Phil Stern | Hollywood Portraits

Posted: January 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cinema, Film, Los Angeles, Nikon, Photography

Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn, 1960 © Phil Stern

Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn, 1960 © Phil Stern

I call him the Cartier-Bresson or Robert Frank of Hollywood. He wouldn’t allow the orchestrated P.R. photograph. He made authentically real photographs, and in the context of Hollywood, to make a real picture is odd.

- Los Angles photography gallery owner, David Fahey

James Dean © Phil Stern

James Dean © Phil Stern

My meeting with Jimmy Dean occurred in 1953, somewhere in the spring. I was aware of him of course. I was driving on Sunset Boulevard west towards Life Magazine’s offices….and passing through Crescent Heights Blvd, green light, coming down the other way, crossing the red light, was a crazy guy on a motorcycle. Anyway, he jammed n is brakes, I jammed on mine, I avoided killing him by a few inches. But anyway, he got up off the bike and he gave me a dopey grin. I was cursing him, using every expletive I could think of. And, that dope grin did it I guess. We became friends right there and we both went to breakfast at Schwab’s drugstore. By this time of course, I knew who he was.

-Phil Stern

James Dean © Phil Stern

James Dean © Phil Stern

There are some people who you don’t have to do anything with. And Jimmy was one of them: He was totally whimsical. There’s one shot where Dean peeks out of a sweater. I didn’t use a tripod or Strobe lights. I had a hand held Nikon. We broke all the rules that day.

-Phil Stern

 

James Dean © Phil Stern

James Dean © Phil Stern

I was a full decade older than Dean, but we hit it off. We were both a little nuts. I was a New York Jewish kid, from the Bronx; he was this Midwest eccentric. Neither of us was part of the Establishment. I feel his politics was only for the underdog.

-Phil Stern

Marylin Monroe, 1953 © Phil Stern

Marylin Monroe, 1953 © Phil Stern

Back in the Fifties, for me to photograph Marilyn Monroe, it was a catch-as-catch-can situation. I did not have her at my disposal the way some photographers did. So the only time I could get her was either surreptitiously or at a photo opportunity. And in that case, it was important for me to try to get a photograph that doesn’t look the same as the others. So I had to watch carefully and if she did anything unusual with her face or expression, I had to be alert enough to snap it.

-Phil Stern

Marilyn Monroe © Phil Stern

Marilyn Monroe © Phil Stern

I had an assignment from Look Magazine. The assignment was what Sam Goldwyn sees from his window. And I had telephoto cameras located at Sam Goldwyn’s office and it was setup in such a way there was no knowledge whatever of the people below and I was getting intimate pictures of them. And that’s where I was able to get those pictures of Marilyn Monroe walking with Paula Strassberg. At certain days, they were inseparable. And that was the time when she was pregnant during her marriage with Arthur Miller, At one point, her pregnancy was such that she was beginning to show.

And in one of those photos that made, she wore a dark kimono over a white outfit. And the wind blew open the kimono and it was very obvious that she was pregnant.

I believe and I’m not sure about it, that that is the only shot of her pregnant.

-Phil Stern

© Phil Stern

© Phil Stern

Alma and Alfred Hitchcock © Phil Stern

Alma and Alfred Hitchcock © Phil Stern

The pictures I most like are not necessarily pictures of Hollywood stars. I’m always looking for the perfect picture, and it does not matter who’s in it. And I can also add that I am more than 90 years old and have been holding a camera since age 14, and I have not yet found the perfect picture yet. But I will always keep looking for it.

-Phil Stern

Frank Sinatra © Phil Stern

Frank Sinatra © Phil Stern

[I shot] Sinatra literally in the position of Christ nailed to the cross. He choreographed it himself. This was a personal gag created for Mervyn Leroy, a director he had contempt for. He sent it along with a note that said, “O.K., you now have me where you want me. Frank.”

-Phil Stern

Cast of Flight of the Phoenix © Phil Stern

Cast of Flight of the Phoenix © Phil Stern

Cast of Flight of the Phoenix © Phil Stern

Cast of Flight of the Phoenix © Phil Stern

Jack Lemmon © Phil Stern

Jack Lemmon © Phil Stern

Sidney Poiter, Tony Curtis, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Jack Lemmon on the lot of Goldwyn Studios, 1959 © Phil Stern

Sidney Poiter, Tony Curtis, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Jack Lemmon on the lot of Goldwyn Studios, 1959 © Phil Stern

Bogart trusted me. [James] Dean trusted me. And Wayne. During the war, Wayne was never in the military. Bogart and Wayne may have seen themselves as a lot more macho than they actually were. I, in contrats, had been wounded. So my reputation in their eyes was as a tough guy.

-Phil Stern

Sophia Loren in ”Legend of the Lost” in the Libyan desert, 1957 © Phil Stern

Sophia Loren in ”Legend of the Lost” in the Libyan desert, 1957 © Phil Stern

Marlon Brando © Phil Stern

Marlon Brando © Phil Stern

James Stewart, 1966 © Phil Stern

James Stewart, 1966 © Phil Stern

John Ford © Phil Stern

John Ford © Phil Stern

Marlon Brando, 1954 © Phil Stern

Marlon Brando, 1954 © Phil Stern

But like I said before – the most important thing is access for the photographer. There are many good photographers but they are not appreciated for their work that they do not gain access to the appropriate places.

-Phil Stern

Ella Fitzgerald © Phil Stern

Ella Fitzgerald © Phil Stern

Frank Sinatra in his dressing room during the filming of Guys and Dolls, 1955 © Phil Stern

Frank Sinatra in his dressing room during the filming of Guys and Dolls, 1955 © Phil Stern

Sinatra especially for some reason liked the photos I made and he liked me. He didn’t love me but he liked me. He gave me access to the many things he did: his concerts, special events, television shows and when he worked in movies. I had many assignments with Sinatra, the most important one perhaps was the inauguration in 1961 of President Kennedy. And when Kennedy had a big gala, he appointed Sinatra to do all the entertainment. In that case, he asked me to be the resident photographer.

-Phil Stern

Frank Sinatra and John Kennedy at Kennedy's Inaugural Ball © Phil Stern

Frank Sinatra and John Kennedy at Kennedy's Inaugural Ball © Phil Stern

Nancy Sinatra © Phil Stern

Nancy Sinatra © Phil Stern

Lauren Bacall & Leslie Bogart © Phil Stern

Lauren Bacall & Leslie Bogart © Phil Stern

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis © Phil Stern

Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis © Phil Stern

In my mind a photographer is like a carpenter. He can make a beautiful cabinet and you can exclaim `it’s a work of art,’ but it’s never going to be a Rembrandt.

-Phil Stern

Elizabeth Taylor, 1954 © Phil Stern

Elizabeth Taylor, 1954 © Phil Stern

Matisse I ain’t.

-Phil Stern

Humphrey Bogart with his daughter, Leslie, mid 1950s © Phil Stern

Humphrey Bogart with his daughter, Leslie, mid 1950s © Phil Stern


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Allan Grant | Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly

Posted: April 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Cinema, Film, Los Angeles, Photography

Award presenters Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly waiting backstage at the RKO Pantages Theatre, during the 28th Annual Academy Awards, Life Magazine, March 21, 1956.

Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly © Allan Grant, Life Magzine, March 21, 1956

Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly © Allan Grant, Life Magzine, March 21, 1956


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John Dominis | Mickey Mantle

Posted: June 23rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Film, New York City, Photography

That’s my technique with people. I’m sort of a fly on the wall. You try not to interfere, hang around, hope that they don’t even notice you, and if they do, they don’t care.

-John Dominis

Mickey Mantle Having a Bad Day at Yankee Stadium, New York, 1965 © John Dominis

Mickey Mantle Having a Bad Day at Yankee Stadium, New York, 1965 © John Dominis

Sports photography is extremely tough. It may be the most active of photography genres as games and events are being recorded by thousands of photographers every day. The moments are captured and the action is documented to convey what has occurred but few images ever break through this base level of reportage to become iconic moments. Think of it. How many great sports photographs can you remember? Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston (in 1965 also), Mary Decker’s fall at the 1984 Olympics, the Black Power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos performed at the 1968 Olympics.

Is that it? Is it because sports photography is overshadowed by the video of these great moments that we are watching live? Or that what strikes most sports fans are the unusual photos, the physically incredible images that can have little lasting value; the moment of impact, crashes, great catches, etc. I do not know.

This shot of Mickey Mantle has always been an important one to me. Ever since I first saw it, this image has been burned into my eye, this great moment of sour frustration and dejection by one of the greats as he heads back down into the dugout. The empty frame, the curve of his body from the S line of his spine, crowning to his bowed head, and the delicate dancer’s line of his arm to the splayed out fingers to the batting helmet looking forlorn hanging in mid air as if on the head of the person to blame for Mantle’s mood.

There is so much emotion and drama in sports but so few images capture something that seems more complicated than victory or defeat.


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William Carlos Williams | This Is Just To Say

Posted: May 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Film, Photography, Poetry

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

-William Carlos Williams

Two interesting portraits of Williams to contrast, only three years apart, both for Life Magazine.

William Carlos Williams, Nov 01, 1954 by Lisa Larsen © Time / Life

William Carlos Williams, Nov 01, 1954 by Lisa Larsen © Time / Life

Williams Carlos Williams, 1951 in Rutherford, NJ by Alfred Eisenstaedt © Life

Williams Carlos Williams, 1951 in Rutherford, NJ by Alfred Eisenstaedt © Life


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Alfred Eisenstadt | Puppet Show, Paris

Posted: February 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Film, Photography

Caption from Life Magazine:

A puppet show of St. George slaying the dragon evokes deep (and ranging!) emotions among French children in 1963. Clearly they share their country’s passion for the arts, Jan 01, 1963.

French Puppet Show, 1963 © Alfred Eisenstaedt./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

French Puppet Show, 1963 © Alfred Eisenstaedt./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Snippet from the proof sheet:

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 01 Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images May 01, 1963

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 01 Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images May 01, 1963


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Gordon Parks | Long Haired Furs

Posted: September 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Film, Photography, Quotes

This series from Life Magazine in 1952 sums up just one of the many contradictions and facets that made up Gordon Parks. Filmmaker, poet, writer, photographer, movie producer, cinematographer, magazine publisher, novelist, activist, choreographer, semi-pro basketball player, and composer. And those are the accomplishments of his that I can list just off the top of my head.

He was an amazing man and perhaps his greatest work of art was his life itself. Read his works, watch his movies, read about his life, view his images. He was truly an iconoclast.

Someone once described him as the “elegant photojournalist.” This may be true, but it is also a sadly narrow and tiny taste of his expansive talents.

What is truly remarkable is how he could compartmentalize his talents. The eyes and the mind behind these images were also behind Shaft, The Learning Tree, “American Gothic” and “The Emerging Man”.

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

You know, the camera is not meant just to show misery.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

There’s another horizon out there, one more horizon that you have to make for yourself and let other people discover it, and someone else will take it further on, you know.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

I bought my first camera in Seattle, Washington. Only paid about seven dollars and fifty cents for it.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

I haven’t even learned how to spell Renaissance yet.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

But all I know, it was a constant effort, a constant feeling that I must not fail, and I still have that. And now, I feel at 85, I really feel that I’m just ready to start.

-Gordon Parks

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

In New York growing up, you never saw a black person on the street, you never saw a black person in the store, you never saw them in a restaurant. It just didn’t exist. So when Gordon and I met, it was really without any boundaries. First of all, he was drop-dead good-looking. We just looked into each other’s eyes, and we were friends.

-Gloria Vanderbilt

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Life Magazine, Gordon Parks, 1952

Many times I wondered whether my achievement was worth the loneliness I experienced, but now I realize the price was small.

-Gordon Parks


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Mad Men | Penn Station

Posted: August 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Architecture, Film, History, New York City, Photography, Quotes

This past Sunday, “Mad Men” (Season 3 Episode 2) referenced the venerable architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable when Paul Kinsey and Pete Campbell were meeting with the developers of Madison Square Garden, discussing plans to knock down Penn Station.

It quotes Ms. Huxtable’s article in the New York Times from 1963 about Penn Station, called “How to Kill a City”. The New York Times has offered the full article in PDF to download and read here.

A eulogy in October of ’63 ran in the editorial section:

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.

- “Farewell to Penn Station,” New York Times, Oct 30, 1963

Comparing the old to the new, Vincent Scully of Yale University remarked,

One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.

The original Penn Station was a steel and glass shrine to transportation, an elegant Beaux-Arts temple with its 150 foot high ceilings and a waiting room modeled after the Roman Baths of Caracalla.

Now it is an underground Habitrail™, lit by yellowed fluorescents and flavored by the odors of Roy Rogers™ and Cinnabon™ stinking down the corridors. Excepting the mad scurry for Amtrak platforms after the track number has finally been revealed on the big board, it is an oppressive space completely without joy.

photographer unknown

photographer unknown

Couple in Penn Station Sharing Farewell Kiss Before He Ships Off to War During WWII by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Couple in Penn Station Sharing Farewell Kiss Before He Ships Off to War During WWII by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Life Magazine has posted an entire series by Eisenstaedt of WWII soldiers’ farewells at Penn Station here.

Penn Station, circa 1910, Detroit Publishing Company

Circa 1910, Detroit Publishing Company; click to view the full size image

photographer unknown

Berenice Abbott, printed ca. 1935

AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman

AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman

photograph by Peter Moore

Peter Moore; click to view full size

Peter Moore and his wife Barbara documented the death of Penn Station and published their work, The Destruction Of Penn Station.

photographer unknown

today

The only consolation is that Penn Station’s demolition was a large factor in the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.


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