While searching for work by the excellent photographer Germaine Krull (see Dreams of Desire 18) who Man Ray highly admired, I came across her extraordinary series Les Amies (The Friends) which features pairs of female lovers in an intimate setting. The photographs are unashamedly erotic, however unlike similar images taken by Man Ray where the women are objects of the male gaze, here the women are actively involved in acting upon their own sensual desires for themselves.
Another striking photographic composition by Germaine Krull (Dreams of Desire 18) with its suggestion of Alice in Wonderland changes in size and scale. Has she woken up to find that she has shrunk during her sleep or has the bed somehow expanding to gigantic proportions? The dynamic pose makes it seem like she has discovered the secret of flight and is about to soar into the air. The interplay between light and shadow upon the body renders the photograph and its subject even more enigmatic.
Assia features in several of Germaine Krull’s work of the 1930’s. She was also the muse of several other photographer’s including Dora Maar, Emmanuel Sougez and Roger Schall. She also posed for Andre Derain and several sculptors including Charles Despiau whom she would sit for twice a week from 1934 to 1938.
Assia Granatouroff was born in the Ukraine in 1911 of Jewish heritage. Her family fled revolutionary Russia and settled in France in 1922. After studying textile design she began working as a model in 1930. This proved so successful that it financed a theatrical and film career. With the invasion of France she fled to Marseilles but was arrested by the Gestapo. However she managed to escape and joined the Resistance. After the war she took to producing esoteric artworks inspired by the Tarot.
The photographs of Assia have an almost sculptural quality, emphasising Assia’s full, powerful figure and the statuesque nature of her Amazonian beauty.
When Man Ray met Germaine Krull in 1920’s Paris he remarked to her that “Germaine, you and I are the greatest photographers of our time, I in the old sense you in the modern one.”
At the time she certainly was a name; busy in the field of fashion photography, portraits and photo-journalism. Her photobook of 1928 Metal which consisted of 64 black and white shots of bridges, buildings, ships and bicycles wheels to illustrate her contention that the industrial landscape was essentially masculine was selected as one of the most important photographic books of the 20th century. In 1930 she published Etudes De Nu (Studies of Nudes) and contributed to the first photo-novel with George Simenon, Le Follie D’Itteville. She frequently contributed to the modernist periodical VU and the Belgian Surrealist journel Varietes. Krull was a major influence on Eli Lotar who contributed to Georges Bataille Documents.
Above and below are some of Krull’s photographs, focusing on her ground-breaking representation of the female form which amply illustrate the truth of Man Ray’s statement.