He became interested into fashion and models at very young age. As a kid Meisel wouldn’t play with toys, but instead he draw women all the time. He used to turn to magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as sources of inspiration for his drawings. Meisel dreamt of women from the high society like Gloria Guinness and Babe Paley, who personified to his eyes the ideas of beauty and high society . Other icons were his mother and his sister.
As he became obsessed with models such as Twiggy, Veruschka, and Jean Shrimpton, at the age of 12 he asked some girlfriends to call model agencies and, by pretending to be secretaries of Richard Avedon, to get pictures of the models. To meet famous model Twiggy, the 12-year-old Meisel stood outside waiting for her at Melvin Sokolsky’s studio.
He studied at the High School of Art and Design and Parsons School of Design where he attended different courses but, as affirmed in an interview with Ingrid Sischy for Vogue France, he finally majored in fashion illustration.
One of Meisel’s first jobs was to work for fashion designer Halston as an illustrator. Meisel never did believe that he could become a photographer. He admired photographers like Jerry Schatzberg, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Bert Stern. Later on, while working at Women’s Wear Daily as an illustrator, he went to Elite model agency where two girls working there allowed him take pictures of some of their models. He would photograph them in his apartment in Gramercy Park or on the street: on weekdays he would work at Women’s Wear Daily and on weekends with the models. One of them was Phoebe Cates. Some of these models took their pictures to Seventeen magazine to show their model books and the people at Seventeen subsequently called Meisel and asked if he wanted to work with them.
Meisel currently works for many different fashion magazines, including fashion bibles such as US and Italian Vogue, among other giants. For the latter he has been the only photograper for its cover for almost 15 years; but there’s a story behind this. His studio is located in New York at 64 Wooster Street but he often rents the studios at Pier59 in New York and Smashbox Studios in Los Angeles.
Meisel is credited with “discovering” or promoting the careers of many supermodels. In veiw last years he has made Sasha Pivovarova, Snejana Onopka, Coco Rocha, and James Rousseau the stars they are now, and the way to fame by regularly featuring them in Italian Vogue and various campaigns. Meisel’s influence and training seems to also extend past models.
Meisel has been a protégé of both reigning queens of the fashion press, editors-in-chief Franca Sozzani (Italian Vogue) and Anna Wintour (US Vogue).
He is a regular contributor to Italian Vogue and photographs the cover every issue, something generally unheard of in the ever changing fashion industry.
Using Vogue Italia as a platform, Meisel often creates layouts which are controversial, by juxtaposing fashion and politics and/or social standards. For example, in the September 2006 issue of Vogue Italia, Meisel played with the concept of restricted liberties post-September 11th America. The beautiful and fashionable models were conceived as terrorists and/or highly trained policemen.
It caused a stir in the press, as the models were presented in violent compositions where they could be seen as being victimized. It also elicited a negative response from feminists which saw the role of the women as being undermined by their male counterparts.
Amongst others, Meisel has shot campaigns for Versace, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein (for whom he has shot very controversial campaigns). Meisel is also known to shoot all Prada campaigns, each fashion season, and has continued to do so consistently since 2004.
He is a big friend of designer Anna Sui for whom he also shot several campaigns, even though Sui rarely uses advertising to promote her clothing. He is also works closely with digital artist Pascal Dangin.
Meisel is known to use his various fashion campaigns as platforms to propel unknown models into stardom. Models such as Gemma Ward, Sasha Pivovarova, Coco Rocha, Jessica Stam, and Snejana Onopka are testament to his star-making power. All of these models have featured in the coveted Prada advertisement campaign, which is seen as one of the most desired campaigns in the business.
I was in a surgery last week, still feeling a bit weak.