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Douglas Kirkland

COCO CHANEL, 1962

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, surveying 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 worked. 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. Today, 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.

The negatives of these photographs have been in the well-known photographer's vault until exhibited by WESTWOOD GALLERY NYC in 2009. The exhibition of 40 photographs, a documentation of intimate and public moments of a woman who transformed 20th century fashion, traveled to Hawaii, Hong Kong, Tokyo.

 

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MARILYN MONROE

Photographed by Kirkland on November 17, 1961, Marilyn Monroe died a few months later in 1962. The stunning photographs of Monroe as she posed for Kirkland lying on a bed enveloped only in white silk sheets have since become iconic. The 1961 photo shoot became an historic event, due to the intimate exchange between Kirkland and Monroe. At the time, Kirkland was a young 27 year old photojournalist for Look Magazine, who spent the evening alone with Monroe, a 35 year old sex symbol and film star.

 

Besides the iconic images of Marilyn, this series of work includes behind the scenes black and white photographs of Kirkland, taken during his photo shoot with Monroe in a California studio. The photo session required three encounters with Monroe, which according to Kirkland was like meeting three different women. Prior to the shoot she was a sweet, naïve actress, during the photo session he encountered a seductress and the following day Monroe was a distressed, despondent woman.

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ICONS AND LEGENDS

Some of Kirkland's notable subjects include Man Ray, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Orson Welles, John Wayne, Coco Chanel, Pierre Cardin, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Dr. Stephen Hawking, Mick Jagger, Sting, Morgan Freeman, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross.

 

Photographs © Douglas Kirkland