Slim Aarons: Women

Image of Slim Aarons: Women
Release Date: 
October 3, 2016
Reviewed by: 

Slim Aarons: Women is one of the most vividly and luxuriously documented books of its genre. A huge debt of gratitude goes to Laura Hawk for taking on a task that can be classified as nothing less than a veritable visual orgy of delights. Slim Aarons was indeed a photographer of great distinction as his subjects in this book demonstrate. These are women of distinction, not necessarily women who were considered to be conventionally beautiful. The jet set, the social register, and the royal families of Europe provided an endless parade of well connected, well maintained, and highly respected women who might have been more readily recognized for their breeding, blood lines, money, or station in life rather than their beauty.

After returning from World War II with a purple heart, the young Mr. Aarons stated that “from now on I’m going to walk on the sunny side of the street. I’m going to have fun photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places, and maybe take some attractive photographs.” This is precisely how he spent his career. His idea of the sunny side of the street happened to be  places such as Marbella, Gstaad, his beloved Palm Beach, Sardinia, Acapulco and just about anywhere that the rich and privileged congregated at their leisure.

One of the things that the reader should be prepared for is that Slim Aarons was no snap shot studio photographer; his set ups and locations were legendary during a career that spanned more than 50 years chronicling the comings and goings of this minute population of the privileged. This was a man who set his own standards and rules as well as having an extremely rarefied point of view as to how these women should be remembered with just a click. He wasn’t so much interested in fashion as he was in capturing a moment, a split second that had been orchestrated and defined by him.

Hawk offers wonderfully informative text accompanying each image, whether about the subject herself, Aarons’ history, the set up or the raison d’etre for that particular photo. In addition to all that she relates her personal firsthand accounts of circumstances that surrounded her working relationship with this modern master of photography.

A particular favorite anecdotal instance was when he photographed the Viscomtesse Jacqueline de Ribes whose demeanor surely befits her title. With Aarons’ affable self-assuredness he referred to her as Jackie! It might be said and she admitted that no one had ever caller her Jackie and it might be added that no one would ever have dared to do so, but he did, and she took it like the grande dame she is.

This is a book for so many readers whose frames of reference might vary from playgrounds of the rich and famous, the social register, and a remembrance of an era of great wealth and surely of when life was hugely different than it is today. Oh yes, one mustn’t forget that this is a book about photography and one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. This is the ultimate coffee table book that enlightens the reader via an oeuvre that is unparalleled within the sphere of photography.