Mehemed Fehmy Agha was descendant of Turks and was born in present-day Ukraine in 1896.
He had a key role in difning the job of the art director in magazines of early 20th century.
He graduated in arts and later in economics when he lived in Kiev. After moving to Paris he graduated in Oriental Languages in 1923. He was fluent in Russian, Turkish, German, French, Greek and English and had proficiency in photography, typography and studies in general arts.
Since a young age he was already an extremely erudite person.
In 1928, he had already worked at Vogue Paris’s office, as head of the studio, and was working at the Berlin office, as a designer, when he was interviewed by Condé Nast, the owner of the magazine, for the job of art editor for American Vogue.
After a long search Condé Nast had finally been impressed by the work and personality of one of his interviewees; and in 1929 Agha took over.
He immediately got the respect of his new colleagues who treated him as Dr. Agha, as he became known.
In a short time he also became responsible for the magazines Vanity Fair and House & Garden.
After starting to work at American Vogue most of his decisions were important and had a great impact on the publishing and artistic world.
In order to modernize the magazine, some of them were:
The change of fonts used in italics for fonts without effects and without serif, such as ‘futura’.
The greater involvement of images with texts, the removal of design’s excesses such as photo frames, columns that separated texts and sidebars.
Introduced the use of full-bleed images, without any borders; the use of double-page spreads; the use of photo montages and colored photos and the work of photographers such as Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Hoyningen-Huene, Horst, Carl Van Vechten, and Charles Sheeler, as well as comissions from Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Matisse.
He cleaned up the magazine and changed the old-fashioned way in which editions were presented, pulling them towards arts closer to what was current in Europe, such as art deco and constructivism.
Dr. Agha worked for Condé Nast until his death in 1942(Officially resigning in 1943), when he started to work as an active graphic and directorial consultant to various companies and corporations.
In 1950, with the death of his wife, which affected him a greatly, he began to slowly distance himself from work and to go deeper into solitary studies of the classical arts.
While still active in the publishing business, he was honored several times (as well as later), one of which was the publication of an edition of the American newspaper P.M. all dedicated to him.
In 1935 he was elected president of the Art Directors Club (ADC) and during the consecutive years of 1953 and 1954 he was elected president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).
Dr. Agha was known for his extreme good taste, and colleagues asked him for help whenever it was possible. Very critical, he liked to inspire the best in others and tried to make the people he worked with always reach the closest point to perfection.
He was an artist who inspired and still inspires several professionals from the publishing world as well as the art world.
Dr. Agha died in 1978.
Bibliography: Allan, Georgina O’Hara; Enciclopédia da Moda: De 1840 À Década de 90: Companhia das Letras, 2010.