What Slim Saw

He began his career as a combat photographer in the second world war, and it was an experience that defined the rest of Slim Aarons’ life. ‘Beaches were made for lying on, not invading,’ he concluded. Decades later, the Aarons legend — as chronicler of the jet set, high-society’s leading impressionist — is as strong as ever.

Passengers on Dino Pecci Blunt’s yacht in Marbella in 1967 (Photo by Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“I believe in fairytales. For six decades I have concentrated on photographing attractive people who were doing attractive things in attractive places.” These words have the ring of F. Scott Fitzgerald about them: they could have been spoken by a Nick Carraway or Dick Diver, and would make a suitable introduction to a novella or short story. But they belong to Slim Aarons, and he used them to introduce his 2003 photo-memoir, Once Upon a Time. A few years earlier Getty had bought the Aarons archive, and this was the book that presented the Aarons oeuvre to a generation unborn when he had been at his zenith. The publication marked the return and rehabilitation of one of the most remarkable chroniclers of high society during the second half of the 20th century. He died three years later, aged 89, but happily he lived long enough to witness a revival of interest in his work.

Published

June 2021

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