The exhibition Behind the Scenes, on view at Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography in Moscow, spans over 60 years of Douglas Kirkland’s photography career and focuses on its highlights. Born in Toronto in 1934, Douglas Kirkland started his career as legendary Irving Penn’s assistant, he joined Look magazine in 1960 and soon became contract photographer. A year later he had a chance to shoot a feature on Marilyn Monroe for the 25th anniversary of the magazine. An evening of November 17, 1961 with the most beautiful woman of the time turned into a series that became iconic both for the actress and young Kirkland. He recalls their time together as if they “were in a beautiful dance” with Marilyn Monroe leading: “Marilyn, with her sweet intuitiveness, made it easy. She simply said, ‘Okay, I know what we need. We need a bed with white silk sheets and nothing else, and it will work’. ‘But’, she added, ‘the sheets must be silk’. She had done the biggest part of my job for me: understood my ideas and articulated them better than I had been able to – bless her.”
The cinema in its development, the decisive moment, the spectacular details and emotions are captured by Kirkland’s camera on legendary film sets. Since the early 1960’s, Douglas Kirkland has documented the scenes of over 170 Hollywood blockbusters and independent productions as an on-set photographer. The films he documented include: The Sound of Music (1963), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), New York, New York (1977), Titanic (1997), or The Great Gatsby (2013).
Douglas Kirkland came in close contact with many film stars and film directors showing them to be natural in their vulnerability and simplicity both on and off the film sets. Vittorio De Sica, Marcello Mastroianni, Sofia Loren, Marlene Dietrich, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Kate Winslet are just some of the celebrities Douglas Kirkland has photographed. “In cinema (and in photography) there is little time to tell the story, and there is a lot to be said. Douglas abandons himself to his instincts. He takes risks, he searches. He is not interested in beauty for its own sake; he wants life to stop still. This is why he is one of the greatest “freeze-frame” directors of our time – precarious and unstable, just like cinema”, says Cristina Comencini, a film director from Italy.
A series of pictures featuring a 79-year-old Coco Chanel constitutes a special part within the exhibition. During 3 weeks of 1962 on assignment for Look magazine, Douglas Kirkland followed the footsteps of one of the major stylists of all time. He captured Coco Chanel’s preparation for a catwalk show in Paris while she was busy with her daily rituals and during a weekend in Versailles. The pictures create an intimate, deep, and close portrait of Chanel. She appears in a variety of emotions: amused, flirty, defiant, professional, friendly, young, and energetic. Kirkland managed to capture Coco and her galaxy so that it seems that everything in the photographs revolve around her figure: from her personal belongings dresses, jewelry, shoes, her « Dunhill » lighter, to her clients, tailors and seamstresses.
Douglas Kirkland, Behind the scene
January 17 – April 15, 2018
The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography
Bolotnaya Emb., 3/1