Otto Stupakoff and Fashion Photography: His International Career

Instituto Moreira Salles

Part 2: the international career

NEW YORK, 1965–72
After a trial return to the United States the previous year, Otto moved to New York with his family in 1965, putting his personal and professional life in Brazil behind him. He resumed his career photographing LP covers, this time for Columbia Records. He staged his first shoots—initially portraits—for Harper's Bazaar, the biggest and oldest fashion magazine in North America, at the invitation of the magazine's art director, Bea Feitler. He also taught photography at the Parsons School of Design, where many of the most renowned designers and artists of the period had studied, including Bea herself. He married Margareta Arvidsson, a model and former Miss Sweden and Miss Universe (1966), and they had two children together, Gabriela (1970) and Sef (1974).

To mark Harper's centenary in 1967, Otto staged his first fashion photo shoot for the magazine with Leslie Bogart, the daughter of actors Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.His magazine career in the USA then quickly took off and he went on to work with publications such as Look, Esquire and Glamour.

The influence of the American scene
In the same year, Otto set up a studio in Carnegie Hall and he shared the building with artists such as the photographers Art Kane and Diane Arbus. That year, there was a feeling that photography, both in North America and worldwide, was reaching new heights in art history. The first part of the year saw the MoMA unveil New Documents, an exhibition headed by its photography curator, John Szarkowski, bringing together works by Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand. The exhibition was a milestone in the broader public's understanding of the changes that photography was experiencing at that time. Arbus, and more specifically Friedlander and Winogrand, would go on to influence Otto's work right through until the 1980s, especially his more original collections of family photos and the work he produced on his trips to Asia, Europe, and Mexico.

During his time in New York, Otto shot portraits of celebrities including Jack Nicholson, Leonard Cohen, Richard Nixon, Truman Capote, Tom Stoppard, Marisa Berenson, Sharon Tate, Omar Shariff, René d’Harnoncourt, and Harold Pinter.

Otto Stupakoff said he hated art directors. In fact, he loathed the idea of anyone deciding what a photographer should do. He rejected any editorial or commercial restraints and came to despise those who did not work creatively, even in commissioned works. He judged magazines and editors based on the extent to which they cooperated with or limited a photographer in his work. Among his professional acquaintances, he held three in high regard: Alexey Brodovitch, Henry Wolf and, above all, a fellow US-based Brazilian, Bea Feitler, whom he deeply admired and who become a friend of his. It was no
coincidence that Brodovitch and Wolf were Bea's predecessors as art directors at Harper's Bazaar. Otto often told the story of a conversation he once had with Bea. He had returned from a day's shooting feeling dissatisfied, and she asked him why he was doing the job if he was not enjoying it. "I did not know I could turn it down," he told her. "We are not interested in a photographer who does not have total control over his own creation," she replied. That response would shape his entire future career in the magazine market. His opinion of Brodovitch alternated between admiration and resentment after the older man told him at the start of his career abroad: "You will never be a fashion photographer because you are not in love with every fold of a garment." Otto mocked Brodovitch's error of judgment by telling this story on various occasions, always leaving the question "Who turned out to be right in the end?" unsaid. Among photographers, Otto considered the Croatian Frank Horvat to be one of the grand masters.Horvat was a world pioneer in fashion photography and he coined the famous phrase: "Photography is the art of not pushing the button," a comment Stupakoff himself could have made.

A key role model for Otto in his photos of the feminine universe was Balthasar Klossowski (1908–2001), the French painter of Polish origin known as Balthus. Balthus started working in the 1930s and would go on to influence many contemporary artists, especially with the female nudes he painted when he was a young man.

Bea Feitler (Rio de Janeiro, 1938–1982)
Bea Feitler Biography, AIGA

Alexei Brodovitch (Russia, 1898 – France, 1971)
Alexei Brodovitch Biography, AIGA

Henry Wolf (Vienna, 1925 – New York, 2005)
Henry Wolf Biography, AIGA

Frank Horvat (Abbazia, Italy (now Croatia), 1928–present) was one of the leading role models in classical photography. He started his career as a photojournalist, inspired by photographers from the agency Magnum. In the 1990s he switched to the world of digital photography.
Frank Horvat official website

PARIS, 1972–1975
In 1972 Otto moved to Paris with his family. He continued to work primarily for the French edition of Vogue, shooting memorable fashion editorials such as the special issue on Baden-Baden in Germany. He also worked alongside leading names in haute couture and ready-to-wear clothing, such as Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Givenchy. He shot fashion editorials alongside other photographers including Guy Bourdin, Frank Horvat, Helmut Newton, and Philippe Halsman. The amount he produced for Vogue between 1972 and 1975 led to his inclusion in the roll call of photographers in its special edition, "Vogue 100: A Century of Style."                    

Margareta Arvidsson in Otto's first editorial shoot for Vogue Paris.

The main declared influence of Otto Stupakoff was the French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. This inspiration can be seen in the constant search for naturalness, in the scenes that he conducted as organically and improvised as possible, in a context almost jokingly - and for this he preferred the models with less experience. Other major influences were the painters Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh, Henri Rousseau and Balthus.

Credits: Story

FASHION/IMS - from the Otto Stupakoff exhibition "Beauty and Anxiety": Instituto Moreira Salles Rio de Janeiro from December 13, 2016 through April 16, 2017
Curation: Sergio Burgi and Bob Wolfenson

Continue your visit in:
Part 1: Otto Stupakoff and Fashion Photography: The Early Days
Part 3: Otto Stupakoff and Fashion Photography: His Studio

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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