Douglas Kirkland

Coco Chanel 1962


Curated by James Cavello


In 1962, at the age of 27, Kirkland received an assignment from Look Magazine to photograph Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971) for a story on the legendary fashion icon. For a period of three weeks, Kirkland shadowed Mademoiselle Chanel capturing her intense schedule and daily routine with models, fitters, clients and friends. In order to gain her trust and approval, Chanel instructed Kirkland to initially photograph models wearing her collection and submit the prints for her review. Chanel was so taken with the young man and his photographic skill; she allowed him access to her private rooms to survey her everyday movements. In addition to fashion images, Kirkland and Chanel took a day trip to Versailles resulting in surreal photographs of the 'grande dame' appropriately set in the royal gardens. Coco Chanel revolutionized women's fashion with creations and style, including the 'little black dress', Chanel's signature cardigan jacket, women's casual wear, non-corseted fashions, quilted handbags, short hairstyles, mixing real and costume jewelry, and many other styles and trends, as well as Chanel No. 5, the world's best selling perfume. In many images Chanel is wearing her trademark hat and pearls, scissors hanging from a ribbon around her neck and smoking constantly while she works. Chanel did not sketch her designs so her creations took effect while draping fabric directly on the models. Coco Chanel was the epitome of a strong, independent woman, never married, who struggled yet persevered with a passion that consumed her throughout her life.


The negatives of these photographs have been in the well-known photographer's vault for the past 46 years, and have never been exhibited before. The exhibition of 40 photographs represents a documentation of intimate and public moments of a woman who transformed 20th century fashion. Today, at 80 years old, Kirkland remembers with great fondness and admiration the days spent with Coco Chanel. His photographs provide a personal view of this extraordinary individual, the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century.



About the artist

Douglas Kirkland started his career in 1957 as an apprentice to photographer Irving Penn and was hired by Look Magazine as a photojournalist. Since then, he has completed scores of projects and books, and his fine art photographs have been widely exhibited in Europe, Asia, and the United States in both galleries and museums. In 2002 Kirkland was named 'Photographer of the Year' by PhotoImaging, Manufacturing and Distributor's Association (PMDA). He is the recipient of the 2003 Lucie Award for 'Outstanding Achievement in Entertainment Photography', as well as receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Motion Picture Society of Operating Cameramen. In 2006, he was awarded The Golden Eye of Russia and also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from CAPIC in his native Toronto, Canada. In 2007, Douglas received an Honorary Master of Fine Arts Degree from Brooks Institute for his commitment and dedication to his profession.



Douglas Kirkland's photographs have been on view and/or are in the collection of the following museums and institutions in the US and internationally: The Annenberg Space for Photography, Dayton Art Institute (Dayton, OH), Huntington Museum of Art (Huntington, WV), The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, (Halifax, Canada), Fine Arts Center Colorado Springs, Chicago Cultural Center, Saginaw Art Museum (Saginaw, MI), The Glenbow Museum (Calgary, Canada), The Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba, Canada), Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, PA), HMCP Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Museum of the Triennial in Milan, The Smithsonian, the National Portrait Gallery in London, Eastman House in Rochester.

Photographs © Douglas Kirkland