Lillian Bassman (American, June 15, 1917–February 13, 2012) was a photographer, art director, and painter best known for her work in fashion photography. Bassman grew up in Brooklyn, NY, as a product of Jewish immigrants who had come to the United States from Russia early in the century. She graduated in 1922 from Textile High School, where she had received formal training.

While attending the Manhattan school, Bassman was introduced to fellow photographer Paul Himmel (American, 1914–2009), whom she later married in 1935. The two remained together for 73 years until Himmel's death. Bassman had a thriving career as a fashion photographer for Junior Bazaar and Harper's Bazaar in the three decades that followed; she primarily created black-and-white images to offer a stronger contrast between her subjects and the clothes being displayed. This approach was unique at the time, and Bassman's work was groundbreaking, allowing for a more artistic approach in an industry that traditionally had strict formats. Through her groundbreaking work, Bassman was able to help launch the careers of other renowned photographers such as Richard Avedon (American, 1923–2004).

She shifted gears in the early 1970s in response to changing tastes, opting to create her own photo projects and disposing of most of her previous work in the process. In developing these projects, Bassman adapted her skills to incorporate new technologies, using digital photography and photo manipulation software to enhance her work, always emphasizing the contrast between light and dark. Other notable aspects of her work include the graininess of the pictures and the use of geometrics in her subject placement. Interest in her work for Harper's Bazaar was renewed in the 1990s when some photos thought lost were found in the magazine's archives. Her work has been displayed in prominent galleries such as the Stämpfli Gallery in New York, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the Garden Prado in Madrid. Her final exhibition was entitled Retrospective, and was held at London's The Wapping Project in 2010. Bassman passed away in 2012.


Born in Brooklyn, USA
Studied at the Textile Highshool in New York, USA
Became assistant painter at the Works Progress Administration
Studied at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, USA
Art Director for Junior Bazaar, gave projects to photographers Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, and Paul Himmel
Appointed Art Director at Harper’s Bazaar
Agfa Lifetime Achievement Award
Dem Art Directors Club Award
Photographed the Haute Couture collection for New York Times Magazine, German Vogue, and the Autumn Collection for Neiman Marcus
Died in New York, USA


Retrospective, The Wapping Project, London, England (solo)
Retrospective, Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica, USA (solo)
Farmani Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
"A Touch of Mystery," Monika Mohr Galerie, Triennale der Photographie Hamburg 2005, Hamburg, Germany
Staley-Wise Gallery, New York, USA
Galerie f5,6, Munich, Germany
Garden Prado, Madrid, Spain
"Les dames de Bazaar," Rencontres de la photographie, Arles, France
Peter Fetterman Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, USA (solo)
“Hommage a Lillian Bassman,” Caroussel du Louvre, Paris, France
Jane Jackso Gallery, Atlanta, USA (solo)
Palais du Tokyo, Paris, France
Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA (solo)
Stämpfli Gallery, New York, USA