Toni Frissell, Tryall Plantations

About fifteen minute west of the city of Montego Bay lies the Tryall Estate. When Toni Frissell took the enchanting photograph above at Tryall’s hilly 2,200-acre plantation, its world famous golf course didn’t exist yet. The golf course and many villas it would sprawl nearby would not arrive until 1958 — ten years after Frissell popularized the dreamlike landscape of Jamaica in her photos for Harper’s Bazaar.

Before being developed by the influential American businessmen in the 1950s, the Tryall Estate was only a storied, but forgettable outpost of Britain’s imperial past. Originally an English fort, it began cultivating sugarcane in the 1660s making it one of the oldest sugar plantations in the Caribbean. Sugarcane plantations and works were irreparably destroyed in the Slave rebellion of Christmas 1831, and the property was sold to the illustrious Anglo-Irish family of Browne. They turned the property firstly into a coconut plantation, and when it became unprofitable, into a hotel. Frissell actually was invited to take photos of the estate for its reopening after the WWII.

In the 1930s, Frissell introduced an important addition to the fashion photography. She was the first person to take models away from the confines of the studio and to photograph them in exotic places around the world. These dramatic settings and the animated poses she created would lead to a whole new type of fashion image. Although the era’s practices of using studios never actually went away, Frissell’s techniques would be soon copied by many.

Alone among the Ruins

“Here are faces that I have found memorable. If they are not all as happy as kings, it is because in this imperfect world and these hazardous times, the camera’s eye, like the eye of a child, often sees true,” wrote Toni Frissell. Those two eyes met in the above photo, one of the most heartbreaking photos to come out of the London Blitz.

Maybe the photos of the Luftwaffe planes bombing London, or of St. Paul Cathedral betwixt smoke and fire or downed planes on London streets were more historic, but it was Frissell’s photo that revealed the element of human suffering. The abandoned boy holding a stuffed toy animal lost his London home, along with his parents and brother in the bombing.

Toni Frissell was one of the most famous fashion photographers of the day, working with both Cecil Beaton and Edward Steichen. During the WWII, Frissell volunteered for the American Red Cross, later becoming the official photographer of the Women’s Army Corps. She traveled to the European front twice, and spent time in London documenting the horrors of war above and below the ground.