Frances McLaughlin-Gill (September 22,1919-October 23, 2014) was an American photographer and the first female fashion photographer under contract with Vogue. After two decades in the fashion industry, she worked as an independent film producer for a decade making commercials and films. One of her films won the Gold Medal at the 1969 International Films and TV Festival of New York. In her later career, she published several collections both with her sister and in collaboration with other authors.
Frances McLaughlin was born on September 22, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York as one of twin sisters. Her father died when the twins were three months old and the family relocated to Wallingford, Connecticut where they grew up and studied photography. Both sisters entered the Prix de Paris contest sponsored by Vogue and were among the five finalists.
In 1943, photographer Toni Frissell introduced her to Alexander Liberman, Vogue′s art director, who signed McLaughlin under contract, becoming their first contracted female fashion photographer.
Liberman thought McLaughlin had a fresh approach. To him, her directness and spontaneity made McLaughlin an ideal photographer, because her images were less posed and more natural than many fashion photographers working at that time.
Continuing the tradition of outdoor location shooting and action photography for fashion work pioneered by Martin Munkacsi and Toni Frissell in the late 1930s, McLaughlin-Gill was often considered the ideal interpreter of junior fashions. Her ability to communicate the appearance and sensibility of a passing moment or a glimpsed smile in her pictures led Liberman to liken her work to "improvisational theater." It was this quality, among others, that made her photographs subtle but provocative contributions to the development of realistic fashion photography.
She began on shoots with junior models working for Vogue′s Glamour Magazine which was aimed at younger viewers and was able to capture movement in ways that had not been done before.
In 1948, she married the photographer Leslie Gill, who was known as one of the first photographers to use color film.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, McLaughlin produced some of the strongest images that appeared in the American edition of Vogue. One of the high points of her career, was McLaughlin's work at the 1952 Paris Fashion Week.
In addition to fashion photographs, her images included celebrity photos, as well as still lifes for editorials and covers of House & Garden.
In 1954, though she continued working for Glamour, House & Garden and Vogue, McLaughlin became a freelance photographer with Condé Nast Publications. She was also a regular contributor to British Vogue throughout the Sixties.
Between 1964 and 1973, McLaughlin-Gill made television commercials and films as an independent film producer and director. Her film Cover Girl: New Face in Focus, about Model of the Year, Elaine Fulkerson’s journey to become a fashion model, won the Gold Medal at the 1969 International Films and TV Festival of New York.
McLaughlin-Gill began publishing some of her later works in book form after 1976. She also made photographs for several author's books.
In 1995, an exhibit of her photographs was held at Hamilton's Gallery in London.
In 2011, she and her sister published their final book together, Twin Lives in Photography.
Frances McLaughlin-Gill died on October 23, 2014.
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