The world of Aarons’s photographs, where wealthy people lounge poolside looking effortlessly beautiful, became an iconic look often mimicked in advertising. Renewed interest in his work led to two recent books and many admirers, particularly among fashion designers such as Paul Smith and Tom Ford.
In a career that spanned six decades, Aarons visited many destinations like Beverly Hills, Capri and the French Riviera and photographed the Kennedy family, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, and other elite jet-setters. Aarons worked without stylists or elaborate lighting, preferring to photograph celebrities in their own clothes and own surroundings.
Aarons’s photography career began not with pictures of stars, but of soldiers. He was born in New York and enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 18. He worked as the official photographer for the United States Military Academy at West Point, served as a combat photographer in World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart. Also during the war, he shot for Yank magazine and met some of the era’s top photojournalists. After World War II, Aarons moved to California, where he began photographing celebrities. It was there that he shot his most famous photograph, “The Kings of Hollywood,” showing Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart shooting the breeze, and shot for magazines, including Life, Town & Country and Holiday.
Aarons died in 2006, but in the last few years of his life, his work, which had been appropriated or paid homage to by so many photographers, was finally back in vogue and recognised again.
“I’m not a master photographer. I’m a journalist with a camera,” Aarons said. “People forget. It isn’t about one photograph, like all magazines publish today. We were storytellers.”
Crane Kalman Brighton offers premium quality photographic prints from the Slim Aarons Archive, owned and housed by Getty Images. All photographs are printed and authorised by the Getty Images Gallery, London.