of the talented individuals who operate in a high-powered, creative,
but competitive environment, Sokolskys relationships with
his colleagues at Harpers Bazaar, were not always smooth.
Of the art directors with whom he collaborated, he evidently found
it much easier working with Henry Wolf ("He dared you to
produce your best, he made you responsible.") than with his
successor Marvin Israel ("Henry was the great catalyst, Marvin
thought antagonism was a catalysthe panicked you.").
Among the fashion editors with whom he worked, he was personally
ambivalent about the great Diana Vreeland, but admired both her
sense of humor and the way she fought with the Editor-in-Chief,
Nancy White, against compromise and censorship of the photographs:
"Vreeland had this annoying posture of superiority, but she
was fanatically committed to her work, whereas the best Nancy
White could say about a picture was Its pretty."
He had to fight, too, for the models of his preference. When he
discovered Donna Mitchell, for example, it took all of his persuasion
to be allowed to take her to Paris, though once the resistance
was overcome and the photographs were successful she was in demand
from all quarters.
and frustratingly for the photographer, some of his more unconventional
ideas failed to reach publication. In retrospect, some of the
killed sittings for Bazaar seem like mouth-watering gestures of
defiance. Notable among these is the series of leatherwear he
photographed on model Simone dAillencourt, her elegant hauteur
in stark contrast to Sokolskys brutally realist locationthe
Coney Island D-train. He had tried to invoke the atmosphere of
a Reginald Marsh painting, but on this occasion Diana Vreelands
dismissive comment was merely "They are interesting pictures,
but I cant identify with where you have taken them."
Even his gently satirical "Fourth of July" cover, in
1960 (page 65) was deemed too risqué for publication, though
it was rescued from oblivion six years later to appear on the
cover of the prestigious Swiss magazine, Camera.
Sokolskys work, the editorial fashion photographs received
the broadest public recognition, since they were invariably published
together with his by-line. Their extra visibility gives a misleading
view of his entire output, for in fact more than three-quarters
of his work was in the field of advertising: this is generally
published without credits, and consequently the photographer remains
anonymous. Though statistically a difficult claim to substantiate,
it is likely that Sokolsky was the most successful advertising
photographer of the 1960s. Certainly the huge amount of Art Directors
Club Awards he received testifies to his high reputation. A major
factor in his renown surely stemmed from his philosophy that it
was dishonest for a photographer to deliberately turn down a notch,
operating on a lower level for advertising assignments: "I
resented the attitude that This is editorial and this is
advertising. I always felt, why dilute it? Why not always
go for the full shot?"
the breakthrough onto Harpers Bazaar, Sokolsky had spent
about eighteen months working mainly on advertising campaigns.
His first appearance in the Annual of Advertising and Editorial
Art and Design, in 1958, was with a still-life of silverware,
a refined and elegantly balanced composition, somewhat in the
manner of his distinguished predecessor Leslie Gill; although
Sokolskys tableau was placed in a Cornell-like box, both
his and Gills still-lifes entered the lengthier tradition
of the nineteenth-century American trompe loeil artists
such as William Harnett. Reflecting on his career some years ago,
Sokolsky told me that the most conducive sittings he undertook
were photographing a still-life, a nude, or an untried new face.
He was essentially a directorial photographer, and these tabulae
rasa, which allowed him the optimum level of responsibility for
all of the elements within the picture frame, presented a challenge
Sokolsky was a frequent contributor to many other magazines in
addition to Harpers Bazaar, including McCalls (for
which he photographed a complete one-man issue in October 1962),
Ladies Home Journal, Esquire, Show, Newsweek, and the New York
Times Magazine. Apart from fashion and still-lifes, he made many
distinguished portraits for these magazines, and was frequently
commissioned to photograph Hollywood celebrities. He once said
that in a fashion image he wanted to photograph the human psyche,
an ambition that enabled the transition to photographing an actor
or actress to proceed quite smoothly. Some of his most enduring
fashion photographs could equally be described as portraits (pages
72, 174) for example, stand comparison with the psychological
perception of the portraits of Julie Christie or Mia Farrow (pages
55, 75 ).
on Next Page