For every carefully chosen image in a fashion editorial, how many stunning alternatives are relegated to an archive, never to be seen again?
Answer: A lot. In Conde Nast’s case, more than 1.5 million, expertly cataloged and preserved in a New York storage otherwise known as “the morgue.”
Protected in a cold room, elegantly boxed and meticulously filed, the imaginings of photographic heroes such as Cecil Beaton and Horst P. Horst have lain dormant and unappreciated — until now.
The magazine house behind Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair has teamed up with Getty Images to release a collection of more than 30,000 unique shots, some available for prints and licensing.
For Getty’s archive director, Bob Ahern, it was a collaboration he had long been courting.
“Frankly we’d been after their content for some time. It’s beautiful,” he said. “Fashion is cyclical, it draws so readily on inspiration of the past. To have these images available is amazing.”
Ahern said that while visiting Conde Nast’s collection he was “like a kid in a sweet shop.”
As captivating as the photographers’ visions are their star-studded subjects — from Nancy Reagan to Coco Chanel.
“Conde Nast got great access,” Ahern said. “You’ve got the gamut of supermodels from way back in the ’30s to what we might call the heyday — the Kate Mosses, the Christy Turlingtons.
“You also have writers and actors like Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin. You name it, those guys opened the doors for Conde Nast.”