Douglas Kirkland, who has photographed such icons as Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, is headlining downtown Orlando’s new photography festival.
Audrey Hepburn and the man who took her picture, Douglas Kirkland.
Courtesy of Douglas Kirkland
Call it nervousness. Or insecurity. Or even performance anxiety.
Whatever it was, Douglas Kirkland was struggling with a major case of it back in 1961, as he prepared to photograph Marilyn Monroe for Look magazine.
“I was scared to death,” he confessed, recalling the important assignment. “I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t do anything.” But when Kirkland started shooting the star (who, by the way, was clad in a sheet), most of those jitters vanished.
“It became very sexually charged,” he recalled, speaking with me from his home/studio in California’s Hollywood Hills. “I don’t say that she was coming on to this young kid that I was…That [sexuality] was what was coming to the camera.”
If Marilyn is the most glamorous star that Kirkland has ever photographed, she is hardly the only one. In a career that spans half a century, the 75-year-old artist has taken pictures of everyone from Nicole Kidman to Elizabeth Taylor (“the celebrity that really started my career”), John Wayne to Michael Jackson, Katharine Hepburn to Audrey Hepburn (“there was a gentleness about her”), Charlie Chaplin to Ted Turner (“difficult”), Judy Garland to Coco Chanel to Barbra Streisand.
You might say that Kirkland is something of a celebrity himself. The Toronto-born photographer is probably the most famous of the many shooters—local, national and international—who are participating in snap!, a new photography festival set for May 20-23 in downtown Orlando. (Go to snaporlando.com and orlandoslice.com/page/an-evening-with-douglas for details.)
In addition to showing his work at snap!, Kirkland will be there in person to discuss his career. The festival will also include work by such prominent photographers as Lionel Deluy, known for his fashion and celebrity photos, and Sinisha Nisevic, the official photographer for Versace.
“We want to do a yearly photography event to put Orlando a little bit more on the cultural map,” said Patrick Kahn of College Park (by way of Los Angeles, France and Switzerland), an art director and co-founder of the festival. He added that along with exhibits and lectures, snap! will present workshops, receptions, performances and other events, including some for students and families.
While Kirkland’s exhibit will feature his photos of celebrities, it will also include shots from a series for which he restaged moments from such classic Italian films as The Bicycle Thief, 8½ and La Dolce Vita.
Whatever their subjects, Kirkland’s photos are marked by a striking absence of ego. Where other photographers sometimes rely on gimmicks that ultimately call attention to the shooter, he is focused squarely on his subjects and their particular qualities.
When I asked Kirkland about this, his response was characteristically modest.
“It’s not the photographer who makes the picture alone,” he explained. “It’s the photographer and the subject.”
That’s Mayberry, Not Gayberry
Florida’s movie industry has been getting a lot of national attention lately—the wrong kind of national attention. And for this we have Orlando lawmaker Stephen L. Precourt to thank.
Rep. Precourt (R-District 41) sponsored a bill in the state Legislature to make movies and TV shows produced in Florida ineligible for a special tax credit if they display “nontraditional family values.”
What does that mean, exactly? Sex, nudity, smoking, profanity and “gratuitous violence” for starters, according to The Palm Beach Post.
When the paper asked if productions with gay characters would receive that tax credit, Precourt replied, “That would not be the kind of thing I’d say that we want to invest public dollars in.” He added, referring to The Andy Griffith Show, “Think of it as like Mayberry.”
Clearly, Precourt hasn’t quite figured out the subtext on Floyd the barber, to say nothing of Gomer (shazam!). And after protests from many quarters, he has backed off his position. But going forward, and strictly as a practical matter, wouldn’t it be wiser for Florida to avoid legislation that is sure to offend many people in the very business that the state is trying to attract?