Bassman's images of women's lingerie capture a wide spectrum of forms and styles: corsets and girdles, slips and nightgowns, underwear and pajamas. She was fond of seductive silhouettes, with arms raised and faces averted, drawing our attention to anonymous feminine curves and confident stances. But the darkroom was where the real magic occurred. Bleaching and burning (and later making digital manipulations), she broadened the contrasts to harsher blacks and whites, increased the graininess to an expressionistic, painterly blur, and heightened shadows and softened highlights to transform her models into stylized, monochrome representations of elegance and glamour. The resulting images have a dreamy, ephemeral quality, the wispy grace of a pose threatening to disappear in a blink of an eye.
What makes these pictures work is their self-assured boldness. In many ways, the lingerie is just a subject matter detail; what is being offered is a combination of poise and coolness, made stronger by the punch of the black and white polarization. As Bassman extended the range of her signature aesthetic techniques, she took her images to new levels of sophistication and femininity, and further separated them from mainstream fashion photography.
Collector's POV: Surprisingly, the prints in this show are not for sale; it seems that since the photographer's recent death, the arrangements with the estate have not been finalized. Bassman's prints (both vintage and later, generally 11x14 or smaller) have been available from time to time in the secondary markets, with prices ranging between $4000 and $15000 in the past few years. Her larger pigment prints and other recent works are likely only available at gallery retail prices.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
New York, NY 10012