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Photographed by Hiro for Harpers Bazaar.

Featured Article

Super Model, '60s-Style

Pam Barkentin Helped Define the Fashion

Today, the glamour of the fashion industry is often eclipsed by its unreasonable standards of beauty and impropriety.

From Linda Evangelista infamously claiming to “never get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day,” to Bella Hadid admitting ”I was the uglier sister. I was the brunette. I wasn't as cool as Gigi, not as outgoing. That's really what people said about me. And unfortunately, when you get told things so many times, you do just believe it.” Each decade has revealed different layers of its seamy strata.

But back in the ‘60s, when the industry concretized its ideation, there were few, if any, egos or excess. Westporter Pam Barkentin, then a young model and muse, recalls the time as one of innovation, beauty, and companionship. “Lauren Hutton once called it a ‘sisterhood,’” recalls Pam. “And it really was.”

In many ways, Pam was destined to be a model. Her father, George, grew up in an artistic family; his mother was a playwright, scoring a Tony nomination in 1974 for Ulysses in Nighttown, and his father was a painter.

George became a photographer in the Army. On leave, he attended a party at the famous Tenth Street Studio Building in Greenwich Village and spotted cover girl (“that’s what models were called back then”) Jessica Patton across the room. They married on April 14, 1941.

Jessica, Pam’s mother, was attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts at that time, whose friends included classmates Lauren Bacall, Kurt Douglas, and Diane Dill. She modeled as a side hustle, soon becoming the top cover girl in the ‘40s, posing for Vogue, Mademoiselle, and more.

After the Army, George photographed for Collier’s and Mademoiselle. “He was one of [Mademoiselle magazine’s] favorite photographers. He shot at least half the covers,” says Pam. Then she undertones, “But he probably shot all of them…”

They moved to Westport when Pam was four.

Though Pam loved fashion photography - in the Staples library she poured over photos by Hiro, a man once celebrated as America’s greatest photographer - she decided to pursue acting.

She moved to New York City in the spring of ’62, her senior year at Staples, to take acting classes at night and observe myriad humanity during the day. She was living on her own, George carefully tracking every dollar she spent while paying Pam’s older sister, Perri, $20 a week to take care of her (she didn’t do a great job of that.)

For extra cash, Pam wanted to act in commercials. Jessica ran into photographer Richard Avedon, for whom she had modeled years before, and told him her daughter was interested in commercials.

So Pam went to see Dick a few days later, a 17 year-old girl clutching a manila envelope full of photos of herself. He set up a meeting for “Pammy Barkentin” at Harper’s Bazaar.

On her way back down to the lobby, a small Japanese man boarded her elevator. “Crooked nose, very good,” he exclaimed before introducing himself, to her surprise and delight, as Hiro.

“I worked with him all summer,” Pam muses. “He was a master of design and lighting. I had studied stage make-up the summer before, I loved extreme make-up, and he encouraged me to do it.”

Hiro photographed her for Harper’s Bazaar that summer while she also modeled for her dad.

“To be working with one of the best photographers in the world, the best clothes, the best editors, to me it was like ‘What the hell?’” she smiles.

At this time, the industry was small and supportive, the work collaborative and ground-breaking. Along with Lauren, Pam worked with Ally McGraw, Susan Blakely, and a number of European models. “We were smart, strong, creative women.”

“When I hear stories now… it wasn’t toxic,” she says of her experience. “It wasn’t about base things like drugs. I had a couple of weird experiences but not with the top photographers, they were masters.”

(To be sure, there are wonderful things happening in today’s fashion and modeling industry. There’s invention, art, largesse, and models empowering and educating other models. No amount of money or exposure can tamp the strong artistic visions of a creative few.)

After 10 years, in 1972, Pam was looking for a new challenge. She considered acting, but grew weary of auditions in which, “they always asked you to take off your clothes.” Oh, the 1970s…

Instead, she turned to photography, having received an expert education through her work and knowing every art director worth knowing.

She proved to be quite talented and photographed celebrities and personalities such as Dudley Moore (“he played the piano for me”), Patricia Hearst (“There were lots of guidelines about what not to say when I was photographing Patricia… She was actually very easy-going”), and Peter Cook for the likes of Vogue, Self, and Mademoiselle.


  • Photographed by George Barkentin for Harpers Bazaar.
  • With Broadway star Joel Gray, photographed by George Barkentin.
  • With Broadway star Joel Gray, photographed by George Barkentin.
  • Photographed in a floral refrigerator by Francesco Scavullo for Harpers Bazaar.
  • Photographed by Neal Barr for Harpers Bazaar.
  • Photographed by Hiro for Harpers Bazaar.
  • Photographed by Arthur Elgort for Mademoiselle.
  • Photographed by Hiro for Harpers Bazaar.
  • Pam's photograph of Priscilla Presley.
  • Pam's mother, Jessica Patton.