Adolph de Meyer

Born: Paris, France, 1868
Died: Los Angeles, U.S., 1946

Adolph De Meyer was born in Paris in 1868 and raised in Germany by his German father and Scottish mother.

He supported the movement of pictorial photography, one of the first “school of artistic photography” as well as one of the first movements to expand to an international level. He supported the idea that photography was an important form of Art and therefore deserved the ‘Beaux-Arts’ recognition as such.

He became a member of the prestigious “Linked Ring” photographic group in London in 1903 and was invited to join the influential “Photo-Secession” group in New York.

Very soon he decided to specialize in portrait and focus on transparency, opacity and light.

On June 25, 1899 he married Olga Caracciolo in London. She was said to be linked to Edouard VII who requested to declare Adolph de Meyer baron soon after the wedding. However it must be noted that the wedding was not one of love as they were both homosexual.

Adolph de Meyer was hired by Vogue in 1910 becoming the first fashion photographer to work for magazines as up to the beginning of the 20th century, articles were solely illustrated with drawings and illustrations. In 1914 on the verge of financial ruin due to World War I, he and Olga moved to New York City. He was employed by Condé Nast as a full time photographer as well as working for Vanity Fair. In 1922, de Meyer accepted the offer to become Harper’s Bazaar chief photographer. He returned to Paris, and spent the next sixteen years there.

On the eve of World War II, de Meyer returned to the United States, and found that he was a relic in the face of the rising modernism of his art.

Cecil Beaton once dubbed him “The Debussy of photography”.

De Meyer’s most famous works came when he photographed the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky and other members of Diaghilev’s “Ballets Russes” when “L’après-midi d’un faune” opened in Paris in 1912. Of many photographers who covered the “Ballets Russes”, de Meyer came closest in covering this artistry.  In his numerous images of Nijinsky, de Meyer captured not only the likeness and adeptness of the Russian danseur noble, but also transported the viewer into Nijinsky’s world of fantasy and grace.

Today, only few of his prints survive, most having been destroyed during World War II.

He died in Los Angeles in 1946.

Adolph de Meyer Biography

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Written by Marine Lazarus

Marine Lazarus, an Anglo-French photographer who moved to UK 3 years ago to study journalism at Brunel University in London. Marine is responsible for our Photographers Biographies section.

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