Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland finally gets show at home in Canada
At 81, Toronto-born photographer comes home for an exhibition of his famous celebrity snaps
Douglas Kirkland made his career photographing the famous — and became famous doing it. But although he ranks among Canada's best known photographers, he's never had a show in his native land until now.
He's captured portraits of such celebrated subjects as Charlie Chaplin, Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.
Surprisingly, he credits his Canadian upbringing for his success working with famous faces.
"I think it has something to do with being raised in Ontario, with real people," he told CBC News during an interview at the Izzy Gallery.
The Toronto gallery is hosting an exhibit featuring large format prints of some of his most iconic works.
"I just try to be honest with everybody, as I am here with you today. You shouldn't try to be something you aren't," said the 81-year-old Kirkland.
"You have to be honest with people and hopefully they will be honest with you. And that's where all this work comes from."
Included in the Toronto exhibition are images from one of Kirkland's most renowned gigs: his 1961 session with Marilyn Monroe, which took place just months before her untimely death.
Kirkland recalled how, as a young photographer, he went to meet the movie star in her apartment to discuss ideas for the photo shoot.
"She said: 'I know what we need. We need a bed, a white silk sheet, Dom Pérignon champagne and Frank Sinatra records. We don't need anything more. And I'm going to be in that bed with nothing on!'
"Could you imagine what a young man like me was thinking?"
That session produced several images that count among the most iconic shots of the much-photographed screen starlet.
For that, Kirkland credits the sexual energy in the room that emanated from his subject.
"She was just under this white silk sheet, nothing on. And I'm a kid from Fort Erie!"
Kirkland's big break
Born in Toronto in 1934 and raised in Fort Erie, Ont., Kirkland got his start working for local newspapers before moving to New York.
There, he landed a job with Look magazine, which then had a circulation of seven million. His big break came when he was sent along with a journalist interviewing Elizabeth Taylor to try to coax the screen siren to pose for his camera.
"I went over to her at the end of the interview and took her hand," he recounted.
"I said: 'Elizabeth, I'm new with this magazine.' Waiting, waiting. Then I said: 'Could you imagine what it would mean to me if you give me an opportunity to photograph you?' And these photographs became the beginning of my career photographing celebrities."
Soon, Kirkland had assignments photographing Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren and more.
He has also shot stills on more than 100 movie sets, from The Sound of Music to Saturday Night Fever to Titanic to The Great Gatsby.
His work is featured at the Smithsonian, the U.K.'s National Portrait Gallery and in many other permanent collections.
Douglas Kirkland A Life in Pictures is on display at Toronto's Izzy Gallery until June 30.
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