John Rawlings got his start designing window displays in New York in the 1930’s when he started photographing. He then was hired by Conde Nast as a prop builder, studio hand and assistant to Cecil Beaton and Horst P. Horst before landing a job at British Vogue in London where he stayed until the early 40’s.
In some ways, he never stopped being a window dresser. His photos are like windows to people’s houses, or into movies, or dreams.
Maurice Rentner dress, 1950
Millicent Rogers in her Manhattan apartment, 1944
Mary Jane Russell, 1953
actress Meg Mundy, one of his favorite models to photograph, 1940
His photographs are beautiful in their simplicity and alluring cinematic quality. They have an element of timelessness that transcends so easily to today. Rawlings was among the first to elevate commercial photography to being art and photographed more than 200 covers of Vogue and Glamour.
Tim Gutt’s “Star Signs” zodiac spread in Vogue UK last Sept 2010 which can be found here can be seen as an homage to John Rawlings. It is such a breath of air in a crowded magazine. Photography has changed through the decades, but I wouldn’t mind at all if it came back to Rawlings, Horst and Penn.
All Rawlings photos are Conde Naste / Corbis images
Biography can be found here