DPP Home Profiles Douglas Kirkland - A Conversation With The Man

Monday, January 7, 2008

Douglas Kirkland - A Conversation With The Man

Douglas Kirkland is one of the great masters of photography. Today, he continues to shoot and spends time speaking to students and up-and-coming photographers around the world.

douglas kirklandFor someone who has built a career photographing the famous, Douglas Kirkland gives off the amiable air of the kind neighbor who lives down the street. But when you walk into his home in the Hollywood Hills that also serves as his office and studio, you quickly realize that this man's life and work embody something of the extraordinary.

You're surrounded by images that he has created and that span a career, beginning at Look and Life magazines to his most recent work serving as “special photographer” to motion pictures, including Titanic and Moulin Rouge. You also see images of master photographers like Pete Turner and Gordon Parks, artists he admires, but who he has also called friends. These are images that do more than reinforce the ego, but are a testimony to a man who turned his passion for making images into a phenomenal career.

In his 70s, Kirkland isn't interested in slowing down or putting down his camera. He's as vibrant and energetic as ever, always pursuing new challenges. Though he has returned to his older work with his latest book, Freeze Frame (Glitterati, Inc., 2007), which he cowrote and produced with his wife and partner, Françoise, he's always looking for the next opportunity to beat his personal best. It's his pursuit of this challenge that has allowed him to survive and thrive despite the steady flow of new photographers who appear every year.

Digital Photo Pro: There's a whole new generation of photographers coming from academic programs like the one you attended at Brooks Institute of Photography. Yet, despite the intensive training they're receiving, there's a lot of anxiety about entering the real, competitive world of photography. Why?

Douglas Kirkland: Well, it's much safer when you're at school. You know what the parameters are and you know what you're dealing with, but once you're into the real world, it's completely different.

Digital Photo Pro: Many people have their ideal vision of what being a photographer is like—you get to travel, make pictures of famous people. Yet, there's a disconnect between that and the fundamental issues of maintaining a business. Does that ideal vision really exist for today's young photographers?

Kirkland: There's a lot to be said about that. We run a successful business, but it's a very full-time job. It takes four of us doing it, to keep everything revolving. And when we go away for almost two months, like when we were down in Australia for the summer, we're constantly immersed with e-mails. So we're connected all the time because there's so much going on. We have print orders, books. There are just so many balls in the air.


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