I find myself longing and dreaming more than usual lately. Longing and dreaming for a time of pure glamour, polished etiquette, and elegance. A time like that of Slim Aarons comes to mind, or the "good life" as he would have called it.
Born in 1916, Slim Aarons started his career in the United States Army working as a combat photographer snapping the harrowing sights of World War II. After his valor war efforts, he shifted focus. Aarons wished to capture a side of society so rarely seen. New Year's Eve of 1957, Aarons snapped a shot that would catapult his career and become arguably his most notable photograph, The Kings of Hollywood. He set out to photograph the privileged class quickly becoming the most trusted eye behind the lens. His subjects fell nothing short of movie stars, aristocracy, high society, industry titans, moguls, and notables of every make.
Kings of Hollywood, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and James Stewart,1957.
Providing an unusual glimpse into the upper crust of society in a post-war world, the genius of Aarons' work emerges. Although his subjects were of public interest, the images of them were not intended to be fashionable. They were casual, oftentimes candid, and captured the lives of the "other half" during a time when the chic jetted off to places such as Palm Beach, Monaco, and Marbella. Places typically unknown to the general populace. Aarons once famously said he captures“attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places."
He shed light on a rarefied universe never before seen during a post-war time when everyday people craved something to lust after. Slim Aarons visually shaped "the mythology of wealth after WW2: from Palm Beach to Capri, from Gstaad to Aspen, Slim Aarons was “everywhere” and photographed “everyone,” says the creator and curator of prominent Instagram account Adorable Times. Adorable Times has amassed a strong following in the documentation of Aaron's work maintaining the most substantial collection of Aaron's photos on the platform.
He worked to demystify the world of the Elite and by showing the public what that world looked like, they could lust and learn through the images. In many ways, "his photos became a sort of how-to guide for people to understand how to dress, spend their holiday, live the leisure life wherever they may be" says Adorable Times.
With the events of the last year or so, the popularity of Slim Aarons' work has surged once again. I, like many others, have looked to his photos to escape without the physical possibility to travel, dress up, and create in-person experiences.
"Even more today, I find that a certain past and lifestyle should not be forgotten: his opus shows to today viewers where “we all” come from and it gives us a feeling of calm reassurance, like a wealthy grandfather telling us to disregard the noise, enjoys the moment and that everything will be fine," says Adorable Times.
Nice Pool, C.Z. Guest, 1955.
Additionally, the increasingly casual nature of society has brought on languishing for a time like that depicted in Aarons' photographs. While the engrained moments of history captured by Slim Aarons cannot be recreated, they can be reimagined.
With brighter days ahead and emergence back into physical society, the glamour of the "good life" could be revived. Slim Aarons forged a legacy painted in gentry allure conceivably more important today than the time his work existed in. While his work at the time revealed an unknown world to most, today his work is a reminder to all to revisit beauty, to begin dressing again, and employ genteel sensibilities that Aarons' brought to life.
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Images: Slim Aarons / Getty Images