Virginia Thoren, Artful Fashion Photographer, Dies at 97

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Virginia Thoren in an undated photo. “You were a camera and eyewitness to a golden age — the rebirth of Paris after the war,” the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham once wrote to her.

Credit
Virginia Thoren Collection, Pratt Institute Libraries

Virginia Thoren, an advertising designer who had no formal training behind a camera but became a leading fashion photographer in New York and Paris in the mid-20th century, died on Oct. 27 in Manhattan. She was 97.

Her death was confirmed by her friend and archivist Betty Guernsey.

Embracing the preference of her mentor, Toni Frissell, for natural light and realistic settings, Ms. Thoren photographed Julie Andrews, Vivien Leigh, Lee Radziwill and other celebrities, as well as models like Carmen Dell’Orefice, Dorian Leigh, Barbara Mullen, Suzy Parker, Mary Jane Russell and Anne St. Marie in what she characterized as “relaxed portraiture” for magazine covers and advertisements.

“She chased beauty through the eye of the camera,” Gaby Basora, the designer and owner of the Tucker clothing line, told the Council of Fashion Designers of America in an interview on its website this year.

Beatrice Virginia Thoren was born on April 29, 1920, in South Orange, N.J., to Swedish immigrants. Her father, Julius Thoren, was a chauffeur. Her mother, the former Gerda Gustaffson, was a seamstress.

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