Melvin Sokolsky - Gifted Gallery
Melvin Sokolsky, born 9 October 1933, was an American photographer and film director, best know for the fashion photography "Bubble" series depicting fashion models "floating" in giant clear plastic bubbles suspended in midair.
Born in New York City, Sokolsky was raised on the Lower East Side. He had no formal training in photography, but started to use his father's box camera at about the age of ten. Always analytical, he started to realise the role that emulsion played as he compared his own photographs with those his father had kept in albums through the years. "I could never make my photographs of Butch the dog look like the pearly finish of my father's prints, and it was then that I realised the importance of the emulsion of the day."
As a primal memory, Sokolsky recalls his father had shown him an image of Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights,” an image that would impact the young Melvin. Confined to a bed with a fever, Sokolsky would have recurring dreams of traveling above exotic lands in a spherical bubble, similar to the one depicted in the middle panel of a “Garden of Earthly Delights.”
Around 1954, Sokolsky met Robert Denning, who at the time worked with photographer Edgar de Evia, at an East Side gym. "I discovered that Edgar was paid $4000 for a Jell-O ad, and the idea of escaping from my tenement dwelling became an incredible dream and inspiration."
Sokolsky photographed the entire editorial content of McCall's Magazine in 1962, a first in its time.
In 1963 at the age of 30, Sokolsky joined the iconic fashion magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. Here Sokolsky decided to bring to reality his transcending and chimeric childhood dream; he created a series of photographs that he would become best know for, the fashion photography "Bubble" series depicting fashion models "floating" in giant clear plastic bubbles suspended in midair above the River Seine in Paris. He created some of history’s most memorable fashion photographs.
"Sokolsky records these almost otherworldly spectacles with the same attention of passerby looking in disbelief; breaking away from the static, calculated imagery associated with fashion images to a more spontaneous and creative scene. The Bubble series have had a lasting influence on the future creativity of fashion magazines; they have become icons of both creativity and beauty."
Though he is best known for his "Bubble" series, Sokolsky's work is not limited to that field. Three quarters of his print photography has been for advertising, which does not usually carry a byline. As Sokolsky said in an interview: "I resented the attitude that 'This is editorial and this is advertising'. I always felt, why dilute it? Why not always go for the full shot?" Toward the end of the 1960s, Sokolsky worked as both commercial director and cameraman.
In 1964, Sokolsky was invited by the School of Visual Arts in New York to teach a special class at his studio.
During 1969 Sokolsky embarked on a new career in television commercials as director/cameraman. Sokolsky has been honored with twenty-five Clio Awards, and is the recipient of every major television commercial award including the coveted "Directors Guild" nomination. Many of Sokolsky's commercials are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. In 1975, Sokolsky was invited by the Japanese Graphic Society to lecture in Tokyo and Kyoto, and was subsequently named Honorary Professor of Photography.
The Victoria & Albert Museum installed an exhibition of photographs in 1986 called "Shots of Style," a retrospective of the worlds major fashion photographers. The Victoria & Albert included Sokolsky's photographs in the exhibit, and subsequently placed many of them in their permanent collection. In 1995, Canon USA named Sokolsky as one of their “Explorers of Light,” to lecture and photograph internationally.
The Louvre Museum celebrated the work of Sokolsky in 2003 featuring his iconic image of the Bubble on the Seine on the poster for ~ A Paris, La Mode Est Capital `Ecole Du Louvre. VilleDe Paris ~ Cours Public Et Gratuit. In the same year Sokolsky's attended the First Annual Lucie Awards and received an Outstanding Achievement in Fashion Photography.
Melvin Sokolsky died 29 August 2022, aged 88, in Beverly Hills, California. "Breaking the rules of 1950’s studio photography, Sokolsky advanced the creativity of fashion magazines. By bringing the medium into the realm of the surreal, he engages the dream world and visually articulates the possibilities of spellbinding, poetic illusions in photography."
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You can learn more about Melvin Sokolsky, his life and work at Sokolsky.com