Vogue has always been more than just a magazine. It’s been a guidebook, a tastemaker, and an escape. But over the years, it’s also been a platform for some of the best photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries. To celebrate this century-plus of achievements of the 120-year old magazine, Rizzoli has published a handsome new tome that looks back fondly at Vogue’s role in the greater cultural landscape.
Nostalgia in Vogue (Rizzoli, $55, edited by Eve McSweeney) collects past essays from the magazine’s “Nostalgia” column, which was launched in 2000 to engage directly with Vogue’s rich archives. The column, as editor Anna Wintour writes in the book’s forward, invites “writers, designers, photographers, and others to nominate a Vogue image — a portrait, fashion spread, still life or interior — that they remember and that in some cases literally changed the path of their lives.” The results, she adds, “are often astonishingly vivid: Revisiting their chosen photographs jump-starts our columnists into remembering what they were doing and thinking and feeling at the moment the picture first appeared.”
Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld came across his first American Vogue as a young boy in Hamburg. He remembers being stricken by an Irving Penn photo that accompanied an article about Paris couture. It pictures a model encapsulated within a big, structured number by Balenciaga, bedecked with feathers on the bodice and along its side. “I never got enough of the beautiful image,” Lagerfeld says, “with its four tiny, mysterious letters: PENN.”
Penn’s iconic shots of distant, sophisticated, Balenciaga-clad models were touchstones for rocker and poet Patti Smith as well. The images inspired her to mine her local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores to put together Penn-esque looks of her very own. For famed shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, it was 1960 Penn’s portrait of Sophia Loren. The picture, he writes, “Encapsulates the perfection of the twentieth century, and will till I drop dead.”
For Vera Wang, it was a quirkier, more contemporary image that struck a chord: Chris von Wangenheim’s 1977 shot of a Doberman wrapping its jowls around a young Christie Brinkley’s slender, well-heeled leg. “It’s a sadomasochistic picture and one that was very much in tune with the times,” writes the designer, who once worked as an editor at Vogue herself. “This was, after all, the era of Studio 54, with all the drugs, dancing, promiscuity… and certainly no more flower children.”
“It was a very exciting time to be young in New York,” she adds, “if you were lucky enough to live and tell about it.”
Main Image: Nostalgia in Vogue Cover