Tuesday 18 March 2014
Bruno Feitler on Bea Feitler

A few weeks ago we contacted Bruno Feitler, the nephew of art director Bea Feitler, and the initiator of a recently published book about her life and work. Bea Feitler was an outstanding designer who unfortunately passed away in the 1980s (how we wish we could’ve paid tribute to her with a Hall of Femmes book). She was Ruth Ansel’s art direction partner at Harper’s Bazaar in the 1960s and gave the form to Ms Magazine, Rolling Stone, and numerous book covers. We skyped with Bruno who lives in Sao Paolo on a cold winter Sunday in Stockholm.

Hi Bruno!
Is Bea well known in Brazil? Is she a kind of design celebrity?

Because of the book now: yes, but maybe five years ago, much less. But she was well known while she was alive. Once a year when she came to Brazil, there would be something about her in the newspapers. But when she passed away, after a while, nobody talked much about her.

Can you tell us a bit about her background, and why she went to New York?
When she was 18 she wanted to study something related to fashion, and my grandparents decided to send her to New York to study at Parsons. She had an aunt in New York, so maybe they decided to send her to the United States and not to Europe, or somewhere else, because of that. Once there, she realized that she wanted to study graphic design.

After her degree, she came back to Brazil where she started to work at a magazine called Senhor. It was a very important publication at the time, and she worked there from 1959 to ’60. And she also designed very, very important covers for important Brazilian authors at the time.

Do you have the books that she did those covers for?
Yes, I have one here, O Homem Nu. It’s in very poor condition, but it is iconic of design in the ’50s and ’60s. I also have this one. O Encontro Marcado. You can see the palette of colors she uses.

2She also worked for an art gallery, making invitations and posters, very typical of that period as well. But when she was fired from the magazine together with the main editor, she decided to go back to the United States after only one year in Rio. She started to look for work there, and that’s when Marvin Israel approached her.

Because Marvin Israel used to be her teacher at Parsons?
Yes, he taught at Parsons and that’s how she knew him. But there’s also Diana Vreeland, she says somewhere that someone had spoken very highly of her, that’s why she was hired.

Bea Feitler, Bill King, Ruth Ansel. New York, 1965.

Bea Feitler, Bill King, Ruth Ansel. New York, 1965.

What’s so special is that there were two art director’s assistants hired at the same time: Ruth and Bea. Do you know anything about how they worked together from Bea’s point of view?
It’s very hard for everyone who was there: for Ruth, for some photographers that I interviewed, people that were assistants for Bea later, to explain how they worked together. But Avedon wrote something about that once, saying that one was the classic and one was the modern, Bea being the classic. In fact there was emulation and a lot of collaboration, making it sometimes difficult to say exactly who did what. One would come with one idea, that would be developed by the other one, and then maybe reused by the first one in another spread of Bazaar.



We have gotten the impression that Bea was a wild child and a rebel. What’s your thoughts on that?
Yes, she was very exuberant!

Bea Feitler

And everyone mentions the bracelets that jingled when she walked.
Yes, I remember her necklaces with Brazilian things hanging, and the bracelets I really remember also. And she was very expansive. But she knew of course, in design, what would be the best solution, what would be the best thing to do.


What else interested her?
In Rio, before going to Parson, she used to come every week to the opera house in Rio, to watch ballet and opera, she was really passionate about ballet. And in NYC, while still studying, every week she would write a friend of hers about ballet and not much about work. But she also wrote in a couple of those letters (and I write that in the book) that she noticed during school that she needed a high-voltage tension. She needed to do all these things at the same time, she needed all this information coming out, and without that she wouldn’t be happy.

For example: when she worked with Bazaar, she also did a magazine here in Brazil and no one knew about that. It’s called Setenta, “Seventies”. So here’s the first issue.


And nobody in United States knew, because she was still hired at Bazaar, so she couldn’t be working with other things. She was an advisor but she also made the layouts for some issues. For instance, she took Bill King to Brazil to take photos for this magazine. There are some gorgeous pictures and gorgeous spreads. She did that secretly and there were some spreads and some pictures that were used in this magazine and later, also in Bazaar. She mixed things up.

That’s daring, two-timing Harper’s Bazaar … So she needed stimulation?
Yes, she needed a lot of things at the same time, working a lot, later also teaching at the SVA, and having the rhythm that they had in New York at that time. And that was not the same in Rio.

How did the idea for the book come about?
My mother passed away very early. My father passed away, Bea passed away in the ’80s, my grandparents too. So it was a way for me to remember all of them at the same time.

Since we haven’t read the book, because it’s in Portuguese, how is it written? Is it from your perspective or from a design history perspective?
We didn’t want the book to be sentimental. In the book there are two texts: one is my text, a personal biography, it goes sideways when you hold the book straight, so you have to turn the book to see texts and images that relate to her personal life. And all the work images, and the text with design analysis, are set out in the regular way, written by André Stolarski, a great design theorist among many other things. Stolarski analysis of Bea’s work is amazing, and his text is the most important one for the book. Unfortunately he recently passed away. The book’s layout was a way Elaine Ramos found to play with Bea’s idea of the use of text as image. The size of the book is the same size as Bazaar’s magazine. So it makes it easier to reproduce some of those images.

Has the book been well received?
Very well. We got a lot of good press.


Can you say something about her work at Ms magazine?
After leaving Bazaar in 1971, Bea was called by editor Gloria Steinem to be the art director of Ms magazine, which was just starting. It was a huge success. According to André Stolarski, Ms’ popularity was a direct consequence of its graphics, and thus also was the influence of feminism in the US. It was in fact a pop magazine, and Bea was able to gain a lot of space for images over text in it. Ms while dealing with political and serious social matters, was visually agitated, informal, and also well humored, what certainly helped its popularity. Bea worked there until July 1976.


Can you tell us something about how the photographer Annie Leibovitz and Bea worked together?
Bea asked Annie to shoot some photos for Ms. magazine, and that’s how they got in contact. Annie then had Jann Wenner call Bea to do some special projects for Rolling Stone, where Annie was the head photographer; works as “capturing the soul. Seven master photographers”, of May 1976, or the 10th anniversary issue, of 1977, a huge work of edition of Annie’s photos. Once Rolling Stone moved to NY, Bea started collaborating even more, first as consultant art director and later as design director. For Annie it was very important to have Bea there. Have you seen the documentary Behind the Lens? Annie said that Bea took her under her wing and taught her a lot.

Actually, that was one of the starting points for Hall of Femmes, when we saw that documentary, because it was the first time we ever heard a woman speak of another woman as a mentor and give that kind of credit to another woman in a work collaboration thing. So it got us really curious about Bea and about the whole mentorship between women.
They had a very intense relation. And Bea was the one who took Annie Leibovitz to fashion, when she worked on the prototype for Vanity Fair. Do you want to see the prototype?



That’s wonderful.

What made Bea the mentor type?
She recognized talent, and what would become the focus of that photographer or artist. For example, Richard Wilde (director of the SVA) told me that Bea paid attention to Keith Harring when he was a student, at a time when other people would not. With photographers and designers, she would know which path they had to follow. She would know how to make them develop their own personality.

Thank you for taking the time to talk, Bruno, bye!

Bruno Feitler lives in São Paulo, Brazil, where he is a Professor of History at the Universidade Federal de São Paulo, with studies mainly on the Church in Brazil and the Portuguese Inquisition. O design de Bea Feitler is published by Cosac Naify and ipsis in 2012. Buy it here , even if it’s in Portuguese, it’s worth it.
Bruno with Bea, 1976. From the Cosacnaify blog.

Bruno with Bea, 1976. From the Cosacnaify blog.


Posted by: 20:25

Categories: Annie Leibovitz, Bea Feitler, Diana Vreeland, Gloria Steinem, Harper's Bazaar, Marvin Israel, Mary Shanahan, Ruth Ansel, Uncategorized, Vanity Fair

Tuesday 23 October 2012
”You can be the most famous art director in the world and it would mean nothing to your mother.”

Roligt citat av Roger Black när vi intervjuade honom inför Mary Shanahans bok.

Posted by: 11:14

Categories: Mary Shanahan

Thursday 13 September 2012
”En bok så stor att man blev blå i ansiktet när man lyfte den ur hyllan.”

Lyssna på senaste avsnittet av Alex & Sigges podcast (avsnitt 16) där vi förutom att höra om Alex Schulmans terapi får höra Sigge Eklund berätta om när han upptäckte Richard Avedons bok An Autobiography. Art direction Mary Shanahan.

Posted by: 12:54

Categories: Mary Shanahan, Radio

Monday 6 August 2012
Boss vs boss

Eftersom vi just nu håller på med boken om Mary Shanahan, tycker vi att det är extra kul att läsa en korrespondens mellan Rolling Stones husfotograf Annie Leibowitz och chefredaktör Jann Wenner.

Posted by: 07:30

Categories: Annie Leibovitz, Magazines, Mary Shanahan

Sunday 11 December 2011
Smart, Michael!

Mary Shanahan, 1980. Foto: David Michael Kennedy
År 1980 bestämde sig fotografen David Michael Kennedy för att byta inriktning i sin karriär, han ville få in en fot i musikbranschen och börja fota skivomslag. Att gå runt och visa sin portfolio för olika skivbolag trodde han inte skulle generera några jobb, så istället kontaktade han tidningarna Art Direction och Communication Arts och sålde in en fotoserie med namnet ”The Most Important Art Directors in the Music Industry Today”. De nappade på idén och Michael kontaktade alla art directors han nånsin velat arbeta för. Alla tackade naturligtvis ja, smickrade över att bli porträtterade som sin tids viktigaste art directors. Inom några veckor rullade musikjobben in till David Michael Kennedy.
Paula Scher, 1980. Foto: David Michael Kennedy
Henrietta Condak, 1980. Foto: David Michael Kennedy

Posted by: 14:31

Categories: Fotografi, Henrietta Condak, Mary Shanahan, Paula Scher

Wednesday 19 October 2011
Roger, Mary och Annie

I går skypade vi med tidningsmannen Roger Black för att fråga om hans samarbete med Mary Shanahan på Rolling Stone.

Han berättade att förutom Marys osvikliga känsla för fotografi, var hon även en smart organisatör med en förmåga att sätta samman bra arbetsteam. Precis som alla andra vi pratat med älskar han Mary. Han blir glad att höra att hon ska få en bok och vi undrar om det är för att hon har fått för lite uppmärksamhet. Han säger att så är det absolut men att det delvis beror på att hon själv är helt ointresserad av bekräftelse på framgång. Som exempel berättar han om när Mary efter en prisceremoni på Society of Publication Designers (SPD) tog emot flera priser för tidningen men slängde dom i soptunnan på väg hem. Rock’n’roll, Mary!

Roger berättade också om Annie Leibovitz tid på tidningen efter hennes vilda tid som The Rolling Stones turnéfotograf, en period med intag av så mycket droger att det nästan kostade henne karriären. Nu går dokumentären om Annie Leibovitz i repris här, gläds även åt inslagen med Ruth Ansel och berättelserna om Bea Feitler.

På den här skärmdumpen från filmen tror vi att det är Mary Shanahan som sitter längs fram till höger. Mannen som står på bordet gissar vi är chefredaktör Jann Wenner som fått en väldigt, väldigt, väldigt bra idé.

Posted by: 08:38

Categories: Annie Leibovitz, Bea Feitler, Mary Shanahan

Wednesday 12 October 2011
Roger the Dodger

Inför Mary Shanahans bok ska vi intervjua den här mytomspunne mannen. Numera bor han ödsligt ute på sin ranch i Texas i fem små containerhus monterade på pålar, allt för att hålla skallerormarna borta. Intervju nu på måndag kl.10 Texastid.

Posted by: 18:20

Categories: Mary Shanahan

Thursday 15 September 2011
Låt oss presentera: Johan Wirfält

Namn: Johan Wirfält
Bor: London/Stockholm
Yrke: Journalist. Chefredaktör Rodeo och skribent för bland annat Expressen, Fokus och Dagens nyheter.
Bäst på TV: Senaste månaden har mest varit en nedräkning till den 18 september, då säsong två av Downton Abbey börjar. Jag har botat intrig- och romantikabstinensen med Ensam mamma söker under tiden.
Favoritmat: Så svårt att svara på, jag tycker om det mesta. Favoritkrogar är enklare: Bistrotheque och Mangal i London, PA & Co i Stockholm.
Världens bästa plats: Norra Öland.
Tre kvinnliga förebilder: Mona Sahlin, min mamma och tjejerna jag varit ihop med. Tillsammans har de lärt mig allt jag kan önska.
Din senaste tidningsupplevelse: Att varje dag kunna läsa Shortcuts, det första uppslaget i Guardians andra del, är ett av de främsta skälen till att jag vill bo i London. Det är de två smartaste, roligaste och – favorituttryck för redaktörer – “bäst mixade” tidningssidorna i världen.
Vilket är det bästa råd du fått: Lyssna.
Johan Wirfält är redaktör för vår kommande bok Hall of Femmes: Mary Shanahan.

Posted by: 19:24

Categories: Hall of Femmes intervjuar, Mary Shanahan, Redaktörer

Thursday 8 September 2011

Mary Shanahans åsikter om att typografi är överskattat (se inlägget nedan) är kanske förståeligt med tanke på att hon under många år arbetade tillsammans med Roger Black, en man lika känd för sina bombastiska uttalanden (”I’ve designed more magazines than you’ll ever read”) som sin tidningsformgivning. Under åren på Rolling Stone berättar hon att hans uttalade ambition var ”world domination through typography” – något vi numera står framför spegeln och försöker säga med ett straight face.

Posted by: 07:22

Categories: Budskap, Mary Shanahan

Wednesday 7 September 2011
Mary x 2

Idag har vi ägnat vårt eftermiddagsbreak år att bläddra i Evidence, Mary Shanahans mästerverk. Dessutom har vi läst en intervju i tidningen American Photographer från 1986, där Mary, alla fotografers favorit-AD säger såhär:

AP: Are photographs as important as design?
MS: Quite honestly, I think photographs are more important. Design contributes to a look in a vital way, and of course there are certain tenets that I follow as a designer: I favor a straightforward asymmetric and journalistic style, by which I mean the design should be appropriate to an article’s content. But to me design isn’t the greatest challenge.
AP: What is the challenge then?
MS: Putting the pictures together visually to create a magazine. That’s the central thing. I know most art directors would consider this heresy, but I think type is boring. It’s a useful, important tool, but compared to the excitement of pictures, type is just necessary chore.
Hall of Femmes: Mary Shanahan kommer ut 2011.

Posted by: 15:07

Categories: Fotografi, Mary Shanahan, Richard Avedon