Skrebneski: This is How One Man Changed Photography

Written by | Books, Entertainment

(Images from Skrebneski Documented: 1948-2018 byVictor Skrebneski. courtesy Rizzoli New York, 2019.)

Some photo books bring to mind Hemingway’s recollections of  Paris in the 1920s: they are “a moveable feast.” The work of American famed photographer Victor Skrebneski, who was born in 1929, easily captures those ideas of the sacred and the profane. Across the 325 images collected here is something for anyone who appreciates art.

Skrebneski is renowned for his stylish glamorous fashion and advertising photography. The artist is also noted for his profoundly sensuous and sculptural nude studies as well as for casually elegant portraits of friends and the famous. The latter includes a veritable cavalcade of one-name stars: Minnelli, Warhol, Hepburn, Bowie, Ross.

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In terms of noted American celebrities, Skrebneski’s images of Orson Welles loom larger than life — as Welles most certainly did. A bearded face with the elan of a childlike curiosity looms over the darkly shrouded temple of his body. Bette Davis, captured in later years (but almost certainly long before her strokes and later ill health) is instantly recognizable — indelible as she ever appeared on the silver screen. Skrebneski is also known for snapping numerous photos of the legendary Audrey Hepburn in her prime. While there isn’t as much of her in this book as you’d expect, there is a fitting homage to the actress and humanitarian. Appropriately, some of the shots capture the image of a Givenchy label and, later, Hepburn seated next to Hubert de Givenchy.

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But the photographer’s subjects vary. One wonders: Who is the plain woman who recurs in multiple shots from the 1950s? Did Skrebneski make an act of contrition after photographing the French church advertising “connfesseurs”? Why is the woman ordering a drink with her dog at a bar so very happy? Did he have his fortune read by Gina, the fortune teller, staring out her shop window? We may never know for sure, but the images invite us to happily conjure up our own answers.

By Victor Skrebneski; Rizzoli New York; $150.00

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Last modified: September 13, 2019