Louise Dahl Wolfe
Louise Dahl Wolfe was born as Louise Emma Augusta Dahl on November 19, 1895 in San Francisco, California. From 1914-1920, she studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute and was taught by Rudolph Schaeffer, who had encouraged her strong use of color. 1921 was the year she really became interested in photography when she met and saw the work of Anne Brigman.
Louise worked as a sign designer for the Federal Electric Co. in San Francisco from 1920-22. In 1923, she studied design and architecture in New York at Columbia University. Decorator Beth Armstrong employed Louise as her assistant in 1924, and from the years 1925-27, she worked for the fashion wholesale company, Armstrong, Carter and Kenyon. A year later, in 1928, Louise met sculptor Meyer Wolfe in Tunisia and ended up marrying him in San Francisco. Louise had desired to take her husbands last name, but did not want to be mistaken for a certain commercial photographer with the same last name. Therefore, she had adopted the hyphenated last name “Dahl-Wolfe”.
Louise spent the summer of 1932 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee taking photographs of the people of the Smoky Mountains. This was a monumental summer for Louise because one of the portraits she had taken in the Smoky Mts. became her first published piece of work. This portrait appeared in Vanity Fair in 1933, and Edward Steichen ended up including all of her Tennessee pictures in a retrospective exhibition in New York at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937. That same year the portrait appeared in Vanity Fair, Louise moved back to New York with her husband and found work photographing food for Woman’s Home Companion magazine.
Going back to 1933 to 1960, Louise operated a New York photography studio that started out as being home to the freelance advertising and fashion photos she made for stores like Saks Fifth Avenue. Soon after those photos were in use for Harper’s Bazaar projects. In between that time, through 1936 to 1958, Louise was a staff fashion photographer at Harper’s Bazaar. During that time, her photographs were featured in the magazine on 86 covers, including 600 that were in color and thousands in black and white. When working for the magazine, she began using natural light in fashion photography and on location shoots. Louise went all over, photographing in different locations. Places like Laguna Beach, California, even to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Sarasota, Florida. Even though she did work at Harper’s Bazaar, Louise preferred portraiture to fashion photography, while still working at Harper’s she photographed famous icons and celebrities such as film-maker Orson Wells, writer Carson McCullers, designer Christian Dior, photographer Cecil Beaton, writer Colette, and broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow.
From that point on to 1960, Louise worked as a freelance photographer for magazines such as Vogue and Sports Illustrated. Louise Dahl-Wolfe lived for a long period of her life in Nashville, Tennessee, though then died in New Jersey of pneumonia in 1989.
Some exhibitions of her work include Women of Photography: An Historical Survey at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The History of Fashion Photography and Recollections: Ten Women of Photography at International Museum of Photography; and Portraits at the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tuscon.
Under Parasols at the Beach - Vogue January 1963
Lauren Bacall in Helena Rubenstein’s bathroom
Elizabeth “Betty” Threatt is wearing fur coat by Traina-Norell, for Harper’s Bazaar Oct.1943
Renee Breton is wearing a polka-dot dress by Givenchy, photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe for Harper’s Bazaar, May 1954
Mary Jane Russell on Leopard Sofa, 1951, Paris
The large leopard background creates a small sense of depth as well as framing because the leopard takes up almost the whole entire picture.