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

Friday 18 June 2010
Boksläpp, 17 juni, New York

Mer från gårdagens bokrelease här och här!

Posted by: 14:07

Categories: Press, Ruth Ansel, Vanity Fair

Thursday 29 October 2009
We have a dream

När vi intervjuade Paula Scher sa hon att det dröjde väldigt många år innan hon träffade andra kvinnliga formgivare. Det fanns en annan kvinna som liksom hon ofta blev tillfrågad att sitta med i olika paneler men eftersom det alltid var antingen hon eller Paula som tillfrågades, och eftersom det bara fanns plats för en kvinna i varje panel så dröjde det många år innan de mötte varandra. Ibland sas det rakt ut berättar Paula “We need a woman speaker. Hur förolämpande är inte det? En kvinna för att fylla upp deras kvot.”

När Ruth Ansel är i Stockholm ber hon om adresser till de andra kvinnorna vi träffat i New York. De bor i samma stad, känner till varandras arbeten men har aldrig träffats. Nu vill hon kontakta dom. Det här har satt igång storslagna drömmar i våra överhettade hjärnor. Vi ser alla kvinnorna samlade, i Stockholm eller på Manhattan. Vi ser en ikonisk gruppbild tagen av Annie Leibovitz. Vi ser hur bilden hamnar som ett utvikbart omslag till Vanity Fair, en tidning som också behöver bättra på sin kvot. Vi ser hur designvärlden aldrig blir sig lik igen.

Posted by: 20:09

Categories: Annie Leibovitz, Carin Goldberg, Janet Froelich, Maira Kalman, Mary Shanahan, Paula Scher, Tomoko Miho, Vanity Fair, Yolanda Cuomo

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Nu är det faktiskt vanlig måndag igen. Men inte riktigt, för vårt måndagsmöte kändes betydligt festligare än det brukar. Istället för att dela upp jobben, gnälla över sjukdomar (fast det skulle vara befogat just den här måndagen), och undra vems städvecka det är, sitter vi tillsammans med Ruth Ansel och Ika Johannesson och går igenom det sista med publikationen. Vi bestämmer oss för att lägga till sidor. Vi vill ha in mer av Ruths anekdoter och visa fler uppslag från Vanity Fair. Vi bestämmer oss också för att kalla publikationen för “boken”, eftersom det faktiskt är vad den är. Ruth tittar på Vanity-uppslagen vi valt ut och upptäcker flera arbeten som hon glömt bort att hon gjort.

Så om ni vill ha mer av Ruth Ansel; någon gång de närmaste månaderna hoppas vi att “Dicks” people ska ha gett tillåtelse att vi visar lite jobb “Dick” gjort tillsammans Ruth Ansel och då kommer äntligen Hall of Femmes: Ruth Ansel ut.

Posted by: 17:46

Categories: Arbete, Richard Avedon, Ruth Ansel, Vanity Fair

Saturday 22 August 2009
Goda nyheter

Ruth Ansel, legendarisk art director med över 50 år i branschen kommer till Stockholm i slutet av oktober på inbjudan av Hall of Femmes för att berätta om sitt yrkesliv. Hon har jobbat för tidningar som Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times Magazine och Vanity Fair och är en av förgrundsgestalterna inom vårt yrke. Ni kommer kunna läsa en hel del om Ruth här på bloggen framöver, var så säkra.

Posted by: 10:49

Categories: Harper's Bazaar, Nöjen, Ruth Ansel, Vanity Fair

Monday 30 March 2009
Either for love or money – there’s no in between

Yolanda Cuomo har ett företag med två anställda. Dom gör flera tidningar och många böcker. Yolanda osar entusiasm över sina uppdrag. Hon försöker alltid att utöka briefen och komma tillbaka med något mycket mer än vad som var tänkt från början.
I Yolandas studio hänger flera citat på väggarna, bl.a det här ovan. Vi hade hört om citatet i en radio intervju och eftersom vi snor skamlöst tryckte vi upp det på våra nya visitkort (fast satt i dingbats). Yolanda i sin tur har tagit citatet från Sylvia Plath.
Yolanda Cuomo arbetade tillsammans med Ruth Ansel inför nylanseringen av Vanity Fair. Båda är upplärda av Marvin Israel som dom betraktar som mentor. Yolanda är mycket yngre än Ruth och ser sig därför som lärling till henne också. “Jag fick mitt första jobb eftersom jag ljög och sa att jag behärskade både repro och sättning” berättar kvinnan som verkar göra vad som faller henne in. “Marvin tog sig an mig även om jag inte kunde någonting, han var nöjd eftersom han inte behövde unlearn me.” Två män har nämnts gång på gång under den här intervjuveckan och de verkar ha varit enormt viktiga för den första generationen kvinnliga art directors. Den ena är Richard Avedon, den andra Marvin Israel.
Vi frågar om hon själv har haft yngre formgivare som hon lärt upp och hon berättar att hon lärde upp den första assistenten och att den första assistenten sen lärde upp den nya assistenten osv. “Vi har alltid varit kvinnor här, vi tänker ofta att vi vill ta in en kille men det har aldrig fungerat. Dom klarar inte av att jobba lika hårt.”
Yolanda berättar att hon också prövat att vara anställd på byrå men inte gillade det alls. Efter sex månader slutade hon med orden: I hate this. And I hate you.
Sen visar Yolanda ett program hon gjort för koreografen Twyla Tharp. “Det var Twyla själv som bestämde formen genom att koreografera formgivaren i photoshop: Copy-Paste! Copy-Paste! Copy-Paste! Stop. Copy-paste!
Vi lämnar Yolanda Cuomos studio och kastar oss in i en taxi till flygplatsen.

Posted by: 02:21 1 comment

Categories: Marvin Israel, Richard Avedon, Ruth Ansel, Vanity Fair, Yolanda Cuomo

Friday 27 March 2009
Om Ruth Ansel

Låt oss presentera Ruth Ansel. Kvinnan som alltid lyckats ringa in sin samtid. På 60-talet blev hon som 25-åring ad för Harper’s Bazaar tillsammans med Bea Feitler. På 70-talet blev hon ad för The New York Times Magazine där hon stannade i 10 år. Och på 80-talet blev hon ad för Vanity Fair. Efter det har hon haft sin egen studio, Ruth Ansel Design och har bland annat formgivit böcker, nu senast den 1 m höga boken om Peter Beard. Idag är hon över 70 år och fortfarande verksam. Ruth är Stor. Alla vi träffat har talat om henne med enorm respekt. Det är Ruth vi drömt mest om att träffa även om vi inte vågade hoppas att det skulle bli så.
Ruth lägger ut falska e-mail adresser på nätet för att slippa bli kontaktad. För snart ett halvår sedan tog vi mod till oss och ringde henne, ett samtal som slutade med att hon barskt sa att hon skulle “kolla upp oss”. Efter det hörde vi ingenting. Efter en nervös väntan kom ett mail från Ruth där hon berömde våra arbeten. Ingenting i vårt yrkesliv har haft lika stor betydelse. Det kändes som att få en inbjudan till ett sällskap, en öppnad dörr. Är det så här det känns att få vara med?
Man ska inte gradera sina stjärnor men om vi är tvungna så väljer vi Ruth Ansel. Imorgon ska vi träffas, behöver vi säga att vi är förväntansfulla?

Posted by: 13:34 1 comment

Categories: Bea Feitler, Harper's Bazaar, Richard Avedon, Ruth Ansel, Vanity Fair

Wednesday 25 March 2009
Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz är en av världens mest kända fotografer. Hon började på Rolling Stone på 70-talet där Mary Shanahan var ad. Mary säger att hon av Annie lärde sig enormt mycket om fotografi och att förstå vad som gör en bra bild. Annie Leibovitz hängde med Rolling Stones på deras vilda turnéer och hon tog det ikoniska fotot på John Lennon och Yoko Ono bara timmarna innan han dog. Allt detta berättar hon om i boken At Work från förra året (omslagsdesign Ruth Ansel).
Annie Leibovitz gick så småningom vidare till Vanity Fair där hon med större budgetar kunde utveckla sin dramatiserade porträttstil ännu mer. Hon är fortfarande Vanity Fair’s husfotograf och tar bilder på presidenter, Hollywoodkändisar och engelska kungahuset. Bland annat.
I en dokumentär om Annie Leibovitz berättar hon att hon såg art directorn Bea Feitler (ad på Rolling Stones, Harper’s Bazaar och Ms) som sin mentor. Det var precis när vi själva hade börjat fundera över mentorskap och vad det kan ha för betydelse. Bea Feitler dog väldigt ung, men det var när vi letade information om henne som vi upptäckte hennes partner Ruth Ansel som fortfarande är i livet och som vi ska träffa på fredag.
Tack Annie!

Posted by: 22:57

Categories: Bea Feitler, Fotografi, Harper's Bazaar, Mary Shanahan, Ruth Ansel, Vanity Fair