These rare portraits of Diana Vreeland, photographed by Deborah Turbeville, represent a collaboration between two of the fashion industry’s most unconventional and influential visionaries. They accompanied a profile of Vreeland published in a 1982 issue of Vogue, and have remained largely out of the public eye since then. The accomplishments of both subject and photographer have been highly visible, however. This fall saw the release of two striking new books centered on their lives and work: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel, penned by her granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland, and Deborah Turbeville: The Fashion Pictures, published by Rizzoli, and authored by the photographer herself. That both tomes were published at the same time echoes the parallel paths Vreeland and Turbeville walked throughout their careers.
Each was a revolutionary in her own right. The impact and influence that Diana Vreeland had on the fashion industry cannot be overstated. She revamped the editorial pages of Harper’s Bazaar during her twenty-six-year tenure as fashion editor, and subsequently, as editor-in-chief at Vogue, established the magazine as the undisputed fashion and lifestyle bible that it remains to this day. Turbeville, meanwhile, pioneered a whole new style of fashion photography and established herself as a singular talent. She brought a cinematic look to her avante-garde images, crossing over from fashion editorial into fine art.
During the ‘60s and ‘70s the two women were like ships passing in the night. Turbeville was hired as an editorial assistant at Harper’s the year after Vreeland’s departure. Years later, just after Vreeland left Vogue, the magazine published Turbeville’s bathhouse series — the photographs that launched her career. In 1978 the women finally met when Vreeland selected a few of Turbeville’s distinctive images for her first book, Allure. The two became friends, and Vreeland introduced Turbeville to Jackie Onassis; the former first lady commissioned “unseen Versailles,” and the images from that project are among Turbeville’s most famous.
Turbeville went on to achieve great success and critical acclaim, shooting countless editorials as well as iconic campaigns for haute fashion houses including Valentino, Commes des Garçons and Ungaro. She continues to work to this day, and has published several other acclaimed books. Vreeland continued her work revitalizing the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and pioneering the field of fashion as high art. She curated shows, the likes of which had never been seen, including The Ballets Russes, Balenciaga and the first ever retrospective of a living designer: Yves Saint Laurent. The work she did paved the way for every exhibition to come including last year’s McQueen retrospective. She authored two books and is the subject of several more. When she passed away in 1989 she left behind an unmatched and ever-inspiring legacy. — Erika