Mark Shaw

American, 1921 - 1969

Mark Shaw was best known for his photographs of the Kennedy White House, but he was also an innovative fashion photographer, taking shots of Chanel-clad models as they cavorted on the streets of Paris or peeking at models indéshabillé backstage at a Pierre Balmain show. A disciple of Alexey Brodovitch, Shaw worked at a number of the most influential fashion and culture magazines of his day, including Harper’s Bazaar, Mademoiselle, McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal, Vanity Fair and LIFE.

Born Mark Schlossman to a working-class family in New York City, Shaw attended college with the hope of becoming an engineer but then enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force following the attack on Pearl Harbor. A decorated pilot, he flew fighter planes alongside British forces during the North African Campaign and briefly served as the personal pilot for Russian General Georgy Zhukov.

In the years that followed, Shaw photographed legions of celebrities—Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Pablo Picasso, Yves St. Laurent, Elizabeth Taylor—but the pinnacle of his career came in 1959, when he was commissioned by LIFE to photograph Jacqueline Kennedy and her husband, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy, during the presidential campaign. From that moment on, Shaw was the unofficial “family photographer,” helping to craft the mythology of Camelot with candid shots of the Kennedy family. 

Some of Mark Shaw’s most beautiful work was shot for Vanity Fair’s lingerie advertising campaign. This series of images was created over a ten-year period. It garnered yearly recognition by the prestigious Art Director’s club.  After working in still photographic film for over 20 years, Shaw embraced a new challenge, by 1965 Shaw was an active film director filming award winning commercials for television and working as a photographic consultant to film directors.

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