Slim Aarons’ photographs have become synonymous with “the good life,” encapsulating notions of luxury, privilege, and style.
In the preface to his 2003 publication, Once Upon a Time, Aarons expressed his belief in fairy tales, focusing on capturing attractive individuals engaged in appealing activities in picturesque locations for six decades. Ironically, Aarons’ own life’s outset was far from a fairy tale, marked by the harsh realities of war and familial heartbreak, experiences that inspired his sunny and escapist imagery of him. Preceding the era of social media’s curated perfection, Aarons’ photographs exude aspiration while evoking a sense of nostalgia.
This marks Aarons’ fourth solo exhibition at Staley-Wise, following his inaugural showcase at the gallery in 2003, a mere three years before his passing. Some of the photographs featured in this exhibition were recently unearthed from his archive, never having been displayed before.
The exhibition coincides with the release of Slim Aarons: The Essential Collection (Abrams, 2023), the first comprehensive exploration of his life and career, spanning from World War II to the 1990s. Authored by Shawn Waldron, with contributions from Lesley Blume, Laura Hawk, Nick Foulkes, and Maria Cooper Janis.
About the Author
Born in New York in 1916, Slim Aarons’ family name was anglicized from Aronowitz when his father immigrated from Lithuania. Aarons’ childhood was marked by hardship, with his mother committed to a psychiatric hospital, leading him and his brother to spend years in an orphanage. Raised later on his grandmother’s farm in New Hampshire, Aarons enlisted in the Army at twenty-three, serving as a photographer with the Eighth Army Division for Yank magazine. His wartime connections, including friendships with Frank Capra and Henri Cartier-Bresson, facilitated his entry into the world of photography after discharge.
Aarons initially focused on photographing Hollywood for publications such as LIFE, Look, and Holiday, immersing himself in a world of opulence far removed from the war’s stark realities. With the rise of air travel in the 1960s, magazines like Town & Country and Travel + Leisure commissioned Aarons to capture resorts worldwide. Throughout his career, he maintained access to the world’s most exclusive locales and their fortunate denizens.
In 1974, Slim Aarons’ A Wonderful Time: An Intimate Portrait of The Good Life was published, quickly becoming a cult favorite in the realms of fashion and design. Several posthumous books, including the recent Slim Aarons: The Essential Collection (Abrams, 2023), have continued to celebrate his work by him since his passing by him in 2006.
SLIM AARONS: THE GOOD LIFE
November 29, 2023 – January 20, 2024
Staley-Wise Gallery – New York