— In 2002 I had an exhibition of these images. Everybody came to the exhibition excited; they were going to see a Lillian Bassman show. And they looked at it and said, ‘This isn’t fashion.’ So nobody bought anything. Nobody bought a thing.

MEN, 1980, cibachrome prints, 48 x 60 inches

In the early 1980s Lillian Bassman started re-photographing images of male bodybuilders that she found in muscle magazines. Shooting in color, she would pose the figure so that it was reflected in a mylar material that produced visual distortion. The results were in sharp contrast to the fashion work that she was known for. In 2002, almost twenty years after they were taken, the Ricco/Maresca gallery exhibited them. The show, simply titled MEN, went almost unnoticed by critics accustomed to her fashion work. For Bassman, this project gave her a sense of independence. Having voluntarily left editorial fashion work behind in the 1960s, she had continued to shoot commercially. However, her passion for portraying the human form and discovering new techniques never diminished. Projects such as the muscle men are a small example of her constant pursuit of happiness, which is to create.

Lillian Bassman was born in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York, USA. In 1945, she was appointed Art Director at Junior Bazaar, giving projects to photographers such as Richard Avedon, Robert Frank and Paul Himmel (her late husband). Later, in 1947, she became the Art Director at Harper’s Bazaar. Bassman received the Agfa Life Time Achievement Award in 1996. At 93, she continues to live and work in New York City.