Flipping through travel or fashion magazines, or just scrolling through Instagram, Slim Aarons’ photographs are everywhere. Slim Aarons is one of the most loved and appreciated photographers of all time.
Slim Aarons’ photographs are a journey into the past, which today are enriched by the ability to tell all the charm of the last century, with its clothes, its celebrities and its extravagances.
Slim Aarons’ photographs make you daydream.
Born in New Hampshire in 1912, he was educated as a photojournalist, engaged as a war photographer in World War II. It was Frank Capa who hired him as a photojournalist for a military newspaper, “The Stars and the Stripes”.
Aarons soon develops an aversion to anything that in his opinion makes explicit the real ugliness of the world: “After seeing a concentration camp you no longer want to see other horrible things. It was in the war that I discovered that the only beach worth landing on has to be full of girls in bikinis tanning in the sun.”
And so it has been, from then on.
“Photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.” This is Slim Aarons‘ mission.
Documenting the sweet life in golden times, portraying the international jet set, from Marilyn Monroe to Marisa Berenson, from Aristotle Onassis, Mick Jagger.
Slim Aarons “Dining Al Fresco On Capri”
He married Lorita Dewart in 1951, who will become known simply as Rita Aarons.
Rita met Aarons in the editorial office of the magazine “Life” where she worked as an assistant and with which, after her marriage, she also worked in the Italian office in Rome.
He portrayed her in some of his most famous photos such as the one known as “Christmas Swim“, in 1954, in which his wife, lying on a mat in a swimming pool from whose waters a decorated fir tree emerges, floats among glittering Christmas balls that three children try to grab by leaning over the edge. “It was cold and she was very angry”, the photographer will tell later.
When Slim died in 2006, Rita discovered that Slim has always kept her humble origins hidden from her, because they would have denied him access to that beautiful golden world that she portrayed in a thousand ways. Slim Aarons was the son of very poor Yiddish immigrants living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, tossed about from relative to relative when his mother ended up in a psychiatric hospital.
Slim Aarons “Christmas Swim”
From Capri, to Acapulco, Hollywood, Saint-Tropez, even today, Slim Aarons’ photographs are a story in images of the most exclusive vacation locations in the world.
Sun-drenched pools and gardens, yachts and noble villas were his favorite settings.
“Whether it’s the Italian Riviera, the Swiss Alps or the Arizona desert, Slim has captured the essence of a place through photographs of people who have enjoyed its unique taste” recalls Kathryn Livingston, longtime director of “Town & Country” who has often worked with Slim.
Slim Aarons “Verbier Vacation”
The most surprising thing about Slim Aarons’ photographs is that they appear natural and informal: his subjects are in their environments, not in front of a set, they never used neither stylists nor make-up artists, and a sense of suspension and superficiality.
Everyone in the photos of him looks more beautiful.
When Slim Aarons released “A Wonderful Time“, his photo album of him, in 1974, the book failed, accused of an obsessive attention to wealth.
Three decades later, it is an essential inspiration for top designers, art directors and interior decorators; copies cost up to $ 2,000.
In the 21st century he inspired the work of Ralph Lauren or Jonathan Adler, among many other interior designers and stylists who owe that carefree, happy, optimistic style to him.
“I photograph people who wear clothes and then those clothes become fashionable.”
While it was considered an axiom that in his reportage you could never see three items: t-shirts, tennis shoes and jeans.
Slim Aarons was attracted to the beauty, elegance and excess of Italy.
Aarons’ photographs also offer a sparkling glimpse into Italy’s most exclusive villas, private properties, trendy resorts and renowned beach resorts, in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Slim Aarons “Giacomo Montegazza”
In 1997, Aarons sold his archive to Getty Images, with thousands upon thousands of prints and negatives.
As can be seen from an article published by his “Town & Country“, Aarons decided to sell his archive because he believed that the company as such no longer existed and wanted the public to see how he had documented it. He correctly sensed that this new generation, so absorbed in money, success and luxury, would appreciate his images of manicured estates and private islands. Now that the world has been flooded with noisy and ugly tabloid media, it would be a relief to revisit elegant and more graceful eras.
“Once upon a time, life was not better. It was different. Once upon a time everything was optimism because nothing was bad for you.
Where is Slim Aarons taking you today? What is it like here, a typical jet set day?First let me tell you what it isn’t. It is not like any music video you have seen where the men are living large, music blasting, cursing, yelling, and squirting champagne right from the bottle over Energizer-bunny women lap-dancing near the caviar.
The birds. The bougainvillea. Nature’s stillness. Sweet jasmine. The glittering pool. A slow honeybee. What you will notice and remember most is the exquisite quiet of the rich.
It is your typical jet set day. You wake up around ten and have breakfast in your room, brought to you on a tray; or if you are a morning sort you go down to the terrace overlooking the pool. By eleven you are sitting at the pool with your host, rehashing what happened last night: the romances, the wine, the faux pas, any amusing bon mot. You don’t have a cell phone, a laptop, an iPod – they haven’t been invented yet – so before you’ve come down to the pool you have made your calls efficiently so as not to tie up your host’s phone line, calling your wife, your lover, your children, your trust officer, your pharmacist…”
— Christopher Sweet, “A Place in the Sun”
Aarons, Slim (1974). A Wonderful Time: An Intimate Portrait of the Good Life. Harper and Row.
Aarons, Slim (2003). Slim Aarons: Once Upon A Time. Harry N. Abrams.
Aarons, Slim; Sweet, Christopher (2005). Slim Aarons: A Place in the Sun. Harry N. Abrams.
Aarons, Slim (2007). Poolside With Slim Aarons. Harry N. Abrams.
Aarons, Slim; Sweet, Christopher (2012). Slim Aarons: La Dolce Vita (Getty Images). Harry N. Abrams.
Aarons, Slim (2016). Slim Aarons: Women. Harry N. Abrams.
All Images Rights: Getty Images
On the cover: Slim Aarons “Poolside Pairs”