William Helburn Biography

American fashion and advertising photographer, William Helburn, is best known for his photographs of his decade’s most elegant women, Dorian Leigh, Dovima, Suzy Parker, Jean Shrimpton, Angela Howard, Jean Patchett, Lauren Hutton, and Sharon Tate. He is a contemporary of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Lillian Bassman. Throughout his career Helburn aimed to grab the viewer’s attention, contextualizing his models in images that jumped off the page.

Helburn was born in New York City in 1924 and attended public and private schools in Manhattan and took classes at The Art Students League of New York, before joining the U.S Army Air Force in 1942. Helburn served in the Pacific theater where he and future partner Ted Croner learned to make contact sheets and develop film, including the first pictures of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. After the war Helburn and Croner resolved to become fashion photographers. The two men enrolled in Harper’s Bazaar Art Director Alexey Brodovitch’s Design Laboratory, a workshop for aspiring photographers and graphic designers. While the partnership with Croner soon ended, studying with Brodovitch led to Helburn’s first major assignment, a ten-page editorial shoot in the March 1949 edition of Junior Bazaar. 

Helburn was at the top of his profession from the early 1950s through the 1960s, with bylined covers and editorial images in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, LIFE, McCall’s, and many other magazines. He also became a successful director of TV commercials in the early 1980s. 

Helburn’s awards include thirteen American Institute of Graphic Arts Certificates of Excellence, Fifty Advertisements of the Year and three ‘Clio Awards for Advertising Excellence Worldwide.