Otto Fenn

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Otto Fenn Jr. (February 21, 1913 – February 5, 1993) was an American photographer of fashion, celebrity portraits, architecture and food photography. Fenn was an early friend and creative collaborator with artist Andy Warhol. In later years, Fenn became a historic preservationist, known for his efforts to preserve the historically significant architecture of the Village of Sag Harbor, New York.[1]

Early life and background[edit]

Otto Fenn was born on February 21, 1913 in New York City. He was the son of actors, Otto Fenn Sr. and Estelle Dupree Fenn, performers at the New York Hippodrome. His brother, Gene Fenn, became a fashion photographer and painter. Fenn attended the New York School of Design (now called the New York School of Interior Design) from 1931 to 1935 where he studied painting, scenic design and window-display.[2] After graduating, Fenn began working for French-American sculptor Pierre Bourdelle, assisting him on his bas-relief sculptures and murals for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, the 1939 New York World's Fair, and for the transatlantic ocean liner S.S. America[3](1940). Fenn designed stage sets for summer stock theater in Tamworth, New Hampshire where he was art director for The Barnstormers Theater between 1938 and 1940.[4]

Photography career[edit]

Fenn moved from work as an artist into photography in 1941 when Harper's Bazaar fashion photographer, Louise Dahl-Wolfe's hired him to be her assistant. In spring 1946, they traveled to Paris, France to photograph the first fashion collections after the end of World War II. Fenn remained in Paris for six months to work as a staff photographer for Harper's Bazaar Paris.[5]

Fenn opened his own photography studio in the Graybar Building at 480 Lexington Avenue in 1948 and moved to 132 East 58th St., in mid-town Manhattan, in 1952. Fenn photographed fashion for Town & Country magazine and Bergdorf Goodman, and portraits of personalities, among them: Jean Cocteau, Gore Vidal, Mae West, William Saroyan, and Tallulah Bankhead.[6] In 1950, Harry Rodman, director of advertising for Lord & Taylor department store,[7] hired Fenn for their commercial fashion photography account.[1] He continued to work for Lord and Taylor throughout his career as well as for clients Daniel and Charles Advertising Agency, Amelia Earhart Luggage, CBS and NBC television and radio.[3][8] Fenn's photographs were published in Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Theater Arts, The New Yorker, The New York Times and The New York Herald Tribune.[1]

In 1961, Fenn formed the Faulconer/Fenn partnership with still life painter, Mary Faulconer to produce editorial photographs of food, home interiors and architectural design.[9] Faulconer/Fenn photographs appeared in House Beautiful, House and Garden, Woman's Day, Look, Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal, and This Week Magazine.[3][1]

Work with Andy Warhol[edit]

Andy Warhol, then a young commercial artist, met Otto Fenn in 1951 and began stopping by Fenn's studio frequently. Throughout the 1950's they became creative collaborators. Warhol posed for Fenn portraits. Fenn experimented with projections of Warhol drawings of flowers and butterflies onto the faces of models. Warhol drew backdrops for Fenn's fashion sittings, created drawings of Fenn from Fenn's self-portraits, and created a series of drawings of men in drag based on photographs taken by Fenn.[10][5]According to Whitney Museum of American Art curator, Donna De Salvo, Fenn's studio was a prototype for The Factory, Warhol's studio of the 1960's.[11]

Historic preservation work[edit]

In 1961, Fenn purchased and restored the historic David Hand House, dated to the 1600's, in the Village of Sag Harbor on Long Island, New York.[3] In 1972, he was appointed as a technical advisor to the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation Commission.[12] The Sag Harbor Village District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 1973.

Later life[edit]

Otto Fenn moved permanently to Sag Harbor in 1975. He died February 5, 1993 in Sag Harbor, New York.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Otto Fenn, 79, Dies; Photographed Fashion". New York Times. February 7, 1993. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  2. ^ Marowitz, Charles. "Salon Photographer: Fenn." Photo Arts, October 1951, p. 25.
  3. ^ a b c d Kuhn, Eric. "Otto Fenn: Hands on History." The East Hampton Star, (Vol. C, No.22), 24 January 1985, Section II, p. 6.
  4. ^ Atkinson, Brooks (August 20, 1939). "Current Affairs of the Stage in Town and Country". New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Middleton, William. "A Portrait of the Legendary Artist as a Young Man." W Magazine, November 2018, Vol. 7, Conde Nast, page 59.
  6. ^ Marowitz, Charles. "Salon Photographer: Fenn." Photo Arts, October 1951, pp.6, 23-30. Page 28
  7. ^ "Harry Rodman, 75, Directed Lord & Taylor Advertising." New York Times. 19 February, 1976, p. 38.
  8. ^ Schleif, Nina. Andy Warhol Drag and Draw: The Unknown Fifties. Hirmer Verlag, 2018, p. 075.
  9. ^ Schleif, Nina. Andy Warhol Drag and Draw: The Unknown Fifties. Hirmer Verlag, 2018. p. 139.
  10. ^ De Salvo, Donna. "Andy Warhol: Drawing Us In," Andy Warhol: Private Drawings from the 1950s. Sadie Coles HQ. Walther Konig, 2003, pp. 8-11.
  11. ^ De Salvo, Donna. "Andy Warhol: I Work Seven Days a Week." Andy Warhol from A to B and Back Again. New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2018. p. 21. (ISBN 978-0-300-23698-9)
  12. ^ Willey, Nancy B. "Large Audience Views Historic Restoration Film." Sag Harbor Express, 12 October, 1972. p. 4.