Fashion and celebrity photographer Victor Skrebneski, who photographed personalities including Orson Welles, Cindy Crawford, David Bowie and Bette Davis and shot glamorous photos for the Chicago Film Festival, died Saturday of cancer in Chicago. He was 90.
“Working with Victor was one of the great privileges of my modeling career,” said Cindy Crawford in a statement. “He was my first mentor and taught me so much about the art of modeling and photography. Those years I spent on his set under the beautiful lighting being directed by a true artist, prepared me for my life in fashion, but also, his elegance and sophistication shaped my definition of a true gentleman. He will be missed.”
Among the other personalities he photographed, often in striking black and white, were Oprah Winfrey, Raquel Welch, Francois Truffaut, Audrey Hepburn and Barack and Michelle Obama.
Skrebneski set up his studio in Chicago in 1952, and was known for advertising campaigns such as the “Estee Lauder woman” and magazine work for magazines including Chicago-based Playboy.
Chicago International Film Festival founder Michael Kutza recalled, “In 1966, I asked Victor to help make the Chicago Film Festival sexy. He ended up putting it on the map.” Skrebneski’s posters for the festival became collectibles over the years.
Born in Chicago, he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1989, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago featured an exhibit of his work. A 50-year retrospective of his work was organized by The Museum of Contemporary Photography in 1999.
He published his 18th book, “Skrebneski Documented,” earlier this year.
He talked to WWD last year about shooting Bowie and his wife Iman, “Every picture I photographed him in, he’s naked. He absolutely loved being naked. He told me he didn’t know what he looked like. When he goes to everybody else’s photography studio, they dress him up, they make him up, they do his hair and that’s not him, so he wanted to see how he was. I think I introduced Iman to him and did their wedding picture and they’re naked. It’s beautiful and one of my favorites.”