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Steven Meisel

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Steven Meisel
Born (1954-06-05) June 5, 1954 (age 70)[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 was born in New York.[2] He 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.[3]

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.[4]


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 to take pictures of some of their models.[5] In his spare time, Meisel would photograph models. One was future film star Phoebe Cates. She went to a casting for Seventeen magazine to show her portfolio, which held some of his photography, and the people at Seventeen subsequently contacted Meisel and hired him.[6][7]

Meisel worked for many different fashion magazines, most notably Interview and US and Italian Vogue.[7][8] For almost three decades, he captured the photographs for each cover and main editorial spread in Italian Vogue.[9] In 2014, he portrayed 50 models for the 50th anniversary of Vogue Italia.[10]

The July 2008 issue of Vogue Italia featured only black models, and was entirely photographed by Meisel.[11] 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."[12]

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[13] and Mariah Carey's 1995 album Daydream.[14] His work can be seen on the cover of Madonna's singles "Bad Girl" and "Fever",[15] and Mariah Carey's single "Fantasy" (simply a different crop of the photo on the cover of the Daydream album).[16] He also directed the music video for Deborah Harry's single "Sweet and Low" alongside fashion designer Stephen Sprouse.[citation needed]

Fashion campaigns[edit]

Meisel has shot for Versace,[9] Valentino,[9] Dolce & Gabbana,[17] Balenciaga,[18] Loewe,[19] Calvin Klein,[20] Alberta Ferretti,[21] and Barneys New York.[22][23] Since 2004, Meisel has shot Prada campaigns each season.[5] In May 2008, he shot friend Madonna for the cover of Vanity Fair,[24][25] and later that year he shot her for the 2009 spring campaign by Louis Vuitton.[26]

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.[27]


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,[28] Guinevere Van Seenus,[14] Karen Elson,[28] Amber Valletta,[29] Kristen McMenamy,[28] Stella Tennant,[30] Raquel Zimmerman,[14] Saskia de Brauw,[31] Sasha Pivovarova,[14] Jessica Stam,[32] Naomi Campbell,[28] Christy Turlington,[28] Lexi Boling,[33] Iris Strubegger,[14] Lara Stone,[14] Coco Rocha,[14] Natalia Vodianova,[14] Vanessa Axente,[14] and Elise Crombez.[34]


Meisel's work often addresses social issues such as racism, addiction, and cultural self-absorption, and the photographer has a history of controversial photoshoots. One example includes an editorial in 2007, where he depicted models in designer outfits being harassed by soldiers, drawing inspiration from the Iraq war. The images were deemed as glamorizing violence and rape. A 2010 article by The Guardian noted that Meisel "clearly considers himself a bit of a provocateur" and questioned his sense of taste and appropriateness.[35] He frequently satirizes the mannerisms and extravagance of the fashion world. One example is the editorial "Makeover Madness," which spanned eighty pages in Vogue Italia in 2002 and depicted models undergoing various body interventions, dressed in couture but wrapped in gauze.[6] Other photoshoots by Meisel have also been met with criticism. In a July 2006 issue of Vogue Italia, he created a controversial photoshoot " described as "a fun take on rehab chic".[36] A September 2006 photoshoot for the magazine, entitled "State of Emergency", was also criticized for eroticizing torture and police brutality.[37]

Books and exhibitions[edit]

A book collecting some of his photographs, titled Steven Meisel,[38] was published by German teNeues Buchverlag in 2003 and sold out.

In 2014–2015, 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.[39][40]

In 1992, Meisel collaborated with Madonna to develop the controversial book Sex.[9][41]

In April 2023, it was announced that a new book showcasing the collaborations between Meisel and his longtime muse Linda Evangelista, titled Linda Evangelista Photographed by Steven Meisel, would be released in September 2023 by Phaidon Press.[42]

Personal life[edit]

Meisel is known for being a private figure and rarely gives interviews.[6][43]


  1. ^ [httpeyzyds://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/names-that-changed-the-fashion-photography-industry-forever/ "Names that Changed the Fashion Photography Industry Forever"]. New York Film Academy. December 24, 2016.
  2. ^ Alexander, Simon; Cooper, Grier; Diller, Bill; Greenberg, David; Hauck, Tom; LaRose, Melissa; Roharik, Matthew; Schmidt, David; Walsh-Newton, Christine (September 2010). The Daily Book of Photography: 365 Readings that Teach, Inspire & Entertain. Walter Foster Publishing. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-60058-211-0.
  3. ^ "Steven Meisel biography". November 10, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2023.
  4. ^ "Steven Meisel (American, born 1954)". artnet. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Steven Meisel is part of the BoF 500". The Business of Fashion. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  6. ^ a b c Edelson, Elizabeth Doupnik,Alexandra Steigrad,Lisa Lockwood,Sharon; Doupnik, Elizabeth; Steigrad, Alexandra; Lockwood, Lisa; Edelson, Sharon (October 26, 2016). "Fashion's Busiest Photographers". WWD. Retrieved July 26, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b "Modapedia del fotografo Steven Meisel". Vogue España (in Spanish). March 15, 2013. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  8. ^ "Steven Meisel: The Ultimate Autobiography". The Business of Fashion. November 28, 2022. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d Skarda, Erin (April 2, 2012). "Steven Meisel - All-TIME 100 Fashion Icons - TIME". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  10. ^ "Anniversary 50 years of Vogue Italia". Vogue.it. September 12, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  11. ^ Mower, Sarah (July 27, 2008). "Fashion world stunned by Vogue for black". The Guardian. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  12. ^ "Who Is Steven Meisel?". 032c. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  13. ^ Cross, Martha (October 12, 1992). "Madonna's Magician Steven Meisel". New York. 25 (40). New York Media LLC. ISSN 0028-7369. Archived from the original on May 4, 2022. Retrieved June 18, 2010.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i V., Andrey (December 14, 2016). "Steven Meisel". Widewalls. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  15. ^ "Madonna sous l'objectif des plus grands photographes". Numéro Magazine (in French). April 15, 2020. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  16. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Billboard Books. p. 841. ISBN 978-0-8230-7677-2.
  17. ^ "Flashback: Classic Dolce & Gabbana campaigns". Vogue France (in French). January 14, 2017. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  18. ^ "First Look: Balenciaga Fall Ads". ELLE. July 6, 2012. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  19. ^ Dazed (June 19, 2018). "Steven Meisel shoots his model clone for new Loewe campaign". Dazed. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  20. ^ Dazed. "Controversial fashion ads". Dazed. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  21. ^ Salibian, Sandra (December 5, 2016). "Alberta Ferretti Taps Steven Meisel for Spring Ad Campaign". WWD. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  22. ^ Schiro, Anne-Marie (March 19, 1989). "STYLE MAKERS; Steven Meisel - Photographer". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  23. ^ "Remembering Barneys New York Through Its Iconic Ads". Yahoo News. November 19, 2019. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  24. ^ "Photos: Vanity Fair's Year in Pictures, Part One". Vanity Fair. December 12, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  25. ^ "The Decade in Covers: Pick the Best V.F. Cover of 2008". Vanity Fair. November 19, 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  26. ^ "Material Girl". British Vogue. November 13, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  27. ^ Maura, Susana (January 1, 2017). "Los mejores fotógrafos de moda de la historia" [The Best Photographers in the History of Fashion]. ellahoy.es (in Spanish). Ella Hoy. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  28. ^ a b c d e Sharkey, Lauren (November 27, 2014). "7 Wonders: Steven Meisel". Wonderland. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Samaha, Barry (December 23, 2020). "Model Stella Tennant Dies at Age 50". finance.yahoo.com. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  31. ^ "Prada Spring 2013 Campaign". Bloginity.com. December 19, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  32. ^ "Jessica Stam". RUSSH. August 29, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ Pieri, Kerry (January 10, 2012). "Don't Call it a Comeback: Model Elise Crombez". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  35. ^ Carter, Kate (August 19, 2010). "Fashion's most tasteless moments". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  36. ^ "'A fun take on rehab chic' – brave or sick? - Times Online". August 18, 2011. Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  37. ^ Saner, Emine (September 23, 2007). "A tasteless line in battledress from Vogue". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
  38. ^ Meisel, S. Steven Meisel (Broschiert) (German website), Teneues Buchverlag, 2003; ISBN 3-570-19421-3.
  39. ^ Leon, Sarah (January 30, 2015). "Steven Meisel Plays Around". W Magazine. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  40. ^ Westall, Mark (November 17, 2014). "NEW: STEVEN MEISEL 'Role Play' a Touring Exhibition from @Phillips". FAD Magazine. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  41. ^ Malach, Hannah (June 29, 2023). "Christie's to Auction Off Steven Meisel Photographs of Madonna From 1992 Photo Book 'Sex'". WWD. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  42. ^ Lockwood, Lisa (April 24, 2023). "'Linda Evangelista Photographed by Steven Meisel' Will be Published by Phaidon in September". Yahoo Life. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  43. ^ "How Steven Meisel Defined Fashion in 1993". Aperture. March 10, 2023. Retrieved July 27, 2023.

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