Into the Archives: Mark Shaw

As the artist behind several of America’s most iconic images, Mark Shaw began his career in photography as the manager of Harper’s Bazaar’s photo studio, and later as a fashion photographer for the magazine. He then went on to become a freelance photographer for LIFE magazine, where, through connections provided by his wife, fashion and travel writer Geri Trotta, he began shooting celebrities and public figures.

Much of the appeal of Shaw’s work is unquestionably due to the level of intimacy he was able to portray in his images, from the backstage scene of Europe’s couture shows, to candid shots of the notoriously private (and newly famous) Audrey Hepburn on the set of Sabrina. While at LIFE he garnered increasingly high profile figures to photograph, among them Picasso, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Brigitte Bardot, and Coco Chanel. A 1952 LIFE feature of Jackie Kennedy, snapped during JFK’s candidacy, developed into his most well-known project to date, or that of the Kennedy’s unofficial family photographer. As with his other projects, Shaw captured a side of the president not readily available to the public through Shaw’s ability to reveal surprisingly natural moments, featuring everything from family vacations in Hyannis Port, to intense moments in-office, to the aftermath of JFK’s assassination. Shaw continued his photographic pursuits up until his death, at which time he had been involved in the world of print advertising. Due to his lifelong status as a freelancer, he was able to personally own the rights to his work. Only recently have the great majority of these images become public following his son David’s founding of the Mark Shaw Photographic Archive, located in East Dummerston, Vermont.

The Kennedy family relaxing in Hyannis Port, Maine.

Backstage with Christian Dior in 1954.

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