Meet the Nolcha Four: Henry

The inspiration for Henry is the result of hours spent researching 1950’s fashion. I was awestruck by beauty of this period’s fashion. The models are gorgeous and the clothes are breathtaking, but it’s the fashion photographer who brings it all to life. The lighting, the poses, the vantage point, and the accessories all work together like musical instruments in a finely tuned orchestra where the fashion photographer is the conductor. Without the genius of the photographers, the beauty and the elegance of the fashion would not have been conveyed.

 The fabulous fifties produced some extremely talented fashion photographers, but one in particular caught my eye, Henry Clarke. His legendary work is nothing short of spellbinding!  It was not just the art of the photography that impressed me. It was Henry's story that fascinated me even more. Henry started out as a window dresser at the I. Magnin department store in California in the 1940’s. It wasn’t long before he decided to pack up and move to New York City to work as an accessory and background assistant with Conde’ Nast.  While working there, Henry witnessed some of the greatest fashion photographers of the time, Beaton, Penn and Horst. It did not take long before Henry was smitten by the photography bug.  He was so inspired by Beaton’s work inparticular that he borrowed a Rolleiflex camera and just began taking pictures. Henry had made up his mind to become a fashion photographer.

 Henry did not have an economic advantage or college education.  As a young child, he and his parents lived a somewhat nomadic existence, moving from place to place throughout the United States until finally settling in California. Henry had some formal training, enrolling in a course at the New School for Research, but was in large self-taught.  He continued working for Vogue for 25 years traveling the world photographing some of the most famous and elegant women of the time.

The wonderful lesson and example in all of this is that Henry made up his mind on what he wanted to do with his life and he just did it!  He was single-minded and focused in developing his craft.  He was also noted as being kind and respectful of the women he photographed which was not typical of the time.  If that isn’t inspirational, then I don’t know what is! 

Throughout my research, I came across only one picture of Henry in which he was holding a camera on the cover of Life magazine.  He spent his life behind the camera making other people look beautiful.  That is what fashion photographers do.  In creating this piece, I wanted to recognize the genius of what I call the unsung heroes of the fashion industry, the fashion photographer.   This piece is named “Henry “, in honor of Henry Clarke and is dedicated to all fashion photographers past and present.