Douglas Kirkland started his career in 1957 as an apprentice to photographer Irving Penn. At the time, he was hired by Look Magazine during what has become known as the golden age of photojournalism. His assignments in the 1960s and 70s were essays on Greece, Lebanon, and Japan as well as fashion and celebrity work, photographing Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Marlene Dietrich among others. Over the decades, Kirkland has photographed legendary, well-known individuals and completed scores of projects and books. He has also worked with film directors on over 100 film sets, both in the U.S. and abroad.
COCO CHANEL, 1962
In 1962, at the age of 27, Kirkland received an assignment from Look Magazine to photograph Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971) for a story on the legendary fashion icon. For a period of three weeks, Kirkland shadowed Mademoiselle Chanel, capturing her intense schedule and daily routine with models, fitters, clients, and friends. In order to gain her trust and approval, Kirkland was required to initially photograph models wearing her collection and submit the prints for her review. Chanel was so taken with the young man and his photographic skill that she allowed him access to her private rooms, where he surveyed her everyday movements. In addition to fashion images, Kirkland and Chanel took a day trip to Versailles, resulting in surreal photographs of the ‘grande dame’ appropriately set in the royal gardens.
Coco Chanel revolutionized women’s fashion with creativity and style; this included her ‘little black dress’, signature cardigan jacket, women’s casual wear, non-corseted fashions, quilted handbags, short hairstyles, real and costume jewelry, and the world’s best selling perfume—Chanel No. 5. In Kirkland’s images, Chanel is photographed wearing her trademark hat, pearls, and ribbon dangling scissors from her neck as well as her proclivity for cigarettes. Chanel did not sketch her designs, so her garments were created directly on her models. Coco Chanel was the epitome of a strong, independent woman who struggled yet persevered with a passion that consumed her throughout her life. Today, Kirkland remembers Chanel with great fondness and admiration and cherishes the days spent with her. His photographs provide an intimate view of the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century.
The negatives of these photographs have been in the well-known photographer’s vault until exhibited by WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC in 2009. The exhibition of 40 photographs represented a documentation of intimate and public moments of a woman who transformed 20th century fashion. The exhibition has traveled to Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Tokyo in collaboration with Chanel.
Photographed by Kirkland on November 17, 1961, Marilyn Monroe died a few months later in 1962. The stunning photographs of Monroe as she posed for Kirkland lying on a bed enveloped only in white silk sheets have since become iconic due to the intimate exchange between Kirkland and Monroe. At the time, Kirkland was a young 27 year old photojournalist for Look Magazine, who spent the evening alone with Monroe, a 35 year old sex symbol and film star.
Besides the images of Marilyn, this series of work includes behind the scenes black and white photographs of Kirkland, taken during his photo shoot with Monroe in a California studio. The photo session required three encounters with Monroe, which according to Kirkland was like meeting three different women. Prior to the shoot she was a sweet, naïve actress, during the photo session he encountered a seductress, and the following day Monroe was a distressed, despondent woman.
ICONS AND LEGENDS
Over the decades, Kirkland has photographed legendary, well-known individuals and completed scores of projects and books. Some of Kirkland’s notable subjects include Man Ray, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Orson Welles, John Wayne, Coco Chanel, Pierre Cardin, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Dr. Stephen Hawking, Mick Jagger, Sting, Morgan Freeman, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross. He has also worked with film directors on over 100 film sets, both in the U.S. and abroad. His fine art photographs have been exhibited worldwide and received recognition for their historic and artistic value. His exhibition titled “Freeze Frame” is in the permanent collection of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Kirkland’s photographs are also included in the collections of Smithsonian, National Portrait Gallery in London, National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Australia, Eastman House in Rochester, Houston Center for Photography and Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.