CARMEL SNOW: TEN INFLUENTIALS
FROM THE VOLT (WINTER 2010)
CARMEL SNOW: EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HARPER’S BAZAAR (1934-1958)
Lunch is a three-martini affair, the first to be disposed of with one swift gulp. The next two should be gingerly sipped throughout the meal. That’s how Miss Snow did it and it’s her lead that we follow. After all, elegance is good taste plus a dash of daring. And even we’ll admit that three martinis is a rather daring consumption at such an early hour.
Carmel Snow began her career working as a fashion editor for American Vogue before defecting to Harper’s Bazaar. Needless to say, Mr Nast was not happy about her leaving him for his rival, writing to her, “your treacherous act will cling to you and your conscience”. Nor was she particularly understood in her new home, where Mr Hearst often wondered why she thought it necessary “to make ugly pictures in order to be modern”.
It was though this “modernity”, though, that she made her mark. She was the first to bring movement to the static image, commissioning the photojournalist Martin Munkacsi to shoot, on a beach, a model running towards the camera dressed only in her swimsuit. She discovered both Alexey Brodovitch and Diana Vreeland and gave Richard Avedon his first big break, turning Harper’s Bazaar into one long glorious photo essay, full of white space, allowing the image to ping from the page. Add to that the odd literary luminary – hell, even Proust penned a piece or two for her – and the definition of a ground-breaking magazine was hit squarely on the head.
The experience she created was best described by one of her readers, who likened the feeling of picking up an issue created under her thumb as being “like a kid in a candy store, you get a kick just out of looking".
by Natalie Dembinska