Steven Meisel

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Steven Meisel
Born (1954-06-05) June 5, 1954 (age 68)[1][better source needed]
New York City, U.S.
EducationHigh School of Art and Design
Alma materParsons School of Design
OccupationFashion photographer

Steven Meisel (born June 5, 1954) is an American fashion photographer, who obtained popularity and critical acclaim with his work in Vogue and Vogue Italia as well as his photographs of friend Madonna in her 1992 book, Sex. He is now considered one of the most successful fashion photographers in the industry. He used to work regularly for both US and Italian Vogue, and W (at the time also published by Condé Nast) and now exclusively for British Vogue.

Early life[edit]

Meisel studied at the High School of Art and Design, where he attended different courses but, as affirmed in an interview with Ingrid Sischy for Vogue France, he finally majored in fashion illustration.

From an early age, Meisel had a deep interest for fashion; he often preferred to sketch models while looking at fashion magazines rather than play with other things and soon enough attended the High School of Art and Design in New York City. Later, he was admitted at the Parsons School of Design, where he majored in fashion illustration and graduated.[2]


One of his first jobs was for fashion designer Halston as an illustrator. Meisel taught illustration part-time at his alma mater, Parsons School of Design. Later on, while working at Women's Wear Daily as an illustrator, he went to Elite Model Management where Oscar Reyes, a booker who liked his illustrations, allowed him take pictures of some of their models.

He would photograph them in his apartment in Gramercy Park or on the street: on weekdays he would work at Women's Wear Daily and on weekends with the models. One was future film star Phoebe Cates. Some of these models went to castings for Seventeen magazine to show their portfolios, which held some of his photography, and the people at Seventeen subsequently called Meisel and asked if he wanted to work with them.

Meisel worked for many different fashion magazines, most notably Interview and US and Italian Vogue. From July 1988 to May 2015, he photographed every single cover (with a few exceptions in 1989) of Italian Vogue, and then half of the covers until the farewell issue of editor Franca Sozzani in 2017. In 2014, he portrayed 50 models for the 50th anniversary of Vogue Italia.[3]

Meisel has contributed photos for the covers of several popular albums and singles, including two RIAA Diamond-certified albums, Madonna's 1984 album Like a Virgin and Mariah Carey's 1995 album Daydream. His work can be seen on the cover of Madonna's single "Bad Girl" (a nude), the limited picture disc for Madonna's UK single release of "Fever" (a partial nude), and Mariah Carey's single "Fantasy" (simply a different crop of the photo on the cover of the Daydream album). He also directed the music video for Deborah Harry's single "Sweet and Low" alongside fashion designer Stephen Sprouse.

Fashion campaigns[edit]

Meisel has shot campaigns for Versace, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Calvin Klein. Since 2004, Meisel has shot Prada campaigns each season. In April 2008, he shot friend Madonna for Vanity Fair, and later that year he shot her for the 2009 spring campaign by Louis Vuitton.

He is a close friend of designer Anna Sui, for whom he has also shot several campaigns, even though Sui rarely uses advertising to promote her clothing.[4]


As one of the most powerful photographers in the fashion industry, Meisel is credited with "discovering" or promoting the careers of many successful models, including Linda Evangelista,[5] Guinevere Van Seenus,[6] Karen Elson,[5] Amber Valletta,[7] Kristen McMenamy,[5] Stella Tennant,[8] Raquel Zimmerman,[6] Saskia de Brauw,[9] Sasha Pivovarova,[6] Jessica Stam,[10] Naomi Campbell,[5] Christy Turlington,[5] Lexi Boling,[11] Iris Strubegger,[6] Lara Stone,[6] Coco Rocha,[6] Natalia Vodianova,[6] Vanessa Axente,[6] and Elise Crombez.[12]

Meisel often creates layouts which are controversial, by juxtaposing fashion and politics and/or social standards. Provocative photoshoots in Vogue Italia earned him accusations of being tasteless and tactless.[13] For example, in the September 2006 issue of Vogue Italia', Meisel played with the concept of restricted liberties post-September 11 America, with the models portraying terrorists and highly trained policemen. It caused a stir in the press, as the models were presented in violent compositions where they could be seen as being victimized. It elicited a negative response from many feminists which saw the role of the women as being undermined by their male counterparts. The July 2008 issue of Vogue Italia featured only black models, and was entirely photographed by Meisel.[14]

It was a response to increasing criticism of racism in the fashion industry and became the best-selling issue in the magazine's history. When asked about the issue, Meisel said: "Obviously I feel that fashion is totally racist. The one thing that taking pictures allows you to do is occasionally make a larger statement. After seeing all the shows though I feel it was totally ineffective. I was curious—because it received a lot of publicity—whether it would have any effect on New York, London, Paris, or Milan, and I found that it did not. They still only had one token black girl, maybe two. It’s the same as it always was and that’s the sad thing for me."[15]

A book collecting some of his photographs, titled Steven Meisel,[16] was published by German teNeues Buchverlag in 2003 and sold out.

In 2014–15, Phillips held an exhibition called "Role Play" that featured some of the photographic work of Meisel throughout the years, and which took place in the cities of Paris, London, New York, and Miami.[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Meisel is notorious for rarely giving interviews or being photographed. However, in one of few cases, he was interviewed by Ingrid Sischy for Vogue Paris.[citation needed] The following year, Meisel agreed to be interviewed for 032c magazine by Pierre-Alexandre de Looz. De Looz's piece, "Who Is Steven Meisel?", was accompanied by a 14-page fold-out retrospective of Meisel's 20 years of covers for Vogue Italia.[15]


  1. ^ "Names that Changed the Fashion Photography Industry Forever". New York Film Academy. December 24, 2016.
  2. ^ "Steven Meisel (American, born 1954)". artnet. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  3. ^ "Anniversary 50 years of Vogue Italia". September 12, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  4. ^ Maura, Susana (January 1, 2017). "Los mejores fotógrafos de moda de la historia" [The Best Photographers in the History of Fashion]. (in Spanish). Ella Hoy. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e Sharkey, Lauren (November 27, 2014). "7 Wonders: Steven Meisel". Wonderland. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h V., Andrey (December 14, 2016). "Steven Meisel". Widewalls. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  7. ^ Blanks, Tim (January 28, 2015). "An Exclusive Q&A With Photographer Steven Meisel". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on February 3, 2015. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  8. ^ Samaha, Barry (December 23, 2020). "Model Stella Tennant Dies at Age 50". Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  9. ^ "Prada Spring 2013 Campaign". December 19, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  10. ^ "Jessica Stam". RUSSH. August 29, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  11. ^ Shapiro, Bee (August 30, 2016). "The Bad Girl Model Lexi Boling on Her Good Beauty Habits". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 9, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  12. ^ Pieri, Kerry (January 10, 2012). "Don't Call it a Comeback: Model Elise Crombez". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  13. ^ Carter, Kate (July 19, 2010). "Fashion's most tasteless moments". The Guardian. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  14. ^ Mower, Sarah (July 27, 2008). "Fashion world stunned by Vogue for black". The Guardian. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Who Is Steven Meisel?". 032c. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  16. ^ Meisel, S. Steven Meisel (Broschiert) (German website), Teneues Buchverlag, 2003; ISBN 3-570-19421-3.
  17. ^ Leon, Sarah (January 30, 2015). "Steven Meisel Plays Around". W Magazine. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  18. ^ Westall, Mark (November 17, 2014). "NEW: STEVEN MEISEL 'Role Play' a Touring Exhibition from @Phillips". FAD Magazine. Retrieved October 31, 2021.

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