The illustrious career of renowned celebrity photographer Douglas Kirkland has stretched over half a century, from a famous shoot with Marilyn Monroe in 1961 to producing the Oscar portraits for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2012. An exhibition of Kirkland’s most striking images can now be seen for free until 5 July at the Mai Manó House on Nagymező utca.
In the course of 2,000 assignments, Douglas Kirkland has shot more than 600 celebrities, from Mick Jagger to Angelina Jolie. Among the star portraits associated with his name, two stand out: Marilyn Monroe and Coco Chanel. These are the focus of a recently opened exhibition the Mai Manó House, free to attend during its run until 5 July.
Born in Toronto in August 1934, Kirkland began working for Look magazine in the golden age of reportage photography, and then for Life in the 1960s and ’70s. He has been involved in the production of films such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Titanic and the DiCaprio remake of The Great Gatsby.
Kirkland’s first big break came when he was assigned by Look to shoot Marilyn Monroe for a cover story in 1961, a major coup for a 26 year old. Shortly before, he had managed to snap the quasi-inaccessible Elizabeth Taylor, which earned him the commission. Kirkland was extremely nervous at the photo shoot, for which Monroe was two hours’ late. Seeing the young photographer’s undisguised embarrassment and agitation, the actress was touched and helped him with several instructions, selecting the most pertinent detail in the snow-white bedding images, putting on Sinatra in the background, and offering champagne – at the current show, images of these secret, behind-the-scenes activities are also on display.
In his later work, Kirkland openly and honestly revealed his feelings about the stars, who appreciated it in return.
While the images for One Night with Marilyn Monroe are mostly about the charms of a sex symbol, Coco Chanel – Myth and Elegance provides a much more complex picture. In 1962, Kirkland spent three weeks with the world-renowned fashion designer, who was 79 at the time, smoked from morning to night, and in several photos, was fitting clothes on models with a ciggy hanging out of her mouth. She refused to speak English and, since the photographer did not speak French, their collaboration proved interesting. In principle, Kirkland was only contracted to photograph the clothes, but after he showed her a couple of secret shots, Chanel nodded that it was okay. The photographer took this as encouragement and followed the style icon from morning till night.
Mai Manó House
District VI. Nagymező utca 20
Open: Tue-Sun noon-7pm