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Yasuhiro Wakabayashi
Photography Hiro

Bella Hadid leads tributes to legendary fashion photographer, Hiro

‘Rest in peace Hiro. One of the best to ever live,’ the model wrote in a post as news of his passing broke

Yasuhiro Wakabayashi, the fashion photographer otherwise known as Hiro, has sadly passed away aged 90. Bella Hadid led tributes to the legendary image maker, who died on Sunday (August 15) at his country house in Pennsylvania, uploading a carousel of his most striking works on Instagram – among them, Hiro’s 1982 shot of a garden ant straddling a perfectly manicured toenail, his 1974 portrayal of smoke oozing from Maria Beadeux’s lips, and his group portrait of the Rolling Stones in 1976. “Rest In Peace Hiro,” the model wrote. “One of the best to ever live! Such an incredible brain. Fly high with the angels Hiro!”

Born in Shanghai in 1930, it wasn’t until long after WW2 that Hiro first became taken by fashion photography, counting Richard Avedon and Irving Penn among his inspirations. Following the war, he moved to New York, where he worked in a glitzy hotel – eagerly waiting for guests to throw their magazines in the trash, so he could feast on the images that lay inside. Having enrolled onto a photography course in 1956, he soon found himself assisting his hero, Avedon, who introduced Hiro to Harper’s Bazaar, where he was hired as a staff photographer – a post he subsequently held for decades.

Between some freakish still lifes, featuring golden Elsa Peretti cuffs on chalky, bovine bones, and dramatic editorials, capturing Cristobal Balenciaga’s four-sided dress with timeless allure, the photographer quickly became canonised within fashion artistry – the American Photographer magazine dedicated an issue to him in January 1982, asking “Is this man America’s greatest photographer?” Perhaps Hiro’s most memorable work, however, is his beach series, which he shot between 1963 to 1994. Almost always taken from back-aching angles, Hiro would cover his model’s faces in gauzy linens, and overlay their profiles with clouds, and rogue eyeballs. It’s this which has deigned Hiro the “surrealist”. 

The photographer is survived by his wife Elizabeth Clark, a set designer, and two sons, Gregory and Hiro Clark, along with four grandchildren and a younger sister living in Japan.