Mark Shaw (photographer)

Mark Shaw (photographer)
Mark Shaw
Birth name Mark Schlossman
Born June 25, 1921(1921-06-25)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 26, 1969(1969-01-26) (aged 47)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Field Photography, Film, Television
Training New York University (industrial design); Pratt Institute (engineering)
Patrons Kennedy family

Mark Shaw (June 25, 1921 – January 26, 1969) was a noted American fashion and celebrity photographer in the 1950s and 1960s. He worked for Life magazine from 1952 to 1968; during that period, 27 issues of Life carried cover photos by Mark Shaw.[1] He is best known for his photographs of John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline Kennedy, and their children. In 1964, many of these images were published in the book The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album, which became a bestseller.

Shaw's work also appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle, Esquire, and many other publications.[1][2]


Early life

Shaw was born Mark Schlossman to working-class parents of Eastern European heritage in New York City, and grew up on the Lower East Side. His mother Rebecca (or Reva) Silverstein (also Kanzer) (1895–1960) was a seamstress of Russian and Polish extraction; his father Joseph Charles Schlossman was a laborer and/or salesman of Austrian descent. They divorced while Mark was still a boy. Later he attended New York University, where he studied industrial design,[2] and the Pratt Institute, where he studied engineering and most likely was exposed to photography as well.[3]

In December 1941, Shaw completed ROTC training with a lieutenant's commission. A month after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force as Mark Schlossman, recording his occupation at enlistment as "photographer".[4] He was a pilot throughout World War II, and was highly decorated, flying fighters with the British forces in the North African Campaign and later flying transports over The Hump from India to China. Due to his expertise with multi-engine planes he was then assigned to Russian General Georgy Zhukov as his personal pilot. Shaw also flew one of the escort planes accompanying General Douglas MacArthur on his way to Tokyo to accept the Japanese surrender.[3]

At some point during or soon after the war, Mark (and his mother) changed their surname (Schlossman) to "Shaw", probably in order to sound more "American", which was a common motivation for name changes at the time.

Photography career

After the war, Shaw began his professional photography career in New York City, managing the photographic studio at Harper's Bazaar, where he came under the influence and mentorship of art director Alexey Brodovitch.[2] From 1946 to 1948 Shaw did fashion photography for Harper's Bazaar, and began acquiring advertising clients as well.

In 1949 Shaw married Geraldine ("Geri") Trotta, who was a professional fashion and travel writer for several publications including Mademoiselle. The couple bought a brownstone on the East side of midtown Manhattan. Shaw established his photography studio in a carriage house behind their home.[3] Starting in 1951, Shaw contributed fashion images to Mademoiselle.

In 1952 Shaw became a freelance photographer for Life magazine, and preferred freelancing throughout his career so that he could retain the rights to all of his work—a goal which he was able to achieve even with his most famous images.[3] Trotta's connections further expanded Mark's access to celebrities and public figures, and his career flourished. Freelancing on over 100 assignments for Life, Shaw photographed many actresses, actors, politicians, and other celebrities, while also frequently working photo shoots in the fashion industry. He was the first photographer to portray the Paris fashion collections backstage in color.[3]

In 1953, probably because of his fashion experience, Shaw was assigned to photograph the young actress Audrey Hepburn during the filming of Paramount's Sabrina. Evasive at first, Hepburn became comfortable with Shaw's presence over a two-week period, and allowed him to record many of her casual and private moments.[5] This produced some of his best-known images, though most of the negatives were subsequently lost for many years.[3] Life published several of these photos in the Dec. 7, 1953 issue, which also carried a Shaw cover of Hepburn.[6]

The revealing, true-to-life photos that Mark took of Audrey are typical of his work and his photographic philosophy. He called his favorite pictures “snapshots.” He preferred shooting on location to shooting in a studio—even though most of his financial success came from big ad campaigns, much of which was studio work. He liked a natural look and in order to keep his subjects relaxed he worked with as little photographic equipment as possible.

—Juliet Cuming, Charmed by Audrey: Life on the Set of Sabrina

Also during the 1950s, Shaw and fellow fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon contributed concurrently to a well-known, long-running ad campaign for Vanity Fair lingerie. Shaw won numerous Art Directors Club awards for his creative images in this campaign.

By the late 1950s Shaw's career was reaching its zenith. Among the famous figures he photographed were Pablo Picasso, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Danny Kaye, Cary Grant, Yves St. Laurent, Nico, and many others.[1] For example, in 1957 Shaw portrayed fashion designer Coco Chanel, actress Jeanne Moreau, and model Suzy Parker during a single shoot in Chanel's Paris apartment and fashion house. Life published several of these photos with a story on Chanel that appeared in the issue of August 19, 1957 (which was also Chanel's birthday).[7]

In 1959, Life chose Shaw to photograph Jacqueline Kennedy while her husband, Senator John F. Kennedy, was running for President.[8] This assignment was the beginning of an enduring working relationship and personal friendship with the Kennedys that would eventually lead to Shaw's acceptance as the Kennedys' de facto "family photographer". He visited them at the White House and at Hyannisport; during this time he produced his most famous photographs, portraying the couple and their children in both official and casual settings. In 1964, Shaw published a collection of these images in his book The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album, which was very successful.[1][3][9]

In 1960 Shaw and his first wife Geri Trotta divorced. He and singer Pat Suzuki then married and had a son, David; two years later, that marriage also ended in divorce.[3]

Late in his career Shaw also worked successfully in film, directing numerous television commercials for major companies.[3]


Following Shaw's death in 1969, his estate, including his large body of photographic work, passed to his ex-wives. In 1994 Shaw's son David Shaw and his wife Juliet Cuming took over management of Mark Shaw's photographic legacy, and later purchased Geri Trotta's share of the collection. In 1999 they established the Mark Shaw Photographic Archive, in East Dummerston, Vermont, which is now the sole legal proprietor of Mark Shaw images.[3]

Prior to founding the Archive, David Shaw had a career as a film and music video cinematographer, and Juliet Cuming directed music videos (including White Zombie's Thunder Kiss '65). They have two children. The couple also operate a nonprofit, Earth Sweet Home, which promotes sustainable building and design techniques. The Archive itself is housed in an off-the-grid straw-bale structure which they built themselves following sustainable principles. The building is powered by wind and solar energy.[1]

In December 2005, a few months after the death of Geri Trotta, the long-lost negatives from 60 rolls of film Mark Shaw had shot on his 1953 Audrey Hepburn assignment were found in Trotta's residence. Selections from these rediscovered images were published in 2009 in the book Charmed by Audrey: Life on the Set of Sabrina.[3]


Notable photographs

Photographic Books

  • The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album, Farrar, Straus, 1964.
  • Messenger of Peace: The Visit of Pope Paul VI to the United States in the Cause of Peace, Trinity House, 1965. (Editor, photojournal.)
  • The Catch and the Feast, Weybright and Talley, 1969. (Photographer; text by Joie McGrail and Bill McGrail. A wild game cookbook.)
  • The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album, Rizzoli, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7893-1026-2. (Expanded edition, including new images.)
  • Charmed by Audrey: Life on the Set of Sabrina, Palace Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-933784-87-8. (Text by Juliet Cuming and David Taylor.)


  • Art Directors Club awards in 1950, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, 59, 60, 61, 62, and 65 including two Gold Medals.
  • 1957 Art Directors Club - Award of Distinctive Merit, Editorial Art (Magazine Covers) (for Life cover of Rosalind Russell, Nov. 12, 1956)[10]
  • 1957 Art Directors Club - Award of Distinctive Merit, Editorial Art (Non-Fiction - Two Colors)[11]
  • American Television Commercial Festival awards in 1963, 64, 65, 67, and 68.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Mark Shaw Biography". Mark Shaw Photographic Archive. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  2. ^ a b c Downes, Bruce, ed (1962). "Mark Shaw". Photography Annual, 1963 Edition (New York: Ziff-Davis): 42, 190–193. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Shaw, Mark; Juliet Cuming, David Taylor (2009-04-14). Charmed by Audrey: Life on the Set of Sabrina. San Rafael, CA: Insight Editions. pp. 9–19. ISBN 978-1933784878. 
  4. ^ "Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938 - 1946 (Enlistment Records)". The National Archives: Access to Archival Databases (AAD). The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. 2002.,sl,sd&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=516393. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  5. ^ Rayfield, Stanley (1955). How LIFE Gets the Story. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. p. 6. 
  6. ^ Shaw, Mark (photographer) (1953-12-07). "Audrey Hepburn, Many-sided Charmer". LIFE (Time, Inc.) 35 (23): 127–135. 
  7. ^ Shaw, Mark (photographer) (1957-08-19). "Just a simple little dressmaker: CoCo Chanel". LIFE (Time, Inc.) 43 (8): 113–117. 
  8. ^ Shaw, Mark (photographer) (1959-08-24). "John Kennedy's Lovely Lady". LIFE (Time, Inc.) 47 (8): 75–81. 
  9. ^ Shaw, Mark; David Shaw, Richard Reeves (2000). The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album. New York: Rizzoli. pp. 7–13, 154. ISBN 978-0847822737. 
  10. ^ Robert C. Atherton, ed (1957). 36th Art Directors Annual - 1957. New York: Farrar, Straus, Cudahy. p. 117. 
  11. ^ Robert C. Atherton, ed (1957). 36th Art Directors Annual - 1957. New York: Farrar, Straus, Cudahy. p. 102. 

External links

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