Written by Caitlyn Cooney, Curatorial Intern
Fashion photography is considered the middle ground between high art and advertising, the bourgeoisie and pop culture. Some of the most prolific fashion photographers have produced work in the last century that changed the way we looked at photography and editorial fashion. Charles and Elli Zimmerman are fortunate to have collected several of these photographers’ works since they were first married, having accumulated a “snapshot” of fashion culture and high art movements in 20th century America.
Though their collection is compiled of several notable pieces and numerous exciting stories of their acquisitions, their first purchase stands out in being particularly charming. A photograph by Horst P. Horst, famous for his classic, high fashion, black and white photographs, caught their eye, but at the time they didn’t have enough money to get it framed. They purchased it regardless, and it lived under their bed until they were able to give it a home on their wall. Today, the beloved photograph is one of the first things you see upon entering their home.
Their featured piece in Collector’s Choice, a famous photograph by Ormond Gigli entitled Girls at the Window captures a fun, creative take on showcasing the fashionable trend of the era. Each model is compartmentalized into their own frame, featuring colorful dresses in innovative styles. The women standing on the street are set apart from the rest of the group in their high fashion garments and elegant poses. Many of his work features the same style, incorporating a Warhol-esque arrangement of figures, or a vibrant, Technicolor palette. Gigli’s featured photograph continues to be considered one of the most iconic fashion images from the 1960’s.
For the Zimmerman’s, collecting is about finding objects that excite them, that they absolutely cannot live without. “I couldn’t imagine my home without art. Every piece has its own personality,” says Mrs. Zimmerman. “I collect with my heart. I know it when I see it – I get a rush, and I know I’ll want to live with it every day. I still get just as excited every time I see things I love.” Her thrill lies in the immediate recognition of something she must have, something that speaks to her, an image that never grows old or boring. The photographs in her collection have inspired much of the American public just as much as they have for her and Mr. Zimmerman, and for that reason her collection will continue to inspire intrigue and admiration. “I can’t imagine a world without art or music,” says Mrs. Zimmerman. “It fills you with joy. It becomes part of your everyday life.”
The exhibition Collectors’ Choice: Inside the Hearts and Minds of Regional Collectors will be on view until September 14th, 2014.
For more information, please visit The Cummer’s website at https://www.cummer.org/