Steven Meisel

Born: New York, U.S., 1954

Steven Meisel was born in 1954 in the United States. He graduated from the New York High School of Art and Design before enrolling in Parsons School of Design from which he majored in Fashion Illustration. During his time there he developped a relationship with Designer Anna Sui.

After graduating, he became an Illustrator for Halston, a job which opened him the door to his then first position at Women’s Wear Daily. During his time there, he met the man who would then become his mentor, Kenneth Paul Block, and was introduced to all the different facets of fashion communication.

He contacted the model agency Elite in New York and began shooting tests for their new faces, amongst which Phoebe Cates who then helped starting his career in Editorial Photography.

He worked on his first editorial shoots a few years later for the magazine Seventeen which discovered him through his work at Elite NY. From that point, he started working with many publications, amongst which W Magazine, Self, Per Lui, Lei, whilst still working with WWD.

In 1988 he met Franca Sozzani who, when she then became Editor-in-chief of the Italian edition of Vogue, made sure Meisel became of the key photographers of the Magazine, asking him to shoot several covers and most main fashion stories.

Meisel became a close friend of the singer Madonna. He worked with her for the first time in 1984 when he shot the album cover of « Like A Virgin ». He photographed her again in 1992 for her very controversial book « Sex ».

He shot Mariah Carey’s 1995 « Daydream » cover album as well.

Meisel has since worked on many high profil advertisment campaigns for brands like PradaVersace,ValentinoDolce & Gabbana, and Calvin Klein.

In the process, he launched the career of many now well known models amongst whitch Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy TurlingtonAmber Valletta, Lara Stone, Coco Rocha, and Karen Elson, to only name a few.

Meisel published a unique book called « Steven Meisel » in 2003, which is today sold out and the photographer is represented by the Agency Art + Commerce.

A 2010 article by The Guardian pointed out that Steven Meisel considers himself a bit of a provocateur and raised questions about his sense of taste and appropriateness. He often satirises the fashion world’s mannerisms and extravagance. For instance, his editorial “Makeover Madness” in Vogue Italia in 2002, spanning eighty pages, featured models undergoing various body interventions while dressed in couture but wrapped in gauze. This and other photoshoots by Meisel have faced criticism. In a July 2006 issue of Vogue Italia, he created a controversial photoshoot described as “a fun take on rehab chic.” Additionally, a September 2006 photoshoot titled “State of Emergency” received criticism for eroticizing torture and police brutality.

Meisel’s photographic work has been collected in a book titled “Steven Meisel,” published by German teNeues Buchverlag in 2003, which quickly sold out. In 2014-2015, a Phillips exhibition called “Role Play” showcased some of Meisel’s work in cities like Paris, London, New York, and Miami.

In 1992, Meisel collaborated with Madonna on the development of the controversial book “Sex.” Moreover, a new book featuring collaborations between Meisel and his longtime muse, Linda Evangelista, titled “Linda Evangelista Photographed by Steven Meisel,” was announced in April 2023 and scheduled for release by Phaidon Press in September 2023.

Steven Meisel 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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