Jeanloup Sieff was a charismatic photographer whose work captured the hidden beauty of human nature in otherwise mundane, everyday situations. He captured his models in their purest forms; content posing for him, relaxed and natural.
Jeanloup Sieff was born in Paris in 1933 to Polish parents. From a young age, he was captivated by imagery, however, his first passion was cinema. He soon abandoned this ambition during the mid 1950s, pursuing the art of photography instead.
Sieff’s break came in 1956 when he began working for Elle magazine in Paris. He brought his own style to the magazine, and often incorporated suggestive, erotic aspects into his images.
Nudes were a particular focus within Jeanloup Sieff’s varied career. However, his nudes were shot tastefully, focusing on a model’s torso, or an exposed back. These would become some of his most celebrated pictures.
Jeanloup Sieff clearly had a great deal of respect for the human body, especially the anatomy of women. His fascination with the body can be seen throughout all his work, even in his fashion shoots. It is rather telling that when asked about his time as a fashion photographer, Sieff said he was not taking pictures of clothes as they were ‘mostly horrible’. Instead, Sieff’s fixation lay with the models themselves.
Sieff’s fashion photography briefly lead him to New York, from 1961 to 1966. However, after this stint, he returned to his true home, Paris. However, the move had an excellent impact upon Sieff’s career. During the 1960s, he was in very sought after as a fashion photographer. This lead to him working for notable publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire. Jeanloup Sieff was also commissioned to shoot for high profile brands, such as Dolce & Gabbana, and Yves Saint Laurent. Furthermore, as Sieff’s profile continued to rise, he was involved shooting celebrities in America and his native France. Some of his celebrated portraits include Alfred Hitchcock (captured on the set of Psycho), Serge Gainsbourg and Louis Armstrong.
Noted for always shooting in black and white, Sieff’s works are instantly recognisable. He has been heralded as an innovator of photographic medium for his use of wide angle lenses, at a time when this technique was not popular outside of landscape photography.
Outside of the fashion world, Sieff earned a huge amount of respect during the dance industry. Jeanloup Sieffe took many shots of male and female dancers, capturing the elegance of the curves and posture of the body.
Sieff passed away in 2000, leaving a rich legacy behind him. A celebrated fashion photographer, who on the whole had relatively little interest in fashion, Jeanloup Sieff combined the erotic and the ordinary to create his own unique style. He brought a unique blend of class and sexuality to the fashion industry, and his influence is clearly visible throughout modern fashion photography.