Remembered today principally for her high-fashion photography for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, Toni Frissell (1907-1988) volunteered her photographic services to the American Red Cross, Women's Army Corps, and Eighth Army Air Force during WWII. On their behalf, she produced thousands of images of nurses, front-line soldiers, WACs, African-American airmen, and orphaned children.
Frissell's leap from fashion photography into war reportage echoed the desires of earlier generations of newswomen to move from "soft news" of fashion and society pages into the "hard news" of the front page. On volunteering for the American Red Cross in 1941, Frissell said: "I became so frustrated with fashions that I wanted to prove to myself that I could do a real reporting job." Using her connections with high-profile society matrons, Frissell aggressively pursued wartime assignments at home and abroad, often over her family's objections.
Frissell's work usually involved creating images to support the publicity objectives of her subjects. Her photographs of WACs in training and under review by President Franklin Roosevelt fit into a media campaign devised to counter negative public perception of women in uniform. Likewise, Frissell's images of the African American fighter pilots of the elite 332nd Fighter Group were intended to encourage positive public attitudes about the fitness of blacks to handle demanding military jobs.
Revolutionizing American Fashion Photography
Toni Frissell, [Woman with dalmatian], June 1939, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (68) LC-F9-02-3906-048-07
First Wartime Cover Photo
Toni Frissell, Vogue, July 1, 1941, cover. General Collections, Library of Congress (69)
Accreditation No Guarantee of Access
United States War Department, official identification card for Toni Frissell, 1942, 1945
Broadcast From the Italian Front
Toni Frissell, radio script, April 1945, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (76)
Italian Front in the Final Months of the War
Toni Frissell, [GIs at the Italian Front], (one) (two) March 1945
With the First Lady on Tour
Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to Toni Frissell, December 30, 1944, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (77)
Frissell's Red Cross Tour
Toni Frissell, "I Went to England for the Red Cross," (one) (two) Vogue, February 1, 1943, pp. 47-48
Toni Frissell, [Airmen at Ramitelli, Italy], March 1945
Media Focus Shifted at War's End
Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Harold Rorke to Toni Frissell, May 1, 1945
[Toni Frissell with children], March 1945
The Human Face of War
Toni Frissell, [Soldiers at Red Cross installation], 1942 Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (139) LC-F9-02-4211-048-03