Douglas Kirkland On Seeking Sympathy From Your Subjects

Douglas Kirkland On Seeking Sympathy From Your Subjects

Photographer Douglas Kirkland has made a career out of photographing the famous. That career got its start through being direct and honest with his subjects.

Kirkland’s work is on exhibition at the Queensland Gallery Of Modern Art until October 24, and is worth checking out if you’re in Brisbane. I visited it earlier this week, and the image of Michael Jackson being used to promote the exhibition is much more impressive full-size than in the web version you can see here.

In the annotations to a photograph of Elizabeth Taylor from 1961, Kirkland explains how being up-front about his photographic goals helped to kick-start his career:

Taylor had specifically requested no photography. Kirkland sat quietly throughout the interview and afterwards approached Taylor. He simply said: “I’m new to the magazine. Can you imagine what it would mean to me if you gave me an opportunity to photograph you?” One of the images resulted in Kirkland’s first magazine cover.

Given the rise in pictures taken without anyone’s permission, that’s worth noting. It’s also a reminder of how photography can help overcome shyness.


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