WILLIAM HELBURN: AD MAN


Staley-Wise is pleased to present “Ad-Man”, an exhibition of William Helburn’s classic advertising and fashion photographs. William Helburn’s playful, sexy photographs are among the most original and enduring images to come out of advertising’s “creative revolution.” For more than thirty years, Helburn used fashion, glamour and humor to serve clothiers and jewelers, fabric houses and cosmetics firms, Chrysler and Coca-Cola. His creative credo was “Do it different … Shock value was a term that was used. And I meant to shock people as much as I could.”

Helburn did editorial work at Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country, along with pages in Esquire and covers for LIFE. But “editorial” was just another booking category for Helburn who made his reputation as a first-call photographer for advertising art directors like Bob Gage, Joe Nissan and Gene Federico. Working with them at Doyle Dane Bernbach, Altman-Stoller and other creative agencies, Helburn's images - often conceived and executed in a matter of hours - popped off the pages of ad-heavy 50's and 60's magazines, winning dozens of industry awards.

Helburn's success at advertising was grounded in his love for fashion photography. For Helburn, fashion remains the most creative form of photography; one where photographers control every aspect of the picture, using their talent, taste and inner being to create an arresting image. His greatest talent may have been to marry that creativity to the discipline of advertising, where a great picture must convey the idea the client wants to express.

William Helburn was born in Manhattan in 1924, and the city’s streets and Central Park often are the backdrop his vision. After serving in the Pacific in World War II, Helburn studied with Harper’s Bazaar art director Alexey Brodovitch. In just a few years, Helburn was one of the most prominent advertising and fashion photographers in New York. His close friendships with model agency doyenne Eileen Ford, columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, musician Bobby Short and TV producer Bob Bach fueled a rich social life that included many of the most famous fashion models and celebrities of his era. William Helburn's first book, published in 2014, is “William Helburn – Seventh and Madison.”

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