The Replacement Girl: A Life In 24 Frames

To celebrate the 90th birthday of Barbara Mullen, one of the top fashion models of the 1950's, a funding project has been launched to print Ms Mullen's biography.  A link for more information is provided here: The Replacement Girl: A Life in 24 Frames

Barbara Mullen in Mexico
Photographed by Fred Baker for 1953 Vogue

Please enjoy this excerpt from her biography:
Every picture tells a story. And fashion, a world defined largely through pictures, has millions of stories to tell. But we rarely look beyond the beauty of the fashion image itself to consider what lies hidden behind.
When Barbara Mullen was born in Jazz Age Harlem, the profession of fashion modelling had barely begun. But by the time she’d graduated from high school, it was booming. Starting out as a department store mannequin in wartime New York, she would become one of the most successful models in the world. And then, after a series of personal tragedies and scandals, she disappeared from sight.
Today, Mullen exists largely through a series of extraordinary pictures, shot by some of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century; Richard Avedon, Guy Bourdin, Lillian Bassman, Norman Parkinson, William Klein, Horst, Irving Penn. Taken all over the world (Peru, Paris, India, Mexico, Sicily, New York) they tell fashion’s story in one of its most vital decades, as it transformed from an elite, luxury pursuit into a global mass-market phenomenon. Lillian Bassman labelled Mullen ‘the replacement girl’ — a last-minute stand-in for a 1948 photoshoot, who stunned the photographer with her ability to transform for the camera’s gaze. And that chameleon-like quality would allow Mullen to adapt and survive as notions of fashion and beauty themselves transformed across the Fifties, from Dior’s frothy New Look romance to the slick, graphic style of rising stars such as Cardin and Givenchy.
But what was it like to be a model then, at a time when editors such as Diana Vreeland, Bettina Ballard and Carmel Snow ruled the fashion world; a time when Madison Avenue’s Mad Men were conjuring up campaigns that needed spectacular, audacious images; a time when the designers and photographers we now venerate as gods were just inexperienced youngsters; a time when women weren’t expected to have careers (and certainly not ones which saw them become better-paid than most men); a time when models were expected to be their own stylists, hair and make-up artists, and luggage carriers; a time when you could be on the cover of every fashion magazine on a Manhattan newsstand, without anyone ever knowing your name?
Today, we live in a world where models can be superstars; thanks to social media, they now have the power to create their own images, and tell their own stories. But the voices of the women who founded and shaped the industry have largely gone unheard. Barbara Mullen’s biography offers a chance to examine modern fashion and beauty from the other side of the lens, through the eyes of one of that pioneering generation’s last survivors.
                                                           John-Michael O'Sullivan

Shown below are a few photographs of the lovely Barbara Mullen.

Barbara Mullen
Photographed by
William Klein for Vogue Paris 1956
Barbara Mullen and Eileen Ford
Photographed by Nina Leen for Life 1948

Barbara Mullen in Jaipur
Photograph by Norman Parkinson
British Vogue 1956

Barbara Mullen
Photographed by Sharland for Vogue 1951

Please consider supporting Mr. O'Sullivan's efforts to honor Barbara Mullen. The link can be found at The Replacement Girl: A Life in 24 Frames. It is a very interesting read.

No comments: