Albert Watson’s photographic oeuvre defies any simple categorization, combining personal projects and commissioned work with a daring personal style. Beautiful, rich, and intriguing, Watson’s photography has created some of the most instantly recognizable iconic images, capturing personalities that have changed the cultural landscape through a blend of art and fashion photography.
Born and raised in Scotland, Albert Watson studied graphic design and film before moving to the United States. After establishing himself as a photographer in Los Angeles, a discipline that first started as a hobby, and gaining the attention of some significant publications through his distinctive style, Watson moved to New York where his prominence grew.
In 1998, Albert Watson created a photo shoot as an homage to Frida Kahlo for the German edition of Vogue. As an artist Watson had always admired, Frida Kahlo became the inspiration for a shoot that would highlight the Mexican artist’s resolute and emblematic aesthetic. The clothes for the shoot were inspired by designers from the late 1940s to early 1950s, as a loose contemporary allusion to her adopted traditional Zapotec-Tehuana fashion style. The model chosen for the shoot, Teresa Lourenco, bore a rough resemblance to Frida, ultimately creating an image that pays overall deference to Frida’s tenacious originality. Albert Watson curated the shoot to use saturated, bright colors as a salute to the renowned color shots of Frida by Nickolas Muray, using them as a visual reference. Frida Kahlo’s image has since her time inspired and enchanted a fashion-conscious public, being photographed (along with her iconic residence, La Casa Azul) by Martin Munkacsi for Harper’s Bazar in 1934, Toni Frisell for Vogue in 1937, and on her first visit to Paris, inspired designer Elsa Schiaparelli to design the Madame Rivera dress in her image.
Watson’s shoot takes place in a period that plays a role in the continual resurgence of Frida Kahlo’s influence. In 1983 Hayden Herrera wrote a biography of the artist, Frida, in 1998 Jean Paul Gaultier created a somber and eye-catching Spring collection heavily influenced by a combination of Kahlo and musician Marilyn Manson’s aesthetic, in 2002 a biographical movie based on Herrera’s book, Frida, was released. Albert Watson creates in 1998’s Frida Kahlo Story, a fashion-oriented and glamorous take on the compelling and unique iconography that Frida’s image invokes. As one of the seminal and most inventive photographers to record influential characters, one wonders what could have transpired had Watson had the opportunity to capture the revolutionary artist herself, but as of now, Watson’s inspired shoot captures a romanticized and alluring simile of the icon that continues to influence culture and fashion to this day.
Watson remains one of the most sought-after and versatile photographers to work in either commercial, fashion, or art photography. He was named one of the 20 most influential photographers of all time by Photo District News, has had numerous museum exhibitions, and is considered one of the most significant creative forces in the contemporary photography world.