If not for the coincidence of their recent deaths, the photographers Slim (born George Allen) Aarons and Arnold Newman might never have been compared, althoughthey were friends and were photographed together in 2003. Aarons, after all, documented the rich, well-bred, and beautiful, whose flawless homes and perfect posture he portrayed in meticulous compositions that are the modern-day equivalent of Gainsborough portraits. Newman was interested more in accomplishment than bloodlines and gravitated toward New York’s ripe cultural scene, picking out movers and shakers and shooting them in serious black and white, often in situ or with their work. His subjects, starting in the forties, are a Who’s Who of culture and politics: Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Georges Braque, Andy Warhol, Ayn Rand, Thornton Wilder, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson. If there’s one thing the work of Aarons and Newman has in common, it’s the response their photos evoke. It’s impossible to look at these intensely sympathetic images without feeling a twinge of nostalgia for a New York that seems to have faded; a glamorous, less messy, more self-assured, and certainly better-tailored city.
To see more portraits from Slim Aarons and Arnold Newman’s social and artistic aristocracy, see the June 19, 2006 issue of New York Magazine.