Victor Skrebneski, Who Captured Stars in Striking Photos, Dies at 90

Victor Skrebneski, whose striking photographs of celebrities and models including Cindy Crawford, Bette Davis and Orson Welles were a fixture of advertising campaigns and gallery shows for more than a half-century, died on April 4 in Chicago. He was 90.

The cause was cancer, his friend Stephen Rybka said through a spokeswoman.

Mr. Skrebneski first became well known for photographing a print advertising campaign for Estée Lauder, a contract he landed in 1962. “The Estée Lauder woman,” as the campaign came to be known, ran for years in glossy magazines and featured a series of models shot by Mr. Skrebneski, often in settings that suggested old money and refined taste.

The campaign made such an impression that the company received thousands of inquiries from people who wanted to know where to get the tablecloth or the vase seen in a particular image. One woman said she was redecorating her living room to match one in an ad and asked if the company could photograph the other half of the room so that she could proceed.

Mr. Skrebneski sometimes used rooms in his own house, on Chicago’s North Side, for those pictures. In fact, he told The New York Times in 1978, he used them so often that the head of Estée Lauder’s advertising agency told him that he should consider redecorating.

While building his advertising portfolio, Mr. Skrebneski began drawing acclaim for his celebrity portraits. The black turtleneck became his signature: He photographed Orson Welles, Bette Davis, Andy Warhol and many others wearing one.

No one did.

In the beginning he was his own teacher, which, he said years later, contributed to the blurry spontaneity of some of his favorite pictures.

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