Biographical / Historical
Arthur d'Arazien began his photographic career as an assistant to a famous theatrical photographer, documenting Broadway shows. A distinctive emphasis on dramatic lighting in his later work suggests the heavy influence of the theater. He did fashion and commercial photography, as well as photographing the 1939 World's Fair, for Underwood & Underwood Illustration Studios, East 44th St., New York City, in 1938 1939. He was described in a U.S. Camera Annual article as Aan architect whose interest in photography has caused him to make a profession of it.
D'Arazien taught aerial photography for the U.S. Air Corps Technical Training Command at Lowry Field, Denver, during World War II. He began his career in industrial photography with the De Laval Separator Company, New York City. His energy and creativity led to assignments which often were judged too difficult for lesser photographers. His growing reputation as an industrial photographer kept pace with the dynamic growth of the industrial and technological activities he was photographing during the 1950s through the 1980s.
Robert Vogel, former Curator of Mechanical and Civil Engineering for the National Museum of American History, wrote that d'Arazien: ...became internationally known for his dramatic color views of the American industrial scene at a time when our industry can be said to have been at the height of its powers....He was commissioned by the giants of steel, paper, chemicals, machinery, transportation, automobiles, mining, metal refining, textiles, and the other heavy (and medium) industries. ...He developed a number of special techniques for obtaining the grand, sweeping views that became his trademark, including multiple exposures to achieve dramatic lighting effects, elaborate lighting setups involving multiple flashes from several vantages employing a number of assistants intercommunicating by radio, complex arrangements with transportation lines and the various departments of the subject organization to produce the desired juxtaposition of elements in the photograph, and the like. His MO was anything but that of simply walking onto the scene and snapping the shutter; for many of his breathtaking views he appears to have been more producer and impresario than photographer.
Arthur d'Arazien describes the growth of his spectacular style as an eager response to new subjects, challenges, and photographic materials:
...knowing that color was the coming thing in corporate advertising, I pursued that line. I did lots of experimenting; every assignment gave me an opportunity to try something new, such as combination day and night exposures on a single sheet of film, multiple flash bulbs to light large interiors, multiple exposures on the same film, such as...moving objects ...automobiles, trains...to build up excitement in a picture. Colored gels to change colors. I even used old fashioned flash powder to light ...steel mills, because there were no flashbulbs powerful enough to light these dark, cavernous interiors: this idea was borrowed from the Air Corps night time aerial photography with magnesium flash powder.
A skilled painter and metal sculptor as well as photographer, d'Arazien came from a family of artists. His photographs were made primarily on assignment from industrial corporations for advertising, editorial, and public relations purposes, but have been exhibited and collected as works of art in the Smithsonian Institution (Division of Photographic History), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum. His work was included in the Photography in the Fine Arts exhibitions organized by Ivan Dimitri, and he was a founding faculty member of the Famous Photographers School, Westport, Connecticut, in the early 1960's.
D'Arazien married Margaret Scott and has two sons. He had a studio in Waterside Plaza, New York, and made his home in New Canaan, Connecticut, until moving to Naples, Florida, upon his retirement in 1988. The collection was brought to the Smithsonian's attention by his son Steven, and was donated to the Archives Center before this move. In anticipation of this gift, Mr. d'Arazien spent several months inspecting his collection, eliminating duplicate and technically unsuccessful images, and captioning photographs.
Sources American Aces, U.S. Camera Annual 1939. Clipping in scrapbook no. 1, box 24, first page.
Robert M. Vogel, memorandum, undated, but written after a December 1987 visit to d'[Arazien's home. In Archives Center collection control file.
Letter to the author, 26 February 1992, in collection control file.