Arnold Newman: The master of the Environmental Portrait
Born in New York in 1918, Arnold Newman is one of the greats of American photography. The inventor of what became known as environmental portraiture, Newman photographed some of the most famous and well-respected people of his day, all surrounded by their life, work, and style, including Pablo Picasso, Marlene Dietrich, John F. Kennedy, Piet Mondrian, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, and Audrey Hepburn, to name a few.
Early life and career
Although born in New York and initially raised in Atlantic City, Newman spent most of his childhood in Palm Beach, Florida.
It was here that he first discovered his love for art, and in 1936 he enrolled at the University of Miami to study painting and drawing, his two first loves.
After completing two years of successful study, he came upon financial problems, and so had to drop out before the start of his third year. It was this that made the decision for him to move back to the East Cost, settling in Philadelphia where he worked for a photographic studio making cheap, 49c portraits for tourists.
Having lived back East for four years, Newman returned to the West Coast in 1942, to manage a photography studio in West Palm Beach. His success here led him to open his own studio soon after in Miami Beach, near to where he had spent his childhood.
After living and working in Miami beach for some time, and experiencing considerable success with his photographic work, Newman than relocated once again, this time to New York, where he set up Arnold Newman Studios, a freelance photography studio.
His success continued here, working for major clients such as Life Magazine and Newsweek. He also became associated with the Photo League at this time, particularly during the late 1940s.
It was during this prolific period that he began experimenting with portraiture, and would later invent the style he would become best known for.
He photographed many famous people and celebrities of the time, each of them situated within the environment they were best known for, surrounded by their tools or work.
He did so using a tripod and a large format camera, so he could record everything and every detail from the shoot. This was the photographic style which later became known as Environmental Portraiture, and it would ultimately define his photographic legacy.
His most famous works are the black and white photographs he took at this time, for example the striking images of Henri-Carter Bresson and Igor Stravinsky. In fact, he was so well regarded at the time that he was one of the only photographers allowed to shoot Bresson, who was notoriously camera shy for most of his celebrity life.
Environmental Portraiture has become one of the most recognised styles in twentieth century American portrait photography.
In Newman’s later years, and since his death from the complications of a stroke in 2006, he has become known as one of the greats, and is respected across a number of photographic fields, including photojournalism, as well as portraiture.