What to watch: Slim Aaron’s Work

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Known as the voyeur of the rich, fabulous and ultra glamorous, Aaron’s work is an ode to lounging, to fabulous leisure, to the delightfulness that stems from lavish surroundings – his oeuvre is a collection of postcards that evoke the sweetness of ease and aesthetic grace. Slim Aarons: The High Life is the documentary that portrays the work and the life of the artist.

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A splendid group of people feasting on pasta dishes, their backs facing a glorious Italian sea; perfectly assembled women with polished demeanor conversing gently as a lavish and modernist pool peaks behind them, the sleek silhouettes of a house that is backed by a breathtaking presence of mountains. Postcards from the seaside splendor of the Amalfi Coast, bodies lounging idly as the sun soaks their skins; spectacular images of the sunny, shimmery days in Positano beaches. Scenes that distil the grandeur of material possibility with beautiful people, in beautiful places, flaunting a lifestyle made of splendor and chicness.

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Aaron’s photographed a world that no longer exists. He acted as a voyeur of sorts in a world that evidenced old-money chic, the glamour of a domain made of prosperity and all it propels in surroundings and appearances. Luscious poolside parties in the 50s, 60s and 70s, gorgeous women in swimming pools, the readable and visible codes of lifestyles granted to the fabulously wealthy.

Before Instagram as a visual vehicle to gaze at spectacular Italian settings, resort-infused lifestyles and magnificent interiors, there was Slim Aarons. His photographic view was featured in Life, Holiday, Harper’s Baazar, Town & Country, Leisure – and it speaks of what can be deemed as “a bygone era or privilege and exclusivity”. Today’s world may not celebrate this perception of lavish chicness – in resorts and enclaves that range from Newport to Palm Beach, Acapulco, Palm Springs and the Italian summer dreaminess – but Aaaron’s photography reminds us of the power of fantast and the idea of glamour as a way of visual persuasion, making us long for a beauty that nurtures aliveness in itself.

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The world of unapologetic posh may seem distant to what the world currently craves or celebrates, but as one looks at Aaron’s biography, one can quickly understand that he witnessed terror and horror as a war photographer. His dreamy and glossy representations, which be began in the 1950s post-war world, can be seen as a human travesty to create beauty after seeing the most sordid expressions of human cruelty and desperation. His celebration of gorgeous leisure possibilities, lavish houses, glorious sunny days in front of polished poolsides, can be seen as a poetic reaction: the will to hang on to beauty, the one that stirs fantasy and identification, the one that sheds a light of yearning.

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And there’s also his books. A Wonderful Time, from 1974 is an emblematic reference for American designers, interior decorators and top editors of gloss magazines. His repertoire also includes Poolsides with Slim Aarons, an edition that compiles the gorgeous, rich, fabulous women he photographed from Hollywood and the fashion and art worlds. There’s also another compilation with dreamy vistas of Southern Italy in summer splendor and multiple postcards of the most fantastical settings and their instants of pleasure. We love to gaze through beautifully assembled books on any lazy Sunday, hanging on to beauty as a way to experience aliveness. Such is the effect Slim Aarons can have when looked at.

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Mr Essentialist

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Mr Essentialist

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