Fashion’s legendary rogue photographer dies at 94

If being the first photographer to bring Twiggy stateside is any confirmation, Gösta “Gus” Peterson, who died this weekend at age 94, was a man of fashion legendary. The Swedish born, self-taught Peterson was one of the most respected names of the 1960s and ‘70s, venerated for his refreshingly anti-fashion personal style of photography.

His wrangling of the Twiggy shot is perfectly indicative of his artistic style; he didn’t play by industry’s rules. In 1967, the doe-eyed supermodel was en route to NY for her first American Vogue job, when Gösta and his wife Patricia – then Fashion Editor of New York Times and major influence in Gus’s ascent – diverted her. With just one dress, one hat and Gosta’s trusted Rolleiflex on hand, they staged an impromptu shoot on the spot, beating the Condé Nast magnate to her stateside splash.  It was a rogue move, but synonymous with the anti-fashion humor and naturalness that defined his 50-year career. The photographer worked with an unwavering sense of self, working exclusively with publications he admired – Esquire, NYT, Town & Country, and more ­– but never Vogue.

“He was trying to get characters, rather than just beauty,” Peterson’s daughter Annika told The Cut in 2015. The photographer had little interest in the archetypal pretty, polished, posed glamour, instead shooting Courreges’ iconic Eskimo glasses on Boy Scouts in the forest or models in an abandoned bathhouse on the beach. Through Gösta’s lens, one saw the emotion – and not just the elegance – of fashion. He hand-selected his subjects and insisted they own the camera rather than being objectified by it. He sought out eccentric, unconventional beauty, ranging from schoolchildren and Salvador Dali to former-assistant-turned-icon Linda Rodin.

Though Peterson’s influence has largely been overshadowed by the less subversive Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, his aesthetic radiated the personality, élan and zeitgeist of the era. Now, in an industry increasingly oversaturated by commerciality rather than artistry, it’s the maverick mindsets like his that will keep the industry ablaze. May we always remember the Gösta Gaze.

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