Double click Twin photographers in the golden age of magazines

Carol Kino

Book - 2024

The McLaughlin twins were trailblazing female photographers, celebrated in their time as stars in their respective fields, but have largely been forgotten since. Here, in Double Click, author Carol Kino provides us with a fascinating window into the golden era of magazine photography and the first young women's publications, bringing these two brilliant women and their remarkable accomplishments to vivid life.

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2nd Floor New Shelf 770.922/McLaughlin (NEW SHELF) Checked In
New York : Scribner 2024.
Main Author
Carol Kino (author)
First Scribner hardcover edition
Physical Description
xix, 405 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : photographs (some color) ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 329-381) and index.
  • Reader advisory
  • Prologue: Twins on twins
  • Part I The decisive moment. World of tomorrow ; Kodak childhood
  • Part II College days. An experimental education ; The discovery of photography ; "College bazaar" ; Prix de Paris
  • Part III The world of work. Making the right call ; Fuffy's lucky break ; The women's war ; Civil service
  • Part IV New horizons. Jimmy ; Living the photographer's life ; Love in wartime ; Leslie ; Franny's lucky break
  • Part V The separation. The inner sanctum ; Franny new world ; Woman power ; Fuffy's new world ; Victory
  • Part VI America rising. The American look ; The elopement ; European tour
  • Part VII Lovers and tyrants. Our little Frances ; Cautionary tales ; The big change ; Twin lives
  • Epilogue: Love and luck.
Review by Booklist Review

How do you capture a changing America? For twin sisters Frances McLaughlin-Gill and Kathryn McLaughlin Abbe, born in Brooklyn in 1919, the answer lies in the framing of the lens. In her first book, arts and culture journalist Kino brings twentieth-century American history, culture, and gender roles into sharp focus as she recounts the remarkable story of these pioneering female photographers. Readers of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and other publications will delight in the close-up of two of print magazines' earliest stars, laced with the big names in fashion the McLaughlin twins brushed shoulders with throughout their careers. As Frances "Franny" McLaughlin says of her method, much like a dancer "whose hours of intensive practice in perfection of technique should not be apparent to the audience, the photographer should present to his audience the beauty and feeling, motion and emotion--not the technique." The same can be said of Kino's dual portrait, which deftly maneuvers the twins' lives, relationships, and artistry into a composite image that will engage and illuminate as much as it entertains.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Art critic Kino debuts with an engrossing dual biography of Frances and Kathryn McLaughlin (1919--2014), twins who worked as fashion photographers during the glamorous 1940s heyday of American magazines and beyond. After an aunt gave them a camera for their high school graduation, the sisters nurtured a love for photography and in 1940 began modeling for and publishing snapshots in College Bazaar, the junior offshoot of Harper's Bazaar. Following their senior year of college at the Pratt Institute, they were selected for Vogue's Prix de Paris--a yearlong employment program with the magazine in Paris and New York--and rubbed elbows with such luminaries as Richard Avedon, André Kertész, and Lee Miller. In 1943, Frances joined the publishing company Condé Nast as the sole female photographer in a "firmament of male stars," taking color and cinema verité shots for Vogue and Glamour. Meanwhile, Kathryn did evocative, "surrealism-inspired" fashion shoots with Charm, Mademoiselle, and Junior Bazaar, and later became a children's photographer for such outlets as Parents. Plumbing the sisters' archives and drawing on interviews with their family members, Kino paints a textured portrait of artists who came of age amid sea changes in magazine publishing and women's cultural roles, and helped transform the way Americans consumed information and encountered fashion ("photography was a magic carpet, out of the Depression and into the future," Kino writes). Fashion, photography, and pop culture aficionados will be captivated. Agent: Peter Steinberg, UTA. (Mar.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Arts journalist Kino's engaging debut traces the careers of Frances and Kathryn McLaughlin (1919--2014), identical twin fashion photographers who fought to make a name for themselves in a field dominated by men. Both women demonstrated a penchant for glamour and beauty at a young age, studying photography at the Pratt Institute and later working for popular fashion publications, including Frances's work for Glamour and Vogue as the first woman staff photographer at Condé Nast and Kathryn's freelance work for Harper's Bazaar, Junior Bazaar, Charm, and Mademoiselle. Kino's thoroughly researched biography provides insight into what it was like being an up-and-coming fashion photographer during and after World War II. With her well-modulated voice and precisely placed inflections, narrator Carlotta Brentan takes listeners comfortably through the narrative, describing the fast-paced world of New York fashion magazines as experienced by these talented photographers. VERDICT Brentan's inviting narration enhances this fascinating book, offering a unique glimpse into the rise of fashion magazines. Share with listeners seeking to learn more about the challenges women artists faced as they fought against conventional expectations in pursuit of their dreams.--Autumn Wyatt

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The story of identical twins who forged bright careers as photographers. Arts journalist Kino makes her book debut with an engaging dual biography of Frances and Kathryn McLaughlin, notable photographers whose work both reflected and shaped women's changing lives. In their second year as art students at the Pratt Institute, both became enraptured by photography and took to the streets of New York with their cameras. Their first published photographs appeared in the 1940 edition of College Bazaar, one of many new magazines marketed for "fashionable and discerning coeds." A combination of talent, ambition, and luck marked their careers: At 23, Franny was hired as a staff photographer for Condé Nast Photo Studios, the lone woman "in a firmament of male stars" such as Irving Penn and André Kertész. Her sister, known as Fuffy, became the assistant of Toni Frissell, the only woman photographer at Vogue, who became an intrepid photojournalist. As Kino traces the twins' growing successes, she chronicles changes in fashion, women's roles and opportunities, magazine rivalries, and the effects of World War II on the profession of photography. After the war, "photography had fully infiltrated magazines, but America was no longer obsessed with college and career girls, and the swell of publications tied to the boundless opportunity symbolized by their youth, talent, and beauty was receding." Franny stayed at Condé Nast, Fuffy turned to children's portraits, and their lives proceeded in twin trajectories. Both married New York photographers: Fuffy to "supersuccessful studio specialist" James Abbe, noted for his fashion and celebrity portraits, and Franny to Leslie Gill, "the father of modern American still life photography," for whom she'd worked as his girl Friday. They celebrated their successes in a joint autobiography, Twin Lives, and died within months of each other, in 2014. A colorful cultural history emerges from two eventful lives. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Chapter 1: World of Tomorrow CHAPTER 1 World of Tomorrow The McLaughlin twins decided they wanted to be photographers in their second year of art school at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, right after they had talked their way into part-time jobs as assistants in the photo lab. Franny had recognized her destiny as soon as she took her first picture of a Myrtle Avenue el train, thundering over the rusty steel tracks that cast bars of light and shadow onto the storefronts and people below. At that moment, she said, "I knew instantly I was hooked." Kathryn, known to everyone as Fuffy, felt the thunderbolt the first time they walked into the studio. "Right from the beginning we somehow sensed that it would be our chosen career," she recalled later. "It seemed to be the wave of the future." It's hard to know with certainty what it was about photography that grabbed the twins, how they became "enslaved by the djinn in the black box," as the photographer Lee Miller once put it. People didn't make a habit of dissecting their emotions in those late-Depression years. But it probably had something to do with the puzzle-like challenge of figuring out how to compose a shot with the twin-lens reflex camera they had received as a high school graduation present and traded back and forth: when they peered down into the viewfinder, the camera returned a mirror image of the scene they were aiming at; there was no way for them to see what they'd captured the right way around until they developed the negatives. Then came the empowering transformation that they could bring about as they printed the pictures in the darkroom--the "magic of light and lens," as Fuffy once described it--where a skillful deployment of chemistry, temperature, time, and light could change the way the final image came out. There was also the sheer excitement of experiencing the luck involved in capturing the "decisive moment," the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson later called it--being in the right place at the right time, as a group of teenagers walking in a park wheeled around to face the camera, or a mother and child stepped off a sidewalk onto a broad expanse of paving stones, or the instant the sun raked light across the brick walls of a factory at twilight as women poured out of its doors. For the twins, who had already spent their teenage years making paintings, it must have been electrifying to suddenly be able to fix reality on the page in a more immediate way than by daubing oils on canvas. Among the American avant-garde of the time, the all-important task was to define an art that was their own and distinct from that of Europe, and some photographers felt they were working in the perfect medium to depict a country that was brash and new. In 1935, Dr. M. F. Agha, the longtime art director of Vogue , who had helped push photography onto the pages of that magazine, described photography as the quintessential American art form--"a Real American Native Art," he called it--in the introduction to the first edition of U.S. Camera , an annual that compiled two hundred of the year's best pictures. "Romanticism in art is dead," he wrote. "The skyscraper is the thing to admire.... The poster is better than the fresco; the saxophone is to be preferred to the hautbois; the movies to the theatre; the tap dancing to the ballet, and the photography to the painting." Sure, Agha was being somewhat arch and ironic--but he also meant it. Even then, in one of the worst years of the Great Depression, Americans were such passionate camera and photo buffs that the annual, filled with more than two hundred photos of every variety--nudes, tarantella dancers, stargazing couples, sailboats, carefully composed still lifes, landscapes, family scenes, fashion shots, in color as well as black and white--sold out its fifteen thousand copies, at $2.75 each (more than $60 today), in only a month. Its publication was followed by a U.S. Camera exhibition of seven hundred pictures that opened at Rockefeller Center, a glamorous new office complex of limestone towers that was rising in midtown Manhattan. The show attracted huge crowds and continued to draw hundreds of thousands more viewers as it toured, going on view in department stores and exhibition halls in seventy-five cities around the country. The display and its tour became an annual event. More photography shows, annuals, and magazines followed. In 1937, the eight-year-old Museum of Modern Art opened a huge survey that put the medium of photography in historical perspective; it toured the country for two years. An even larger show, the International Photographic Exposition, arrived in 1938, across town at the Grand Central Palace near Grand Central Station, where during a single week over a hundred and ten thousand people came to see about three thousand pictures, ranging from Mathew Brady's Civil War daguerreotypes to pictures of starving migrants by Dorothea Lange, who had been commissioned by the federal government to chronicle the ravages of the Depression. Photography was also infiltrating American magazines, replacing etchings, watercolors, and woodcuts as the snappiest and most up-to-date way to illustrate anything, whether it was a newspaper story, a work of fiction, or a fashion spread. Soon a new sort of magazine that told stories in pictures instead of words became the rage. The first of these, Life --styled in its offering prospectus as "THE SHOW-BOOK OF THE WORLD"--was launched in 1936 by Henry Luce, the publisher and editor in chief of Time magazine, the year before the McLaughlin twins entered art school. Its opening cover pictorial focused on the gritty Wild West frontier towns that had sprung up in Montana around Fort Peck Dam, one of the great Depression-era work-relief projects on the Missouri River. It had been shot by an intrepid woman photojournalist, Margaret Bourke-White, who brought the hamlets' sheriffs, mechanics, barkeeps, hash slingers, laundresses, and ladies of the night straight onto city newsstands and into American homes. Life was followed by the pocket-size Coronet , which boasted thick portfolios of great historical artworks in color, brand-new black-and-white photographs, and thumbnail biographies of contemporary photographers and sold out its first quarter-million run in two days. In contrast to Life , which typically published all-American pictures, Coronet often featured works by Europeans, such as Cartier-Bresson, André Kertész, and Erwin Blumenfeld, who used experimental developmental processes to create exhilaratingly arty shots of nude women, their bodies floating alluringly in water or veiled in clouds of tulle. By 1938, the year the twins decided on their profession, the leading women's magazines had also begun to feature photos of women, in color, on their covers--magazines such as Vogue , Mademoiselle , and Ladies' Home Journal-- so while walking past a newsstand, instead of seeing a watercolor of a lady lying on a chaise or peeking out from behind a bouquet, one saw a row of real faces looking back. But perhaps the moment that most dramatically demonstrated photography's importance, at least in New York City, was the opening of the 1939 World's Fair in Queens, an exposition designed to lift America out of the Depression and bring nations together under the theme "Building the World of Tomorrow," even as war raged overseas. There, amid displays of futuristic new products such as plastics, air-conditioning, and television, pavilions that advertised the art and culture of different lands, and a diorama called the Democracity--a model of the town of the future that showed the astonishing ways in which Americans would one day live, travel, and work when the world had moved beyond hunger and war--the Eastman Kodak Company celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the medium's invention with the "Cavalcade of Color," a twelve-minute long show of Kodachrome slides projected onto a towering curved screen wider than a football field. As brilliantly colored pictures--of people, families, brides, fields, mountaintops, animals, flowers--circulated and dissolved into one another, music played and a man's voice spoke of the wonders of American life and Kodak technology: Our camera fan, like a Rembrandt, sees beauty everywhere and helps us to see it, too.... Photography brings to us the beauty and majesty of this great country of ours. This great country where centuries ago men began to build with a spirit, with a tolerant reverence which is a part of our national life today. Photography also permeated many other aspects of the fair. There were picture exhibitions throughout, and booths where visitors could watch photos being developed and printed. Every one of the fair's seventy-five thousand workers carried an identification card emblazoned with a snapshot of his or her face, and anyone buying a multiple-entry ticket likewise got his or her photo on a pass--one that was shot, developed, printed, and sealed to the card on-site, before crowds of eager onlookers. U.S. Camera , in addition to its annual, had also launched a monthly magazine that year, one of several new photography publications. It dedicated its entire fifth issue to the fair, pointing out which displays were most photogenic, and which lenses and film would work best for which photo ops. Cameras had sold well throughout the Depression--a small camera store specializing in minicameras and their accessories could be as profitable as a car dealership--and the New York Times described comical scenes of greenhorn lensmen stumbling into one another as they rushed to pose shots, and then running to the many camera shops at the fairgrounds for help when their equipment didn't behave as expected. "Amateurs Swarm over Grounds... but Expert Click Is Rare," the story proclaimed. "The prevalence of cameras at the Fair has become something of a major phenomenon, almost as impressive in quantity as the number of hot dogs eaten daily and the number of girl shows on the midway." The McLaughlin twins were entranced by the fair, visiting it many times, each trip costing them a nickel for the subway ride out to Queens, seventy-five cents for admission, and a quarter to enter each booth. One of their friends, another art student, was working as a mermaid at a booth in the Amusement Zone, in a fun house created by the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí called "Dalí's Dream of Venus," which was part artwork, part girlie show. Behind a pale pink plaster facade, beyond a doorway flanked by a pair of monumental female legs, bare-breasted girls in lace-up corselets, fishnet stockings, fish tails, and other mermaid-like attire splashed through water tanks around a nude actress who lay sleeping in a bed, covered to the waist by a red silk sheet, playing Venus. The twins' visits to see their friend were endlessly thrilling. "You can imagine that we felt truly a part of the art scene when we went to the Fair and watched her," Fuffy recalled. So when they returned to the basement of Pratt's Home Economics building, down into the school's newly completed photography studio--one of the few places in an American school where students could learn to click expertly--the twins leapt at the rare chance to participate. Henry Luce, the powerhouse editor of Life , had written in the magazine's original business plan that he viewed photography as a way for ordinary people "to see the world; to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud; to see strange things--machines, armies, multitudes, shadows in the jungle and on the moon." Photography was a magic carpet, out of the Depression and into the future. And for girls with larger ambitions than getting married--or working as secretaries, or teaching children, or swimming topless in a fish tank wearing lingerie--mastering the art of professional photography must have seemed like a pretty good way to make a living. As Fuffy told Dick Cavett on television nearly forty-three years later, while her twin, Franny, looked on, "We just liked it. We didn't even discuss it. That's what we were going to do." Excerpted from Double Click: Twin Photographers in the Golden Age of Magazines by Carol Kino All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.