Rare Steven Meisel exhibition charts the fashion photographer’s most memorable moments

‘Steven Meisel 1993 A Year in Photographs’ focuses on a defining year in the American photographer’s career and collates his era-defining images of fashion and celebrity

Steven Meisel photograph of Bella Freud by canal in black and white
Bella Freud, London, 1993
(Image credit: Photography by Steven Meisel © Steven Meisel)

The year 1993 proved fruitful for New York-born photographer Steven Meisel. Over a 12-month period, he shot 28 covers for international editions of Vogue magazine and over 100 editorials and campaigns, starring the then-emerging coterie of 1990s supermodels – Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington et al – with which his photographic output is forever intertwined. 

A new exhibition in A Coruña, Spain, ‘Steven Meisel 1993 A Year in Photographs’ (19 November 2022-1 May 2023), celebrates this blockbuster year, collating portraiture spanning both fashion and culture more widely (subjects in the latter category include musician Barbra Streisand and actor Kyle MacLachlan). 

Steven Meisel 1993 A Year in Photographs

Model Justin Scott, styled by Joe McKenna and photographed by Meisel for L’Uomo Vogue’s December 1993 issue

Justin Scott, New York, 1993

(Image credit: Photography by Steven Meisel © Steven Meisel)

Meisel’s output is diverse – sometimes spare and sensual, in black and white, other times capturing the colourful exuberance of the decade – though always centres on an individual connection with his subject. Indeed, of the so-called supermodel era he is credited with defining, Meisel says that he was simply drawn to photographing the women he loved and had friendships with, rather than attempting to rewrite the zeitgeist. A close relationship with Madonna resulted in him photographing the musician for her headline-grabbing Sex book, released in 1992.

‘Steven’s photographs reach beyond the surface to capture the true personality of his subject, always transcending their context,’ says exhibition organiser Marta Ortega. ‘They are without a doubt some of the most important and interesting fashion photographs ever made.’ Ortega also credits his ‘prodigious talent’ as the basis of this rare exhibition of Meisel’s work – ‘[he’s] one of the most intriguing photographers of his generation’.

Model Kristen McMenamy posing in black dress

Kristen McMenamy, Paris, 1993 

(Image credit: Photography by Steven Meisel © Steven Meisel)

Much of the exhibition’s portraiture is in black and white, which the photographer favoured during the 1990s. ‘At the time, black and white felt cooler in every way,’ Meisel says. ‘Unless I’m told by somebody that I have to do black and white or colour, the choice of one or the other is instinctive.’

Meisel notes that his photographic oeuvre is a reflection of his own personality – his deep-rooted obsessions and desires, born from reading copies of his mother’s Vogue magazine as a child (he says that ‘visions’ of fashion have played like a movie in his mind ever since). Sometimes, this reflection is more literal, with models mimicking the hallmarks of Meisel’s own recognisable style in his photographs (namely – poker-straight black hair and signature bandana).

‘What you really see in these portraits is me,’ says Meisel.

1990s male model posing in bomber jacket and jeans

Roman Barrett, Paris, 1993 

(Image credit: Photography by Steven Meisel © Steven Meisel)

‘Steven Meisel 1993 A Year in Photographs’ at Muelle de la Batería, A Coruña, 19 November 2022-1 May 2023. 

meisel93-coruna.com

A version of this article appears in the December 2022 issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today (opens in new tab)!

Fashion Features Editor

Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.