraited Marilyn Monroe. I tend to say that you showed her in a different way than we know her. How was Marilyn as a person?

I was afraid that you asked that. I am always asked that question. She was very nice, very photogenic. She looked better in pictures than in real life. Also she looked pretty good in real life as well. She was a sensitive person, a little bit nuts. She was very kind to me.

Whom of the famous persons that you met was meaningful to you?

Famous people are ordinary people that became famous. President Kennedy, Fidel Castro, of course that is interesting. Those people are very historic figures. And the problem of taking a picture of those famous people is exactly the same than taking it of ordinary people.

When you mentor young photographers what are looking for in their work?

Visual sense, application, a kind of burning ambition because it is very difficult to succeed in photography. Digital photography makes it easy to become a photographer but hard to become a good one. So you look for energy, for perserverance, and as I said most importantly for visual sense.

EEMetropolitan Museum, New York City, 1988

 

What about ego? Do you need a strong ego?

A strong ego gets generally in the way of things. People don’t react very well to people with a strong ego. If you have it, keep it private.

Who is your favourite photographer living or dead?

The ones that are in my agency Magnum. Henri Cartier-Bresson is the champion of them. There are some that are very promising. Photographers who work for the passion, those are the interesting ones. The ones only on assignment are not the interesting ones, they are just earning a living.

Do you collect yourself?

I am not a collector. But I have exchanged with some of my friends.

EE357th Street Gallery, New York City, 1963

 

This year, you received the Infinity Award 2011 for Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of Photography. Can you please describe what it is like to receive that honour? It is the lifetime Oscar  of photography.

It is a little bit embarrasing. It seems like your life is over. You get a nice dinner, a little statue, people think that you are okay. But it really shouldn’t influence you that much.

You son Misha is a photographer as well. When he told you about his future plans, how did you react? What advice did you give him?

Get a dayjob! But here is an amusing anecdote: When my father retired, he decided to become a photographer because he wanted to follow in his son’s footsteps which I thought was very sweet.

Thank you Mr Erwitt for coming!

Thank you all for showing up! I couldn’t imagine that I am that interesting.

IMG_5031What an honour: Elliott Erwitt with me.

LoL, Sandra