Skip to main content

Frissell, Toni (1907–1988)

Frissell, Toni (1907–1988)

American photographer who specialized in fashion, children, documentary, and sports. Born Antoinette Wood Frissell on March 10, 1907, in New York City; died on April 17, 1988, in Saint James, New York; third child and only daughter of Dr. Lewis Fox (teacher of clinical medicine at Columbia University and medical director of St. Luke's Hospital) and Antoinette Wood (Montgomery) Frissell; attended private school in New York City; graduated from Miss Porter's School, Farmington, Connecticut, 1925; married Francis McNeill Bacon III (a broker), in 1932; children: son, Varrick Bacon (b. 1933); daughter, Sidney Bacon (b. 1935).

The daughter of a socialite and a New York doctor, photographer Toni Frissell's early interests were art history and the theater. After graduating from the fashionable Miss Porter's School, she played bit parts in several Max Reinhardt productions, then toured with his company both in the United States and Europe during the late 1920s. Returning to New York in 1930, she wrote advertising copy for Stern's department store before joining the staff of Vogue as a caption writer. "They finally fired me," she later recalled, "because I couldn't spell." The magazine, however, did publish some of her early fashion photographs in 1931 and, in 1933, offered her a contract. Innovative in approach, Frissell was the first to photograph her formally dressed models outside, in natural sunlight, instead of in the usual studio setting. Striving for a natural look, she didn't pose her subjects either. "I try to make them look not like Powers girls modeling," she explained, "but like human beings." Frissell was with Vogue for 11 years, before signing on with Harper's Bazaar.

In 1932, Frissell married Francis McNeill Bacon, III and had two children, Varrick and Sidney, who, with their friends, were often the subjects of her "photo-illustrated" books, notably A Child's Garden of Verse (1944). Reviewers praised her photographs of children for their natural unposed quality, although Edward Steichen once complained that her youngsters were too scrubbed and too well dressed, and their parents made too much money.

Frustrated with fashion and wanting a true reporting job, Frissell volunteered to serve as a pictorial historian for the Red Cross when the war began. She spent ten weeks photographing in England and Scotland in 1941 and later covered assignments in other parts of the world for the American Army Air Forces and as a freelancer for a number of publications. Employed by the Office of War Information, Frissell also served as official photographer of the Women's Army Corps. She received a star and two overseas stripes for her work at the front as a wartime correspondent.

Frissell was under contract to Harper's Bazaar from 1941 to 1950 and worked for Life and Sports Illustrated in the 1950s. Her photographs and illustrated articles also appeared in a number of national magazines, including Collier's, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, Holiday, McCall's, Fortune, This Week, and Arts and Decoration. Her work was part of Steichen's Family of Man exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1955. Her fashion photographs appeared in the exhibit Fashion Photography: Six Decades, sponsored by the Emily Lowe Gallery, at Hofstra University, 1975–76, and in History of Fashion Photography, at the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, 1977–78.


Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography 1988. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1988.

Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. NY: Abbeville Press, 1994.

Rothe, Anna, ed. Current Biography 1947. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1947.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Frissell, Toni (1907–1988)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. . 23 Apr. 2019 <>.

"Frissell, Toni (1907–1988)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. . (April 23, 2019).

"Frissell, Toni (1907–1988)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.