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11 Models in Blue Dresses, NYC, Glamour, January 17, 1952

11 Models in Blue Dresses, NYC, Glamour, January 17, 1952

France McLaughlin-Gill (1919-2014) was an American fashion photographer born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Wallingford, CT with her twin sister Kathryn Abbe. Both sisters would go on to become photographers after becoming enamored with their aunt’s Kodak camera.  McLaughlin-Gill studied painting at the New School for Social Research and at the Art Students League. While at the New School, she began to work in the darkroom and photograph outside of her painting classes.  

 

In 1941 she received a BFA in Art and Design from the Pratt Institute. That same year her photograph of Jacqueline Bouvier was chosen as a finalist in Vogue’s Prix de Paris contest. McLaughlin-Gill went on to work as a stylist for Montgomery Ward and was eventually introduced to Toni Frissell, a photographer for Vogue. Frissell introduced Frances to Alexander Liberman, Vogue’s new art director, who hired her in 1943. She was the first woman photographer to sign a contract with Vogue

 

Throughout her 11 years at Vogue, McLaughlin-Gill nurtured her talent for capturing the casual, fleeting and intimate moments of her subjects. She photographed a variety of subjects such as theater and film personalities, beauty products and fashion features, often using outdoor settings as her backdrops. Of the spontaneous and natural quality to McLaughlin-Gill’s work, Liberman mused that the pictures "bordered on a kind of improvisational theatre".  

 

In addition to Vogue, McLaughlin-Gill shot covers and editorial pages for Glamour, House & Garden, and British Vogue, among others. 

 

While working for Vogue, Frances met and married Leslie Gill, a prominent art director at House Beautiful and photographer. 

 

Unfortunately Leslie Gill passed away suddenly in 1958; only months after their daughter were born. Following his death Frances continued photographing for magazines. She also turned to producing and directing commercials for corporate clients like Cover Girl. In 1969, she won a gold medal at the International Film and Television Festival for her film Cover Girl: New Face in Focus. Frances taught photography seminars at the School of Visual Arts starting in the 1970s until she passed away in October of 2014. Her photographic style pioneered the “realistic” fashion photography of today. Through her ability to capture the actual or implied movement of her subjects, she rendered casual and intimate fashion photographs in the mid-late 20th century.