Genevieve Naylor was born in 1915 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She attended Miss Hall’s School and later, at age 16, the Music Box, an arts school, where she studied painting. It was at the Music Box that Genevieve met Misha Reznikoff, her teacher.
Two years later, in 1933, they were in love, and when Misha moved to New York, Genevieve soon followed, and they settled into the Bohemian lifestyle of Greenwich Village living in a studio apartment – a huge converted stable strewn with colorful painting and cigarette boxes and often home to parties with musicians, artists, and fans that lasted for days.
In 1934, Naylor attended an exhibit by photographer Berenice Abbott and so admired Abbott’s work that she switched from painting to photography. Naylor became Abbott’s apprentice in 1935, and they maintained their professional relationship until Naylor’s death.
Her professional career began in 1937 when she became one of the first female photojournalists hired by the Associated Press. In addition to the AP, her photographs began to appear in TIME, Fortune, and LIFE Magazines. She went on to become a noted fashion photographer whose work appeared in VOGUE, Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, and Cosmopolitan.
In 1940, Genevieve Naylor was assigned by the U.S. State department as part of a team to travel to Brazil. In an effort to further and strengthen the anti-Nazi relationship between the United States and Brazil and to promote mutual cultural awareness, the U.S. Office of Inter-American Affairs, under the leadership of Nelson Rockefeller, created a team of notable Americans that included Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, and Walt Disney. Genevieve Naylor and her partner (and later husband) Misha Reznikoff arrived in Brazil in October, 1940, where he showed his paintings while Miss Naylor took photographs.
Because it was war time, film was rationed, and Naylor’s equipment was modest. She had neither flash nor studio lights and had to carefully choose her shots, balancing spontaneity with careful composition. Of her work, nearly 1,350 photos survived and were preserved. After her return to the states in 1943, Naylor became only the second woman photographer to be given a one-woman show when her work was exhibited by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
(Photo credit: Genevieve Naylor / Corbis).