Four Surprising Facts About Slim Aarons

Slim Aarons' images proliferate our feeds on the daily, conjuring feelings of endless summer and idyllic living. Their retrospective gaze transports us to another time, world and pay bracket.

Ostentatious and distant in equal parts, Slim Aarons captured a golden age of wealth, privilege, beauty and leisure. His images are a veritable who's who of high society. Working for the leading magazines of the day including Life, Holiday and Harper's Bazaar, we imagine his work diary was filled with daringly glamourous social endeavours - from parties in Beverly Hills to winters in Gstaad and summers on the Italian Riviera.

Aarons was one of few welcomed into the exclusive retreats of the world's glitterati. His route in might surprise you…

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He began his photography career while in the army

Aarons served for three years as a combat photographer for Yank magazine. From North Africa to the Middle East and Europe, he recorded the siege of Monte Cassino in Italy, was wounded during the invasion of Anzio and witnessed Rome fall to the Allies. His now famous shot of an American soldier holding a baby in font of joyful crowds massing in the streets became the cover of Yank in July 1944. After leaving the army, Slim became a freelance photojournalist. He vowed he'd never photograph death or destruction again: "I'd wandered through enough concentration camps and bombed-out villages. I'd slept in the mud and been shot at. I owed myself some easy, luxurious living. I wanted to be on the sunny side of the street."

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LIFE magazine brought him to Rome

Slim photographed Hollywood's elite - everyone from Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall to Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh have beamed at his lense and been captured on his roll - and travelled constantly between California and New York (where he covered Broadway openings). When Life magazine opened a bureau in Rome, Slim relocated to capture a more international array of celebrities and aristocrats who frequented the Eternal City. The rest is photogenic history. When Life later asked him to relocate to Korea to cover the war there, he said no. His view was now to only photograph "attractive people in attractive places doing attractive things."

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He used a Leica to capture most of his images

Clicking away with his small Leica, Slim extracted everything that was cool and chic about old money - think skiing picnics at Snowmass Village, Colorado and al-fresco lunch parties in Palm Springs. Aarons introduced the world to all sorts of gorgeous locales with his pictures, captured predominantly with a Leica (although he used a Nikon later in his career). Yet when asked by his contemporaries about his preferred image-maker he would tell them to buy a Brownie - a simple and inexpensive camera made by Kodak and often used for taking snapshots.

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He sold his archive because he believed society didn’t exist anymore

Around the period his first book of photographs, A Wonderful Time (originally published in 1974 - it fell flat), was being rediscovered Aarons decided to sell his archive. He believed "society as such didn't exist anymore" and he wanted the public to see how he had documented it. Following the successful republication of his first book, Aarons would go on to publish two additional tomes - A Place in the Sun (2005) and Once Upon a Time (2014). Three decades on, A Wonderful Time has become a collectors item, and copies of it have sold for $2,000 at auction.