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Beauty in the Eye of the Camera : Estee Lauder Photographer Showcased in New Book

November 20, 1987|DIANE REISCHEL | Times Staff Writer

Only the most classic beauties--at their most serene moments--seem to pass by the lens of Victor Skrebneski. The Chicago-based photographer has been freezing perfect slices of time for 40 years, and a heavy new coffeetable book, "Five Beautiful Women," showcases his quarter-century of work for Estee Lauder ads.

His black-and-white photography of glistening, porcelain faces represents "a classicism of life style, a desire for order which has been missing from our chaotic times," Frank Zachary, Town & Country's editor in chief, writes.

Less Analytical

But Skrebneski is less analytical. "A photograph is a mood, a moment, and how you feel about an event," the dapper, easygoing Midwesterner said last week at I. Magnin, Beverly Hills, for which he also does fashion photography. When pressed for details, he offers none. "I'm a photographer. I don't usually talk about things."

He does, however, say his photography has improved since his earliest Lauder ads of hollow-cheeked women with black-rimmed eyes. But so have models improved. "Women are more beautiful today. There was so much disguise in the past," he said.

The five Lauder models photographed--Phyllis Connor, Karen Harris, Karen Graham, Shaun Casey and, most recently, Willow Bay--create impressions so integral to the Lauder cosmetics campaigns that many readers have thought they--and particularly Karen Graham--were Estee Lauder herself, he said. And so closely scrutinized are the rich, ornate backdrops in the photos that some women admit they've decorated entire rooms to look like the ads, he said.

Previous Books

Skrebneski, who has published two previous books and has had several gallery shows, also photographs non-professional beauties--women who pay $6,000 for a black-and-white portrait in which he is after both the exterior and the soul.

"It's a first impression," he said. "When I meet a lady, I already have an idea how I'm going to photograph her."

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