We are all familiar with the luxurious, elegant and charming style of living that Slim Aarons captures and embraces within each and every single photograph he takes. Since the 50’s onwards, Slim Aarons has been known for his passion and fascination for observing and photographing the rich and famous within opulent environments. However, there is a lot to Slim Aarons’ past that has not been shared to the world to the extent of his impressive compilation of renowned photographs. Here are 10 things you may not have known about the acclaimed photojournalist, war hero and photographer Slim Aarons.
So What’s His Real Name?
Known and referred to as “Slim Aarons” for his entire professional career, it is often odd to think of someone with such a well-known alias having an entirely different name. Slim Aarons was born George Allen Aarons on October 16th, in 1916 in Manhattan, New York.
Although it is a topic of conversation that has never been explored to a considerable depth and remains undisclosed, Slim Aarons once vaguely touched on the fact that he was raised by both of his grandparents on a New Hampshire farm throughout his entire childhood and even young adulthood.
- Photojournalist of War
At just 18 years old, Slim Aarons enlisted in the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, New York. Throughout his years at the Academy, he worked as a photojournalist and hypo dipper where he captured the activities of the Academy and evolved them through use of a darkroom. Even famous people have to start somewhere!
Slim Aarons’ passion for photography as a young adult went undiscovered during his time at West Point until movie director Frank Capra arrived at the Academy in the early 40’s. Capra was working on the film “Prelude to War”, commissioned by the Office of War Information, yet Capra was seeking a young photographer who was willing to work overseas to gather combat footage for a spin-off series of military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Slim Aarons’ charm and enthusiasm resonated with Capra and as a result, Aarons was sent to Europe.
- The Little Camera that Couldn’t
As a token of appreciation, Slim Aarons was gifted a Graflex-made Speed Graphic, a modest camera produced from 1912-1973, to capture the full effect of the war that raged in Monte Cassino, Latin Valley, Italy. Aarons, although pleased to be working abroad and given a camera at no cost, ditched the gift for another camera at his own expense that was more suited to the conditions of battle, a small yet hardy Leica.
During his time in Latin Valley, spent fearing for his life and witnessing the bloodshed of conflict in harsh conditions, Slim Aarons met and quickly bonded with two “Life” Magazine photographers George Silk and Carl Mydans. The three comrades stayed together throughout the entire Italian Campaign, until Mydans life was threatened by a team of German gunners. Slim Aarons warned him of the approaching danger and therefore saved Mydans’s life, but was injured in the process. Soon after, his bravery and act of heroism was rewarded with a Purple Heart in recognition of his selflessness and courageous willpower.
- No Flowers and Chocolates
As if having a renowned photographer, photojournalist and war hero for a partner wasn’t enough, Slim Aaron’s girlfriend at the time was given his Purple Heart as a gift from Aaron himself!
- Wreckage to Riches
The desire to embody an elite lifestyle within his photographs merely stemmed from the urge to shy away from the morbid subject that made his career rather than to satisfy a desire to experience it himself.
“I felt I owed myself some easy, luxurious living to make up for the years I had spent sleeping on the ground in the mud, being shot at and being bombed”
Slim Aarons had said in an interview for an upcoming book “Slim Aarons: Once Upon a Time” by Harry N. Abrams.
Despite the fact that Slim Aarons’ signature photographic subjects are lavish homes, semi-nude women dripping with diamonds and rich, smirking men, the photographer has expressed his lack of desire to spend any more time with his subjects than necessary, nor did he ever lust for mansions and prestige vehicles within so many of his iconic photographs. He once referred to himself as “a simple farm boy” and merely enjoys creating the opportunity for the economy class to stand in awe at the glorified rich.
“He worked to a tight schedule and wanted to get back to his farm as quickly as possible,” says Aarons assistant from the 1980’s – 2006, Laura Hawk, 2006.
- Mark Twain
Even celebrities and people of influence have their idols. For Slim Aarons, his favoured icon was American writer, humourist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer Mark Twain. It is reported that Aarons owns a copy of all 8 novels by Twain, in addition to over 25 other works including poems and short stories.
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