The fashion, still life and portrait photographer Hiro exemplified the originality and vision that can be achieved when shooting on assignment to fulfill the needs of art directors. From the 1960s to the 1990s, Hiro created images that consistently surprised and delighted, thanks to their technical deftness, unexpected compositions and juxtaposition of elements. “Hiro Photographs,” on view at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, showcases images he created for clients such as Halston, Pierre Cardin, Elsa Peretti and Harper’s Bazaar.
Hiro (his full name is Yasuhiro Wakabayashi) was born in Shanghai to Japanese parents in 1930. After moving to the U.S. in 1954, he became an assistant to Richard Avedon. The legend goes that Avedon quickly realized Hiro was too good for the job, and sent him to see his mentor, Alexey Brodovitch, the legendary art director of Harper’s Bazaar. Hiro became a staff photographer for the magazine, and shot a variety of fashion stories characterized by elegance and a restless experimentation with techniques. Hiro has said in interviews that Brodovitch instructed him, “If you look through the viewfinder and you see something you’ve seen before, don’t bother to click the shutter.”
His creativity and eye for design was given full expression in his collaboration with jewelry designer Elsa Peretti. Hiro’s advertising images emphasized the sensuality of her sculpted silver pieces, showing rings, charms and bracelets on a bleached bone, against a piercing blue sky and floating on the surface of a glacial lake. The first show of Hiro’s work at a major museum, “Hiro Photographs” is also a celebration of commercial photography, demonstrating that it can, in the right hands, achieve the status of art. —Holly Stuart Hughes