One of the most successful fashion photographers in the industry, Steven Meisel achieved a commendation for his work in Italian and American Vogue and his photos of Madonna in Sex, her 1992 book. At a young age, his magnetism towards models and beauty started. He ignored playing with toys unlike most children, instead his interest lied in drawing women with inspiration from magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Women like Babe Paley and Gloria Guinness belonging to the high stratum of the society infused the ideas of high society and beauty in Meisel’s eyes. His fascination for models was so intense that when he was only twelve years old, he asked his girlfriends to call some model agencies and get models’ photos by pretending they were Richard Avedon’s secretaries. He also stood outside the studio of Melvin Sokolsky, in order to meet his favorite model Twiggy. He also liked Jean Shrimpton and Veruschka at that age. He joined the Parsons The New School for Design and the High School of Art and Design from where he did diversified courses. However, since he passed the interview for Vogue, France with Ingrid Sischy, Meisel’s major subject became fashion illustration.
As his first job, he worked as an illustrator for Halston, a fashion designer. On a part time basis he was a teacher of illustration at Parsons. He developed an interest in photography and appreciated photographers like Bert Stem, Irving Penn, Jerry Schatzberg and Richard Avedon. He began considering illustration as an antique thing and realized that photography has a longer shelf life. However, he still continued working as an illustrator at Women’s Wear Daily and when his work was liked by Oscar Reyes, a booker, Steven Meisel was allowed to take photos of Elite Model Management’s models. So he photographed the models on weekends on streets or in his apartment. Some of these models were casted for Seventeen, a magazine that showed interest in Meisel’s photography that was visible to them through the models’ portfolios. The magazine consequently asked Meisel if he was interested to work for them.
Apart from this, Meisel has contributed images for the popular album covers for many music artists, such as Daydream by Mariah Carey in 1995 and Fantasy as well by Carey, and Like a Virgin by Madonna in 1984 and Bad Girl as well.
Among many other campaigns, Steven Meisel shot for Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Louis Vuitton and Valentino. Since 2004, he has also photography for Prada. In 2008 and 2009, he shot photos of Madonna for Vanity Fair and for Louis Vuitton, respectively. He also did photography for Anna Sui for many campaigns.
Steven Meisel is credited for promoting as well as discovering many models who already were or became successful, such as Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Coco Rocha, Liya Kebede, Raquel Zimmerman, Doutzen Kroes, Karen Elson, Caroline Trentini, Lara Stone, Nadège du Bospertus and Iris Strubegger. He regularly featured them in Vogue particularly for campaigns by Prada. In 2008, in order to address the racism visible in fashion commercial campaigns, runways and magazines, Meisel did an issue of showing just black models in Vogue.
He has enhanced the careers of all the people who worked on side with him in his projects for Vogue, like hairstylists Garren, Oribe Canales, Guido Palau, Orlando Pita; and makeup artists like Kevyn Aucoin, Pat McGarth, Laura Mercier and François Nars.
Meisel does not have his own book dedicated to his photography, but teNueus collected some of his images in a book named Steven Meisel in 2003 which completely sold out.