Steven Meisel: From Then To Now

The incredibly acclaimed Steven Meisel is turning 64 today and in correct fashion, we’ve looked back at his infamous career. From his time as an illustrator to his love for photography, here’s everything you need to know about the American photographer.

From a young age, Meisel wasn’t interested in the stereotypical activities of a young child. Whilst others were playing with toys, Steven would prefer to draw women instead. Turning to magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as sources of inspiration, a then 12-year-old Steven Meisel would go to all extents to see the insides of the fashion industry. Stories have been told of him asking some of his female friends to call modelling agencies, pretending to be the secretary of photographer Richard Avedon, and request pictures of famous models. At the age of 10, he even supposedly went to the studio of fashion photographer Melvin Sokolsky and demanded to meet Twiggy.

Continuing his admiration for fashion, Meisel enrolled at the High School of Art and Design where he used to photograph models he saw on the street of New York, including IT girls of the decade Loulou de la Falaise and Marisa Berenson. Sharing his passion for photography with his love for drawing, Meisel attended Parsons The New School for Design where he studied a handful of different courses but eventually majored in fashion illustration in 1973.

Whilst teaching illustration part-time at Parsons, Meisel took a job as an illustrator at fashion designer Halston. Meisel had an incredible admiration for photographers, including the great Jerry Schatzberg, Irving Penn and Bert Stern, and came to the realisation that illustration was in the past and that photography would soon take over. So, whilst working as an illustrator at WWD in the late 1970’s, he approached Elite Model Management, where his illustrations caught the attention of booker Oscar Reyes, who allowed him to take pictures of some of their models, including American film actress Phoebe Cates. Meisel would photograph models at his Gramercy Apartment on weekends, and would work at WWD during the week; the busy life of a future star.

Personally responsible for the hairstyles, make-up and styling of his shoots, when some of his muses took their portfolios to castings at Seventeen magazine, editors were intrigued with Meisel’s work and asked him to work with them. This ignited the beginning of a prestigious career in photography that now places Meisel as one of the most successful photographers in fashion history. Working with some of the longest standing houses in the industry, he has become a favourite for the likes of Versace, Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, and has worked on Prada campaigns since 2004. The native New Yorker has photographed every Italian Vogue cover since 1988 and is often used by Anna Wintour for American Vogue with the editor-in-chief saying, “He’s just sensational and has been since day one”.

The birthday boy has been credited with promoting the careers of Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Stephen Sprouse and isn’t afraid of being provocative. In the September 2006 edition of Italian Vogue, he enraged many readers by depicting models as terrorists in a post 9/11 America. In 2008 he devoted the entire issue to black models in response to the increase of racism in fashion and although it became the magazine’s best-selling month ever, Meisel claimed the situation was still the same and would never change.

Meisel’s touch didn’t finish at fashion, his work contributed to the covers of several popular albums and singles including Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ and Mariah Carey’s ‘Daydream’. One of his most iconic photos, which sold for $23,750 in 2012; a naked shot of Madonna for the cover of her book, Sex. He is a very private man and is notorious for rarely giving interviews or being photographed. He’s a master of re-invention and approaches every shoot as a new beginning. Here, we have highlighted some of his most infamous campaigns and shoots from his illustrious career. Happy Birthday, Steven.

Supermodels – Vogue Italia, 1989

Grunge – Vogue, 1992

Linda Evangelista and Kristen McMenamy – Vogue, 1992

Plastic Surgery – Vogue Italia, 2005

Make Love Not War – Vogue Italia, 2007

Prada – SS09

Louis Vuitton – Fall 2012

Loewe “Fruits” – SS18

Versace - SS18