Galerie 36 is pleased to present the first comprehensive exhibition of the visionary advertising images by American photographer Bert Stern (1929 - 2013) from the early fifties to the late sixties. The exhibition "Shapes & Symbols" shows a selection of iconic photographs that emerged during the highly productive time of his rise to become one of the leading advertising photographers. Many of the works exhibited have never before been publicly displayed outside publications and magazines of their time and can now be seen for the first time in terms of their artistic value.
Bert Stern is credited with having redefined advertising imagery in the early 1950s and decisively shaped the development of color advertising photography into an art form. Previously, advertising in magazines was used primarily to illustrate the text. Through his conceptual vision, Stern ushered in a new era of advertising, one where photographic images began to communicate much more elusive and seductive messages to consumers. One of his first significant assignments was a shot in Egypt for Smirnoff Vodka in 1955 where Stern captured a martini glass placed on the sand before a looming pyramid, the top of which is seen inverted in the glass of martini. This image of classic simplicity has since been described as the most influential break with traditional advertising photography.¹
A self-taught photographer, Stern began his career as an assistant at Flair Magazine. In 1946, while working at Look, he met and befriended Stanley Kubrick, for whom he would later shoot the memorable images of Sue Lyon as Lolita. After serving in the US Army, Stern returned to New York and began working on advertising campaigns. In 1953, during an assignment for a Madison Avenue advertising agency he photographed his first major assignment for Smirnoff Vodka in White Sands, New Mexico. This commission was the prelude to his great research of aesthetic image-finding.
His meteoric rise had seen him produce some of the most original and remarkable coloured images at the inception of advertising’s Golden Age, a groundbreaking documentary film, Jazz on a Summer’s Day, and iconic portraits of some of the world’s most famous stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor oder Gary Cooper und Truman Capote — including the celebrated "Last Sitting" photographs of Marilyn Monroe.
¹ Robert A. Sobieszek, The Art of Persuasion: A History of Advertising Photography, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1988, p.99.