One hundred and eighty two

Rita de Acosta Lydig

1913 by Adolph de Meyer
The MET, NYC

De Meyer was a photographer famed for his portraits in the early twentieth-century; supposedly born in Paris with a German father and Scottish mother, this illustrious character went on to become American Vogue’s official fashion photographer in 1913. It then makes perfect sense that this was the year de Meyer photographed notorious American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig, considered at the time to be one of America’s most beautiful women. Cecil Beaton called de Meyer “the Debussy of photography”, an incredibly astute description of his style and approach. For de Meyer’s portraits are impressionistic, and, like Debussy’s music, blur the world in a gloriously sensory way. His photography lacks any of the clinically precise qualities that so many photographers look for deliberately; he instead takes the medium and blurs our knowledge of it. De Meyer’s portraits materialise miles away from photography; the style is so beautifully and dreamily executed, these photographs have the personality, the intimacy of a painting or drawing. So soft is the definition, it seems almost impossible that it is real skin being captured. The face seems a hazy illustration, concerned with capturing an impression rather than detail, an imagined expression through a film of transience. What is more remarkable when realising that de Meyer’s portraits are photographs, is that these atmospheres have been constructed through this medium. What is real has been made surreal, through a mode that remains close by the side of reality; de Meyers is a true manipulator of the lens.

 

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