A master of studio portraiture, Sam Levin began his career in the 1930s photographing the stars of French cinema like Simone Signoret and Jean Gabin. He became very well-known for his highly posed portraits characterized by dramatic lighting. With Brigitte Bardot as his model however, Levin found a new energy and vitality in his portraiture. Inspired by this young a vivacious star, Levin broke with many of the traditions and conventions of post-war cinema portraiture to create a series of images that encapsulate the spirit of the 1960s woman.
Sam Levin’s photographs are amongst the most iconic ever taken of Bardot. He contributed perhaps more than any other photographer to Bardot’s early imaging as a ‘sex kitten’ with his sensual, riske images.
During this time, France was looking for a new symbol of the nation and through Levin’s images, found this in Bardot. Portraying her in vibrant colours, with tousled hair and bare feet, Levin broke away from traditional studio shoot conventions to create a new fashion aesthetic and sexual vocabulary. Thus conjuring a refreshing image of childish naiveté, coupled with an almost animalistic sexuality, which made Bardot a tabula rasa on which France was able to stamp their objectives of modernity. Levin’s photos of Bardot were one of the main forces that propelled Bardot’s image and thus France to compete with Hollywood sirens for publicity. In 1960 it was rumoured that Levin’s photo of Bardot from behind in a white corset sold more postcards than that of the Eiffel Tower.