Born in New Hampshire in 1916, Slim Aarons joined the U.S. Army at age 18 and was employed as a photographer at West Point. He later served as a war photographer in Europe during World War II and earned a Purple Heart – “I gave it to a blonde I knew after the war. She said she liked the colour.” Aarons would later say that the war taught him that the only beach worth landing on was “decorated with beautiful, seminude girls tanning in a tranquil sun.”
After the war, and the dawn of commercial air travel and the birth of the jet set he photographed high society at their playgrounds around the world. He had some mantras that he felt gave him access to these people: “No assistants, no props, no stylists, no lights, no problems.” “I knew everyone,” he said in an interview with The Independent in 2002: “They would invite me to one of their parties because they knew I wouldn’t hurt them. I was one of them.” His longterm assistant Laura Hawk once wrote that there were three pieces of clothing that Aarons refused to photograph: Jeans, T-shirts, and running shoes – “I don’t do fashion,” he said. “I take photos of people in their own clothes and that becomes fashion.”
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