“Marvelous,” said Sonia Sieff, when asked about her childhood with the late Jeanloup Sieff, her father and one of France’s great fashion photographers. “Marvelous, because he took good care of my brother and me … He taught us about the beauty in the world.” Long before Sonia’s birth, Jeanloup made his first fashion photo in 1952, and he spent the next two decades working for French Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Queen, Jardin des Modes, and Vogue, producing some of the iconic images for which he’s now known — like Astrid Heeren, cigarillo-in-mouth, in Palm Beach.
By the seventies, Jeanloup’s studio doubled as a salon for Paris’s boldface names. “My father was really close with Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and a handful of other people in their group — Loulou de la Falaise, Betty and François Catroux, Hélène Rochas, Thadée Klossowski, Fernando Sánchez, and Paloma Picasso — whom they saw regularly over the course of a few years,” Sonia told us. “They were all really, really creative. Everyone had a place — Yves was the designer, my father was the photographer, François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne were the sculptors, François-Marie Banier, the writer. They had big dinners, they would film each other, they all did projects together — my father took that very famous image of Yves Saint Laurent nude. They did it all so easily and with humor, without taking it so seriously. Maybe that’s why everything turned out so well.”
The nuit blanches fizzled as Jeanloup started a family with his wife Barbara, but Sonia, now 33, remembers being integrated into her father’s routine. “Like many photographers during that time, the studio and the apartment were in the same place, so we were always living photography,” Sonia said. “I think I really got to know the trade in the most artisan manner possible. And then, there was a glamorous side — meeting actors, actresses, writers, and singers that passed through the house. Usually, my dad would ask me to make them a coffee and I would be so happy to do it, to meet them. I was 6 years old.” Sonia eventually grew up to be a photographer, remarking, “I never felt the weight of a heritage, but more the richness of it.”
This week, Prestel released Sieff Fashion with Sonia’s help — a survey of 40 years of Jeanloup’s fashion images, from 1960 until his death in 2000. Colette is also hosting an exhibition of the Sieffs’ work (Jeanloup’s, Sonia’s, and mom Barbara is a photographer, too) through November 3, and a fete in their honor (where brother Sacha will play music) tonight. Click ahead to see some of the photos from the tome accompanied by Sonia’s commentary, and the 1971 portrait of Yves Saint Laurent nude, which isn’t included in Sieff Fashion, but we couldn’t leave out.