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Douglas Kirkland is one of the most accomplished and celebrated photographers of the last fifty years. This installment of the Creative Inspirations series offers insight into Douglas Kirkland's photography, from his early career at Look magazine during the golden age of photojournalism in the 60s and 70s to his transition from analog to digital photography in the 90s. His iconic images of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson, and Nicole Kidman, among others, are known all over the world. This series of videos includes a peek into Douglas's work, his studio, and some of his on-location photo shoots. Also view a presentation showcasing his body of work, a discussion with a group of high school photography students, an interview with Douglas and Lynda, and more.
(Music playing.) Douglas Kirkland: What I am going to do is, first, I am going to start showing you some pictures, and I am going to talk about them. I am going to start with my high school years and even before that. So I am going to be talking and showing you and here they are. These are some of the pictures I took at a high school basketball game and this was again, trying to make it a little different. I got a light and I had a friend up, I wired them up, the light over with a long cable, and these were flashbulbs, this was before strobe.
I mean strobe had barely been invented. And I had them up above and I think I shot like four pictures that night. After each one, he had to unscrew the bulb and put a new one in. It's a very -- I'll be quick about this, but one of the players complained that just when he'd get up there, the light would flash in their eyes. And so the referee came over to me and said, can't you do something about that? And I said, well, it's my light. I mean I have to have it. And he said, well, just, let's just say you've made it a little dimmer. He wanted to me to say that to keep people off his neck, which -- so that's why he said, you do what you need to do. But anyway, this was exciting for me.
Photography for me is really a passion from this very day. This is my friend Seroff Hugard. I had a Rolleicord camera as well, that I bought over a period of like couple of years. I ordered it in a mail-order catalog and it came and this is my one of my close friends. There is a very funny thing I have got to point out here. We didn't have strobes. Again, this is flashbulbs. So I got one flashbulb there and with the flashbulb, you don't get the ball like that.
So what did I do? I taped it on there. I wanted to make sure I got it. And my friend Seroff was a very good model and he really look like he was doing it. What's really exciting was that I sent this picture in and it won a National High School Award. Not in Canada, but in the States, which was even bigger, a bigger deal. I think there were like 10 awards and I was number 2. I wasn't number 1, but I mean that's cool. I mean that was so exciting.
It's just that's where photography came for me and what it means to me to this day. First trip to Europe. I was working with a journalist named Art Buchwald. Everything I do, I tried my best. Even if it's a nothing assignment, I want to make it count. And that's the way I feel in life, as far as I am concerned. Because if you don't try, it's not as much fun. But if you push the limits and see where you can go to, you will be surprised how far you get. I mean that's why I am standing here today. If I hadn't pushed the limits, I would never have gotten to where I am.
This lady is called, her name is Marilyn Monroe. And probably of all the people I've photographed, she is the one who gets the most attention and interests people the most. There is where I perched myself on a stairway coming up here and it was going into a room and I was able to shoot there in this rented studio in Hollywood and that's the picture I got. A few others I am going to show you here, but this is probably more than any other shoot. The one that put me on the map. And that's how we finished the night.
Coco Chanel; we have a book coming out on Coco Chanel. Coco, they called her, Mademoiselle. The people around here did, and there she is. She had a lot of pushiness in some ways, but she ultimately ended up being a great influence upon me. An influence that I carry to this day. I started off shooting fashion because my office had wanted me to do a journalistic reportage on her but she wanted her fashion shot. So I started by shooting the fashion. These are some of the pictures I did just near the Etoile in Paris.
It's fun, it's photography and it's -- I just can't get enough of it at this moment. I photographed a lot of people, celebrities, in motion pictures and entertainment. One of them being Judy Garland. I had her in the studio and I had seen many sides to her in the course of that month. And I said to her, in your life, I see you work so hard and I know it's not all happiness as people think it is. And I won't go into the details of it, but she ended up starting to cry and I was about 6 feet away from her.
With my Hasselblad at that time on a tripod and that's how the picture was done, with a 250 lens on it. This is Ann-Margaret in Las Vegas. She was doing a show there and I got in the trunk for the car and Francoise drove the car, a Fairlane convertible down the highway about 60 miles an hour, and I got into the trunk and shot her. Why 60 miles an hour?, people said. Well, to be honest, look at the way her hair is blowing back and the way that you feel the rush of the street or the road under her. That's pushing it, having fun.
Photography for me is like breathing, and if I can't shoot and have fun, it's like somebody has stopped my ability to breathe. And here we have Virginia Madsen who lives very close to us. Again I tried to make something happen. So here I have -- I don't want just another square image. So what do I do with Virginia? I mean many things I did in the shoot and got a lot of nice pictures. But one of them was just -- we have a lot of glass in our house. I just had her lean on the window and I took a fill light and lit her here and that's daylight behind it.
That's fun! I enjoy photography. Okay, John Lennon. More experiences that are beyond my comprehension almost, even though I stand here having done them. I sometimes look at all these material and I say, did somebody else do it? Have there been three of me? I don't know. Anyway we were in Spain and also in Germany working on a film called 'How I Won The War'. There is another one back at his hotel. This is Francis Ford Coppola and this man back here is George Lucas and San Francisco behind them.
I was doing a story on directors and I said I wanted to photograph these group called Zoetrope and the management at Look and said, no, they are not interesting. Do the Hollywood people. We want the real directors. I said, I kept pushing it. And finally they said, okay, we'll let you do that shoot of that Francis Ford, whatever his name is, but if you do it, you better really knock our socks off with what you do. So I took a fish eye lens and here is San Francisco around behind them and went up on the highest building in the city at that time and I shot it and pushed the limit.
Don't be square, don't confine yourself. Just see how far you can reach. Orson Welles. Now, Orson Welles. I did have an opportunity to photograph him and he was huge, embarrassingly big, and he look like he wasn't well, which he wasn't probably. And I like people to look good. I really want people to look good in my pictures. Truly I do. I had a look around this place. We were shooting actually in a restaurant, upstairs in the restaurant. They were closed, and they said we could shoot up there.
I had a strobe and a tripod case with some stands and things on it. I had a piece of black cloth and there was something like this whiteboard right here, and I just put the black cloth over it and had him hiding behind it. And that gave him a device, a prop to use, that you can lean around and also hid a lot of his size. So you have to think on your feet often. And don't just, I as a photographer say to myself, don't just say, well, it could have been good, but he looked so horrible that day.
It's not good enough. My job as a photographer is to always invent ways, try to find ways, and reach, and surprise, and have fun. So people will have fun. Because I hope what you are seeing in these pictures is a lot of my life, you'll enjoy it. Here I am in Northern Italy, this is with Faye Dunaway, and I don't recommend doing this, but anyway she told me one night when I was driving her out to the set that one of her favorite things she loved to do is go fast in a car. I said let's go out and make a picture that shows that tomorrow. So I had a little convertible and we went up the next day and I went down the highway about 60 miles an hour, holding the wheel with one hand, my Nikon with the 20 millimeter lens on it with the other hand.
That's how that was done. But it's having fun, not being afraid, don't follow the rule books. I mean reach beyond rule books, and what is tradition and what people expect. Here is another example. This paparazzi or paparazzo if you prefer, he's up here, it's not just any paparazzo. It's Peter Sellers and we did a story of Peter Sellers because he loved photography. He was a great comedian, he loved photography. And this is a friend's car and without permission on a Sunday, this is a kind of the stuff we did! We went out and jacked the side of the car to make it look like it was swerving.
This is his wife here, Britt Ekland. She got positioned to stand on the vespa there to make it look like it was moving and nonetheless, nobody is moving, but it looks like it's moving and that's cool. Let's have fun! And that's what I've been doing and we still do it to this day. Jack. We sat, we played, we talked, and I didn't have an assistant with me. TThere was no press agent, just the two of us.
Very simple. I had a camera, and two or three lenses. I had a tripod. I did this with a 180 lens. I remember it well. In those days, Nikon. It would have been just a Canon today. And this is just a vinyl behind, reflecting the trees outside. In any case, we talked about stuff and he first picked up a magnifying glass. He said, I think I'll give you a big smile and I took that picture, but the one I really like was this one. He said-- and then he picked up a match, he stuck it in his mouth, and he said, I think I'll smoke a match.
Okay, now I was out in L.A., Andy Warhol was out here, and my job was to photograph him, and he made a film called 'Trash'. What did I do? I went with 60 millimeter movie camera and shot with that, because I wanted to make a collage. Again I wanted to do a 'Warhol' Warhol. That's what I do. You know, do something, have fun with your cameras! Really do. Have some passion! So 'Titanic', I worked on that 45 days also and did a book on it, which sold I think 3,000,000 copies. It was a wonderful book.
And these are some of the images from it. We did a lot of night work, which is not easy. I read the script. I knew there was this scene was going to be happening when they were dancing and actually, as it worked out, it happened in only one -- it was one take and that's all that was and I was able to get it. I did it all right. First, know about the scene and know what it represented and be in the right place, and again not make -- I don't think I would use a blimp on my camera. I could shoot it but, again, get that one picture and that one-- of the entire film that's probably one of the better pictures I did.
Okay, now we are over on 'Moulin Rouge.' I am glad-- I had to cut down. Part of my problem is I have so much material, I get so turned on, I don't want to show you too much. But anyway, these are from the scenes during the shoot of Moulin Rouge in Sydney, Australia. Nicole Kidman. We wanted to put that moon in there and make it look very false. So they sent it to me and I put it in Photoshop. It's really funny because normally you want something not to show as false, but it was just the option here. Again, be creative, guys. You have so many possibilities today with the computers, with all the tools you have.
If you are not, it's because you are limiting yourself. So anyway, that's the end of our show. Here are the Kirklands photographed by their daughter, Lisa. (Applause.)
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