Until December 8,  the Galerie GADCOLLECTION, dedicates, an exhibition called " My Loves" to one of the most famous photographer: Douglas  Kirkland. Renowned portraitist, he has photographed celebrities and models since the 1950s : Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, Faye Dunaway but also french actresses as Brigitte Bardot or Jeanne Moreau. Douglas Kirkland was on the film sets most known as "Out of Africa" or "Titanic".  Movies and celebrities under his lens would be too long to list.

CulturActu is proud to have met him in Paris. Interview.

"I am extremely happy with Gad Edery’s choices for this exhibition in Paris, he explains first of all. I think the images in the gallery show a wonderful selection of different women I have photographed through my long career.

What is your best shooting story ?

I am 85 and have been doing this for a long time, so there are many many stories but the most well known and popular story is the story of my « Evening With Marilyn ». I was a young photographer, 27 but more with the naïveté of a 16 year old. Marilyn played a wonderful game of seduction with my camera. She insisted on « being alone with this boy, I find dit usually works better that way », she was Marilyn in all her splendor, every man's erotic dream. To this day she is irreplaceable and unforgettable.

You have published a book on Marylin Monroe. You said that Marilyn was playing with the photographer’s lens but you also mentioned Judy Garland in 1961. These two mythical actresses had their weaknesses. Was it visible at the time of shooting ?

I laid down on the floor next to the bed where Marilyn was in at the end of the session and  we talked about our lives and the difficulties of her childhood. The next day, when I went to show her the photos, I saw a different Marilyn. She was wearing dark glasses, a scarf on her head, she seemed lost and depressed. She cheered up after looking at the images but I could deeply feel her distress. I spent a month traveling with Judy Garland and witnessed all her ups and  downs. One night, she would bring an audience to their feet in a standing ovation and the next morning she would be brought on the plane in a wheelchair, spent, a shell of herself. At the end of our time together she came to the studio at Look Magazine where we were shooting the cover for the feature on her  comeback . Her music was playing, I mentioned how I had observed the hardships of her every day life and she quietly shed a tear.

When you photograph the stars, do you prepare, in advance, what you want to show on your photos ? What is the spontaneous part of your model ?

I prepare to the extent that I want to have all the pieces in place, equipment ready, music, drinks, atmosphere. I find out what my subjects like. If someone is comfortable and feels beautiful, he will be beautiful in the camera. I do not want to force anyone into a role or preconceived ideas. I am ready to move quickly to adapt to the situation. I want to capture the essence of the person who is posing for me in the most relaxed way with ease and harmony.

In the art of star photography, do you have a technique to put them at ease, with confidence before shooting?

I have said many times that a photo session is a dance of seduction. And it still remains just that. It is very subtile even with male subject. It is a feeling that starts to happen, becomes mutual and takes over.

Are some stars more difficult to photograph than others? and why ?

There is an expression «  The camera loves you ». It is a very unusual chemistry. Very attractive people in real life don’t necessarily « photograph well ».  Sometimes you have to work harder to create a wonderful image. I want everyone to look beautiful.

Which star would you like to photograph today ?

Michelle Obama is one of the most important women of her generation. She exudes beauty, power and confidence and is not afraid to show her vulnerability. I would love to have the opportunity to have her in front of my camera.

What are your plans after Paris ?

Francoise (his wife) and I are going home to our house/studio in the Hollywood Hills. I have portrait sessions planned.  We have a number of big projects underway which will also need our full attention. I am planning a number of exhibitions next year. Florida in February and also Italy. Perth Australia with Coco Chanel in March and potentially a major show in Zagreb in May ! My next book project is on Women. They have collectively been the most important force in my life.  Life is exciting and full.

Go directly to the Gallery GADCOLLECTION if you are in Paris and also on the website of the Museum of Photography to discover a part of Douglas Kirkland's work dedicated to Marilyn Monroe and Coco Chanel.

 

Marie-Hélène Abrond

                                                                                        Published on 11th November 2019

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