John Rawlings

Born: Ohio, U.S., 1912
Died: New York, U.S., 1970

John Rawlings was born in Ohio in 1912. He studied at the local Wesleyan University and relocated to New York after graduating in 1930.

For his first job, he became freelance store window dresser. It’s during that period that he discovered himself an interest for photography.

During the 1930s up to the early 1940s, he kept a list of his favorite models amongst which he favoured working with Dana Jenney, Helen Benett or Betty McLauchlen. However, one of his all time favorite was Meg Mundi, discovered in a waiting room at the CBS studio.

In 1936 he was hired by Condé Nast as a prop builder, a studio hand and an apprentice to both photographers Cecil Beaton and Horst P. Horst and was soon promoted first assistant to both of them. By September of that same year, he had his first pictures published in Vogue.

Rawlings explored new photographic and lightning techniques, experimenting with mirrors and combining natural and artificial sources of light.

His work was impressive and soon made its way into the international circulation of Vogue Magazine with his photography being published in the British, French and American editions.

In 1945 he returned to New York and opened his own studio, choosing natural light and locations for his shoots and working with the sunny models that were then favoured by the American Magazines.

By 1960 he had increased his work for the American edition of Vogue magazine as well as taking advertising commissions. Rawlings gave a new look to Fashion photography, choosing to emphasise the American Lifestyle look.

He is today considered as the first who shed fashion in this way. He was also one of the first photographers who automatically associated fashion with Hollywood celebrities.

He spent his last year of life with the fashion designer Adri, and died in 1970 at the age of 58 years old.

He donated his archive to the Fashion Institute of Technology which then published “John Rawlings: 30 years in Vogue” in collaboration with Condé Nast.

Rawlings is today considered as one of the most prolific photographers of the 20th century with more than 200 Vogue and Glamour covers to his credit, and one of the most important fashion photographers who enabled to combine beauty with clarity and to elevate commercial photography to an art form.

John Rawlings 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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