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Douglas Kirkland, Who Took Portraits of Movie Stars, Dies at 88


Douglas Kirkland, a photojournalist and portraitist whose subjects included Marilyn Monroe wrapped in a silk sheet and Coco Chanel at work in her Paris atelier, died on Oct. 2 at his home within the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 88.

Francoise (Kemmel-Coulter) Kirkland, his wife and manager, confirmed the death but didn’t specify a cause.

For greater than 60 years, Mr. Kirkland was a number one celebrity photographer, first for Look and Life magazines after which as a freelancer for various magazines, Hollywood studios and promoting agencies. Courteous and exuberant — he was no annoying paparazzo — Mr. Kirkland was welcomed into stars’ homes and hotel rooms and onto movie sets.

The tall, dashing Mr. Kirkland “had this magical quality,” said Karen Mullarkey, who worked with Mr. Kirkland as director of photography at Latest York and Newsweek magazines. “He had this fashion of creating people comfortable — he was so enthusiastic.” For a problem of Latest York, she recalled, she brought the model Kathy Ireland a bunch of peonies, and as he photographed Ms. Ireland, Ms. Mullarkey heard him saying: “Caress them! Kiss them! They’re your boyfriend!”

In 1961, a yr after joining Look, Mr. Kirkland had two dramatic encounters. For the primary, he accompanied Jack Hamilton, a reporter, to Las Vegas for an interview with Elizabeth Taylor, then one in every of the largest stars on the planet. When the three met, Ms. Taylor said that she would talk but not sit for pictures.

After the interview, Mr. Kirkland recalled to the web site Vintage News Every day in 2021, he tried to steer her to pose for him. He held her hand and said: “I’m latest with this magazine. Are you able to imagine what it could mean to me should you let me photograph you?”

“I didn’t let go of her hand; she wore jungle gardenia perfume which I could smell afterward,” he continued. “She thought for some time and said, ‘Come back tomorrow at 8 p.m.’”

The result — an image of Ms. Taylor in a yellow jacket, wearing spectacular diamond earrings — appeared on the quilt of Look’s Aug. 15, 1961, issue.

Later that yr, Look sent Mr. Kirkland to Los Angeles to photograph Ms. Monroe. They met at her house, where she told him what she wanted for the shoot: a white silk sheet, Frank Sinatra records and Dom Perignon Champagne.

Once they met at a studio 4 days later, she slipped out of a robe and got right into a bed, swaddled herself in a sheet and posed for Mr. Kirkland, who for a part of the shoot perched himself in a balcony above her. She was, it seemed, directing, herself, with what looked like joy. She hugged the pillow, hid all the things but her face within the sheet and turned her back to the camera.

“I had all the things technically right,” Mr. Kirkland said in an interview with “CBS This Morning” in 2012. “My Hasselblad — click, click, click — however it was Marilyn Monroe who really created these images.”

He recalled that shoot within the 2020 documentary “That Click: The Legendary Photography of Douglas Kirkland,” directed by Luca Severi: “What the pillow represents is what she would really like to be doing to a person, and I might have been in there and been the pillow. But I selected to maintain taking pictures, because that’s how Douglas Kirkland really, bottom line, is.”

Look used only one in every of the Monroe pictures, contained in the magazine, but Mr. Kirkland collected lots of them in a 2012 book, “With Marilyn: An Evening/1961.” His other books of photographs include “Light Years: 3 Many years Photography Among the many Stars” (1989), “Icons” (1993) and “Legends” (1999).

At Look and Life, after which as an on-set photographer, Mr. Kirkland shot pictures throughout the production of greater than 100 movies, including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Sophie’s Alternative,” “Rain Man” and a number of other Baz Luhrmann movies, starting with “Moulin Rouge!” in 2001. Mr. Luhrmann said in “That Click” that Mr. Kirkland’s photography “captures the romance of cinema.”

His profession began at a time when his subjects were accessible to journalists, and it continued right into a time when stars and their handlers exerted greater power over the media. “Within the ’60s, there was an idea of letting the camera be revealing of truth,” he told The Latest York Times in 1990. “Today, it’s more like ‘Entertainment Tonight.’”

Douglas Morley Kirkland was born on Aug. 16, 1934, in Toronto and raised from age 3 in Fort Erie, Ontario. His father, Morley, owned a store where he made men’s made-to-measure clothing, and his mother, Evelyn (Reid) Kirkland, kept the books in the shop.

He took his first picture with a Brownie camera as a young child: his family standing on the front door of their home on Christmas Day. By 14, he was photographing weddings. After highschool, he studied on the Latest York Institute of Photography after which returned to Canada, where he worked for 2 local newspapers, after which moved to Richmond, Va., to work as a industrial photographer.

While there, he wrote three letters to the influential fashion photographer Irving Penn, looking for a job. In 1957, Mr. Penn hired him as his assistant.

“I used to be paid $50 per week, and even in those days in Latest York it was not too easy,” he said in an interview with the American Society of Media Photographers in 2017. “But I used to be with Penn and I used to be quickly learning.”

In 1960 he joined Look. He stayed there until the magazine folded in 1971, when he was hired by Life, where he remained until it stopped weekly publication the following yr. For the remaining of his profession he was a freelancer, working for Time, Paris Match, Sports Illustrated, Town & Country and other magazines.

He received the American Society of Cinematographers’ Presidents Award in 2011 for his photographic work on film sets. The following yr, he was commissioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to create a series of official portraits of the Oscar nominees within the 4 acting categories, amongst them George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close.

One among them, Michelle Williams, had been nominated for taking part in Ms. Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn.” Within the documentary “That Click,” she said that being photographed by the identical man who had photographed Ms. Monroe a half-century earlier had been a moving experience.

“Never could I even have imagined this form of circumstance,” she said.

Along with his wife, Mr. Kirkland is survived by his son, Mark, and his daughters, Karen Kirkland and Lisa Kirkland Gadway, from his marriage to Marian Perry, which resulted in divorce; five grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

In August 1962, Mr. Kirkland spent three weeks with Coco Chanel in Paris for Look. At first she was wary of him, permitting him to shoot only the outfits she had designed but not her. But after he showed her his first set of prints, she backed off, letting him observe her at work — at all times in a hat and typically surrounded by her staff. On his last day there, she suggested that they take a ride to the Palace of Versailles. He took one last picture of her, walking alone within the palace’s gardens.

“It was chilly and had began to rain, regardless that it was August, so I gave her my raincoat,” Mr. Kirkland told The Guardian in 2015. “She put it over her shoulders and it looked almost like a modern cape. She said that she often liked to go there since it gave her a possibility to wander away in time while being surrounded by the magnitude of old French culture.”

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