Steven Meisel is one of the greats of fashion photography. A favourite of Anna Wintour and Franca Sozzani, he has come to dominate the Italian fashion industry, shooting every Italian Vogue cover for the last two decades and every Prada campaign since 2004.
The photographer began his career as an illustrator for Halston, a position he held whilst teaching illustration at Parsons The New School for Design two nights a week. Meisel then took up a role at Women’s Wear Daily, which at the time in the 1970s still used illustrations for its covers. Meisel sat next to the celebrated illustrator Kenneth Paul Block. Meisel may have worked as an illustrator in the week, but on the weekends he would loiter at model agencies, like “paparazzi” as reported by 032c.
Meisel’s career in photography began at the close of the decade when Oscar Reyes, a booker at Elite Management who admired Meisel’s illustrations, asked the photographer to shoot some of Elite’s models for their portfolios. He would photograph them in his apartment in Gramercy Park or on the street: on weekdays he would work at Women's Wear Daily and on weekends, with the models. Some of these models went to castings for Seventeen magazine to show their portfolios, which held some of his photography, and the people at Seventeen subsequently called Meisel and asked if he wanted to work with them.
Meisel is now one of the pre-eminent photographers working in fashion. His commercial clients include Versace, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein and many more.
Editorially, Meisel’s fierce defense of his aesthetics’ independence has led to him creating some of fashion’s best and most controversial fashion stories, including shooting the entirety of Italian Vogue’s 2008 all black issue. He told 032c “My favourites are the ones that allow me to say something: the black issue; the poking fun at celebrities one; the paparazzi thing; the mental institution one; the ones that I have a minute to think about; all the ones that are the most controversial in fact. But it’s not because they are controversial that I like them, but because they say a little more than just a beautiful woman in a beautiful dress. I love that too, but to try and say something is also my goal.”