Spoiled by Vu

Vu, April 5, 1933. Cover by André Kertész

Vu, August 29, 1936

Vu, August 29, 1936. Photographs by Gerda Taro

Today, magazines such as POP, Italian Vogue, Purple Fashion, Vanity Fair, and French Vogue trumpet their stylish, “artistic” photographs by such photographers as Steven Klein, Steven Meisel, Juergen Teller, Cindy Sherman, and Annie Leibovitz.  But for real style and innovation, one should go back in time and look at the offerings of Vu, the groundbreaking French periodical published from March 1928 to June 1940.

Lucien Vogel, the founder of Vu, believed that photography could provide an objective view of the world; as a result each issue of Vu was packed with photographs. The motto of Vu was “The text explains, the photo proves” and this motto was applied to a wide variety of subjects including current events, social issues, the arts, sports, and entertainment. Thus at Vu, photography was the dominant element, and influenced articles, page layouts and editorial decisions in a way that is impossible to imagine today.

Under the art direction of Alexander Lieberman (1932-1937), who went on to become the legendary art director of Vogue (1940s-1960s), photomontage became increasingly important. In photomontage, pieces of photographs are extracted and reassembled to often stunning and powerful effect, as exemplified by the images above.

So why is it in the age of Photoshop and other tools that layouts in Vogue, et. al are so…well, boring? And will the works of the photographers mentioned above match the staying power of the images from André Kertész, Germaine Krull, Eli Lotar, Brassai, Man Ray, Robert Capa and Gerda Taro?

Only time will tell.

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