Deborah Turbeville

Revolutionized fashion photogrpahy with an avant-garde style



As an editor with Diplomat magazine, Deborah Turbeville was not getting the effects she wanted and was given permission to shoot her own pictures. “I went into a store, bought a camera, and the man loaded it for me,” Ms. Turbeville told The New York Times in 1977. With no formal training, it was her novice approach that became her greatest asset and she began to revolutionize fashion photography with her avant-garde style. Franca Sozzani, editor of Italian Vogue, summed up Ms. Turbeville’s work when he said, “Every detail is perfect and yet wrong at the same time.” She brought an “eeriness, shock and alienation” to the formerly refined and pretty business of selling clothes. The best examples are the 1975 controversial “Bathhouse” American Vogue photographs, and the “Woman in the Woods” series in 1977 for Italian Vogue. In 1979, Jackie Onassis, an editor at Doubleday, commissioned Ms. Turbeville to photography the unseen Versailles. Mrs. Onassis wanted the photographer to “conjure up what went on there, to evoke the feeling that there were ghosts and memories.” After two years of research and photographing, Ms. Turbeville captured the “haunting imagery” that Mrs. Onassis wanted, although the palace had been beautifully restored. Unseen Versailles has been described as “a pioneering breakthrough in photography” and, in 1981, it won the American Book Award. In 2011, at the age of 73, Ms. Turbeville published her first retrospective, The Fashion Pictures.