Deborah Turbeville Photography

A Female in The ‘Triumvirate’


Deborah Turbeville


Nikon F2


Nikon F3HP


She was born in Massachusetts in 1938 and studied there before moving to NYC in 1956. Her introduction to fashion was as a sometimes model, then as a fashion assistant. In the early 60’s she was promoted and became an editorial assistant, and soon after, a fashion editor. After styling quite a few shoots for Harper’s Bazaar, she was fired for being involved with some ridiculous shenanigans perpetrated by the photographer Bob Richardson. Taking a lesser job at Diplomat Magazine, they finally let her start shooting. She walked into a camera store, bought a Pentax camera, and the man behind the counter showed her how to load the film!


Nikon F3HP


Getting Fired, Getting Hired

While she struggled at first, her style started to quickly develop in just a few years. Working exclusively with 35mm cameras, and using mostly high speed films and natural light, the dreamy images in her head finally started coming to fruition. By the early 70’s, she moved to Europe and started working for Vogue and Marie-Claire. She was realizing her goal of, “Every detail is perfect and yet wrong at the same time.” Even mistakes were turned into “masterpieces”. She approached photography in a way that was so unconventional that it made her work stand out like no one previous.


Nikon F2


In 1975 she did her “Bathouse Series”. The accolades, along with public outrage, pretty much sealed her career favorably. But also supplied more than a smidgen of notoriety. For some reason, some people felt she was glamorizing Auschwitz and the Soviet gulags. How people came to that interpretation is yet to be answered. And was beyond her. It was a “bathouse filled with models”. Whether you thought of it as scandalous or not, she soon became the darling of Vogue. A lot of artsy-fartsy words are used to interpret her work.

Deborah Turbeville

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