Monday’s Photography Inspiration – Leslie Gill

Leslie Gill among a group of photographers who elevated the editorial still life photograph to a unique American art form.

Gill studied painting with Charles Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and graduated with honours from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1929. While working as art director of House Beautiful magazine, Gill began to make his own photographs, unsatisfied with the ability of staff photographers to translate his ideas to images. 

Untitled (shoes and model's legs), c.1952 Gelatin silver print 12 3/8 x 18 1/8 inches
Untitled (shoes and model’s legs), c.1952
Gelatin silver print
Composition of Objects on Windowsill, NYC, 1937 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937 13 7/8 x 10 7/8 inches
Composition of Objects on Windowsill, NYC, 1937
Gelatin silver print; printed c.1937

By 1935, Gill had abandoned his pursuit of painting and committed himself fully to photography as his chosen medium of expression. His images began to appear regularly in Harper’s Bazaar, where he collaborated with visionary art director Alexey Brodovitch, helping to revolutionise approaches to graphic design.

Gill also made significant technical achievements in his field, adapting theatrical lighting equipment for specialised use by still life photographers. He was also one of the first artists to experiment with using 8×10 inch format Kodachrome film.

The Sequined Shoe, 1957 Dye transfer print; printed c.1983 22 1/4 x 18 3/4 inches
The Sequined Shoe, 1957
Dye transfer print; printed c.1983

He collected artwork, memorabilia, and found objects for use in his work, creating relationships of shape, tone, and tactile properties of the objects he photographed. In his career, Gill defied expectations of editorial photography, creating images that were commercially viable while simultaneously fulfilling his artistic aspirations. 

Francis Brun and Sister, NYC, 1950 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1950 17 x 14 inches
Francis Brun and Sister, NYC, 1950
Gelatin silver print; printed c.1950

Gill’s work appeared in the pages of numerous magazines, including Life, Harper’s Bazaar, McCall’s, Town & Country, and Holiday. 

Portrait of Robert Miyataki, 1955-56 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1955-56 16 7/8 x 13 7/8 inches
Portrait of Robert Miyataki, 1955-56
Gelatin silver print; printed c.1955-56

Orfeo Tamburi, Painter, Rome, 1947 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1947 16 1/8 x 13 1/2 inches
Orfeo Tamburi, Painter, Rome, 1947
Gelatin silver print; printed c.1947

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