By People Staff
September 24, 1984 12:00 PM

by Louise Dahl-Wolfe

“I’m a frustrated painter, you know,” writes the San Francisco-born author, and in the beginning her photographs echo the themes and mannerisms of the fashionable paintings of the 1930s. Then there are still lifes that remind the viewer of Steichen and portraits of poor Tennessee blacks that look as if they were taken as part of the WPA Depression project. It is only in 1936, when Dahl-Wolfe went to work for Carmel Snow at Harper’s Bazaar, that the photographer found her own way to make extraordinary pictures of models in fashionable clothes. Some of Dahl-Wolfe’s work is made memorable because it is faintly surreal; in one photograph four heads peek over a Paris wall to show off their new hats. The most interesting pictures in this book, however, are the portraits—often taken from a low angle—of such stars as Vivien Leigh, Marlene Dietrich and Orson Welles. Dahl-Wolfe, now 89, adds to the photographs a cheerful running account of her life. It suggests she could be as difficult a prima donna as any of her subjects. Still, she had a unique eye, and her photographs hold up beautifully. (St. Martin’s, $14.95)