Victor Skrebneski

Born: Chicago, U.S., 1929
Died: Chicago, U.S., 2020

Victor Skrebneski was born in 1929 in Chicago.

He first found a camera at the age of 6 or 7 years old on a bench in a park. He was introduced to the world of art by the artist and actress Dorothy Bates who lived in the house behind his. She became his mentor.

He was educated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1943 and at the Moholy Nagy Institute of Design. He then went to the Illinois Institute of Technology from 1947 to 1949.

Skrebneski originally aspired at becoming a painter/sculptor. He focused on photography the day one of his friend gave him his darkroom equipment.

He showed his first pieces of work to Harry Callahan. The latter was so impressed by what he saw, that he urged him to visit magazine editors, which he did. He moved to New York and worked for Esquire and some other magazines for a few months.

In the 1950s, as he was travelling back to Chicago to finish packing his belongings to move to the East Coast, he was called to do a fashion assignment for Marshall Field’s – one of the city’s biggest retailers. This assignment was to be followed by many others, and Skrebneski abandoned his initial plans and opened his own studio in Chicago in 1952.

In 1962 he became the exclusive photographer for Estée Lauder, and worked for the cosmetic brand for more than 27 years. During that time he shot models like Karen Graham, Willow Bay and Paulina Porizkova and his name was then linked to fashion and beauty.

In the 1970s he made a series of pictures called “the black turtleneck series” with simple shots of celebrities, actors, musicians, writers and artists taken wearing black cashmere turtlenecks.

During the 1980s and 1990s, he developed a fascination for blurry pictures, and his diptych of an indistinct Dennis Hopper is said to be emblematic of a “collective uncertainty” at the end of the 20thcentury.

Workaholic, his favorite word is said to be “NEXT” as he is always thinking about another project to work on.

Victor Skrebneski 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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