Kirkland Exhibit in Perth, Australia

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Douglas Kirkland’s touring exhibit, Icons and Idols, features four images from his 1961 photo shoot with Marilyn among 22 shots spanning his long career. It is on display until November 13 at There Is, a gallery in the Northbridge district of Perth, Australia. In an interview with Perth Now, Kirkland reflected on his life as a celebrity photographer.

“He says the entertainment industry has changed ‘like night and day’ from the beginning of his career.

‘This is a different, a vastly different star system today,’ Kirkland says. ‘Social media and the internet have produced more celebrities than at the beginning of my career and I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the ’60s.’

‘People like Elizabeth Taylor and Monroe were the giants then. Today you can only think of Angelina Jolie and another 20 or 30 with staying power but they are not as big as, say, Elizabeth was or Marilyn.’

‘Now, business is money driven, but the access to celebrities is much more limited and controlled. The people who work with stars want to say where they will be and when the photo will be used.'”

Speaking with Australian Vogue, Kirkland reflected on how his images of Marilyn have become iconic since they were taken 55 years ago.

What was it like to photograph Marilyn?

It was thrilling, frightening and exhilarating. I was very young and frankly I wondered if I was in over my head. The session was charged with sexual energy and the results all went into the camera, as the images can tell.

Were you expecting the reaction to the photograph that it received?

Actually the reaction to the Marilyn Monroe photographs came much later. I had no idea at the time that these would become some of my most iconic and sought after images.

Elizabeth Taylor, however, was the one who was instrumental in establishing my career as a celebrity photographer. I looked into her violet eyes and said to her ‘I am new with this magazine, could you imagine what it would mean to me if you gave me an opportunity to photograph you?’ She thought for a moment and nodded as said ‘Come tomorrow night at 7’oclock’.

She had not been seen for a while and the images from the cover session for Look magazine in 1961 went worldwide and catapulted my career.”

Richard Avedon Exhibit in Perth

Richard Avedon, 1957
Richard Avedon, 1957

‘Richard Avedon – People’, a touring exhibit featuring photos of Marilyn, Arthur Miller and others, reaches the Art Gallery of Western Australia on August 2, staying until November 17, Gail Williams reports for Perth Now.

“His legacy of work – preserved by the Richard Avedon Foundation – provides a pictorial history of celebrity and international pop culture of the latter half of the 20th century taking in the civil rights movement, the protesters, the artists, musicians, politicans, poets and writers of the time.

Stripped of celebrity and placed against a stark white backdrop Avedon’s subjects are seen close up, wrinkles, warts and on equal footing with the photographer and the viewer.

Through Avedon’s eyes we see Marilyn Monroe looking lost and vulnerable, caught during a moment when her public mask had slipped. Then in another shot she is once again ‘on show’ playing the vamp with her arms around the neck of her playwright husband, Arthur Miller.

Robert Cook, the project curator at the Art Gallery of WA is excited at the prospect of the unveiling them in a glittering opening night party on July 30 where VIP guests will have their memories jogged by the iconic images from the past six decades.

‘It’s a history of celebrity, in a weird way,’ says Cook. ‘It’s kind of like you see all of society unfolding under his lens.’

One of his favourites is the image of Monroe and Arthur Miller.

‘People always talk about that relationship between those two being such a bad fit,’ he says. ‘But in this picture there’s this gorgeous young girl with a man 11 years older than her who looks handsome and is amazingly youthful looking. It’s one of my favourites…'”