“The era of the influencer” seems to dominate every description of our modern consumer climate.
Instagram and Facebook have made seeing more (and buying more) so much easier, creating an interesting new platform for marketing.
I personally find influencers that constantly post with the now-required #ad or #sponsored (or that annoying little “In paid partnership with…” at the location bar) appear less credible—like a human billboard.
Real people, doing real things in their homes wearing their own clothes, giving their real opinions—now that is something that may actually influence my own purchases.
Long before Instagram, there was Slim Aarons
It’s easy to wonder now, in this influencer era, if a single photographer with the vision and approach of legendary magazine photographer Slim Aarons can ever rise to a similar level of stardom.
The work of Slim Aarons (1916-2006) captivated millions post World War II through the pages of Life, Town & Country, Look, Travel & Leisure and other magazines, in addition to five published books.
His self-described mission was simple:
“Photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.”
Though to photograph attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places may sound like a shallow life goal, we must take into consideration the photographer’s past and the time he decided to embark on this artistic path.
Born George Allen Aarons, Slim was a World War II veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart. “After you’ve seen a concentration camp, you really don’t want to see any more bad things,” Aarons said.
Following his service as a war photographer, Slim Aarons returned to America as a photojournalist, slowly moving his way up the social ladder, becoming ‘one of them’ rather than just part of the paparazzi.
“People always ask me, ‘Why is everyone always so happy in your pictures? I say, ‘Because they like me!’”
If the overarching aura of the work of Slim Aarons can be described as life as it should be enjoyed, a world at war is the furthest from that dream. “How it should be” is encapsulated in the appreciation and indulgence of the world’s wonders, both natural and man-made.
By this, one can easily assume the work of Slim Aarons was not aimed to be pompous, but rather provide an escape into a world of joie de vivre.
Simply put, his emphasis on beauty and escapism creates a desire within the viewer to luxuriate, to take time to relax.
Take these images as pieces that contain Aarons’ key visual elements: attractive places, attractive people, and the overarching sense of relaxation.
Images by Slim Aarons are owned and licensed through Getty Images.
“I didn’t do fashion. I did the people in their clothes that became the fashion.” - Slim Aarons
Aarons often juxtaposed natural elements with human development. Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc’s positioning on the rocks of the Mediterranean Sea or lounge chairs sprawling across the Alps both give Aarons’ photographs a sense of balance, suggesting that this is how it should be.
Unintentionally, the popularity of his work influenced fashion and architecture trends around the world. For example, a 1968 photoshoot with Peter Pulitzer in khakis created a khaki frenzy once fashion magazines published those images.
What makes this observation even more interesting is that Aarons never used a stylist; he didn’t need it.
“This is what the women wore, what the dukes wore.
They’re all wearing their own clothes.
See the belt and whatnot? See how casual it was?
In the country, you wore a blazer and white trousers!
See what the president wore, see that? How to dress properly!”
Simply put, we always have been in the era of the influencer, and probably always will be. We look to beauty and fun for escapes from the day-to-day.
Perhaps there will always be another Slim Aarons as long as we keep craving the abundance in other people’s lives.
Where to buy prints from the Slim Aarons Archive, owned and housed by Getty Images.
Based in London, EDGE PRINTS represents collections from renowned photographers, including Aarons and Christopher Simon Sykes of rock ‘n’ roll fame.
See just how fabulous prints by Slim look in a room as designed by Jonathan Adler, where other famous Getty Images can also be ordered.