Online Exhibition:

Slim Aarons + Getty Images Gallery

Curated by Paul, this selection of 12 prints from the Getty Images Archive epitomise iconic American society photographer Slim Aarons’ glamour-laden, summery oeuvre.

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Nothing bad can happen in a Slim Aarons photograph. The subjects smile ear to ear, frolic in azure blue seas, sunbathe atop motorboats and, occasionally, play a game of backgammon in a swimming pool. But the summers that Slim Aarons captured belong to a bygone era. Seen with our modern eyes, the iconic American photographer’s expansive body of work – which he described as “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places” – is almost dreamlike.

Pure escapism, then, is one of the best ways to describe Aarons’ photographs. And who can blame him really? After serving as a photographer during WWII, he later readily admitted he was all too happy to distract himself with the finer things in life. “I’d wandered through enough concentration camps and bombed-out villages. I’d slept in the mud and been shot at,” he explained. “I owed myself some easy, luxurious living. I wanted to be on the sunny side of the street.”

FIGURE I: Keep Your Cool (1978), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Keep Your Cool, 1978

We challenge you to name a better photographic subject than a Hollywood actress and a hotelier moonlighting as a US intelligence officer enjoying a game of backgammon in a pool in Mexico. Depicting Carmen Alvarez and Frank 'Brandy' Brandstetter mid-game, ‘Keep Your Cool’ is undeniably Aarons at his finest.

FIGURE II : Leisure In Antibes (1969), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Leisure In Antibes, 1969

Sunbathing on a motorboat (that happens to match your swimwear) surrounded by water-skiers? Yes, ‘Leisure In Antibes’ epitomises what Slim Aarons was all about: the glamour of summer. It was taken near Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, which opened its doors back in 1887 and is considered one of the French Riviera’s most luxurious institutions. Fittingly, the original villa was built as an artist’s retreat, so naturally, we assume, the photographer felt right at home.

FIGURE III : Sea Drive (1960), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Sea Drive, 1960

Why didn’t the Amphicar catch on? When photographs like Sea Drive exist, it’s a question you just have to ponder. Depicting film producer Kevin McClory – famous for his work on James Bond movies and subsequent spats with Ian Fleming – taking his wife Bobo Sigrist and family out for a ride on the water at Nassau harbour in their racing red Model 770, the snap is just the right mix of bygone glamour and absurdity.

FIGURE IV : Lake Tahoe Trip (1959), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Lake Tahoe Trip, 1959

One of Slim Aaron’s earlier photographs, this snap was taken on New Year’s Day at Lake Tahoe, more specifically Zephyr Cove, known for its endless sandy beaches and proliferation of water sports. With its interesting composition, eerily still waters and brightly coloured trio of canoes, it’s one of Aaron’s more painterly prints.

FIGURE V : Caleta Beach, Acapulco (1968), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Caleta Beach, Acapulco, 1968

Given there’s a great deal of wit, whimsy and playfulness about Aarons’ work, it’s easy to overlook the quiet romance of some of his pieces. Taken at another of the photographer’s favoured locales, Acapulco in Mexico, this shot shows a couple wandering along a deserted beach hand in hand, their footprints trailing behind them.

FIGURE VI : Surfing Brothers (1965), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Surfing Brothers, 1965

Popular with the likes of the Vanderbilts and Astors, Bailey’s Beach (otherwise known as Spouting Rock Beach Association) in Newport, Rhode Island, where this snap was taken, was a private beach and one of the first places in the country to popularise surfing, which was introduced by local Howard Cushing II in the 1930s. This picture captures his sons Freddy and Howard III catching waves.

FIGURE VII : Speedboat Landing (1973), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Speedboat Landing, 1973

If you were wondering what a boat belonging to an Italian count would look like, then today is your lucky day. More specifically, it’s a Magnum motorboat owned by Filippo Theodoli, who would go on to buy the company with the aim of transforming the racing boats into high-performance luxury yachts. Taken a few years before the acquisition, Aarons has captured Filippo’s bright white motorboat about to dock at a private jetty near the Il Pellicano Hotel in the seaside town of Porto Ercole in Tuscany.

FIGURE VIII : Underwater Drink (1972), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Underwater Drink, 1972

If you thought sipping on coconut water was a relatively new trend, then you’d be mistaken. Taken in the early 1970s in Acapulco, Mexico at the picturesque Las Brisas Hotel, this snap shows a woman taking a sip from a fresh coconut. Underwater photography wasn’t exactly a newfangled technique at this point (the first of its kind is reported to have been taken over a century earlier in 1856) but with its innate playfulness, typically, the photographer has managed to leave his mark on the medium.

FIGURE IX : Capri Holiday (1958), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Capri Holiday, 1958

With some of the bluest seas on Earth and studded with coves along its rocky shoreline, Capri has long been a playground for the rich and famous – so is it any wonder that Aarons returned time and again. A striking composition, ‘Capri Holiday’ epitomises the spirit of rest and relaxation that the Italian island represents.

FIGURE X : Positano Beach (1979), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Positano Beach, 1979

It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque spot than La Scogliera beach in Positano. Nestled between the rocks and the sea along the Amalfi coast, the spot remains a favourite with jet-setting types (and, famously, doesn’t allow children). With its colourful parasols and deck chairs, this shot, taken in the late 1970s, is quintessentially Aarons.

FIGURE XI : Swimming In The Bahamas (1959), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Swimming In The Bahamas, 1959

With a reputation for photographing the upper echelons of American society, Aarons’ work is rarely considered ‘relatable’ but ‘Swimming In The Bahamas’ captures something a little different to his usual snaps of the lifestyles of the rich and famous: an ordinary day playing in the pool. Without a yacht or manicured lawn in frame and their faces obscured by the shimmery water, the subjects could be anyone.

FIGURE XII : Stocking Island, Bahamas (1964), Slim Aarons, Getty Images Gallery

Stocking Island, Bahamas, 1964

While people and society were his speciality, Aaron’s also had an undeniable knack for capturing the beauty of far-flung locations. To this day, Stocking Island, a sublime stretch of white sand about 5km long in the Bahamas, has just 10 inhabitants. Taken from an aerial advantage, this snap shows sea swimmers and boats, dwarfed by the majesty of the pristine coast.

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