Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Douglas Kirkland: Master Of The Parka
Connect world-renowned photographer Douglas Kirkland with an iconic, 180-year clothing brand famous for both style and substance, mix in 18 arts, film and music legends, and you get a collection of images that reveals the diverse facets of each
|This Article Features Photo Zoom|
Douglas Kirkland is a living legend. He has photographed some of the most iconic celebrities of the 20th century—among them, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe—and now he has published a book of portraits centered on an iconic piece of clothing: the parka. Woolrich, maker of the perennial American favorite in winter wear, commissioned Kirkland to make a series of portraits to celebrate the company's 180-year anniversary. The photographer jumped at the opportunity.
"It was a very exciting project," Kirkland says. "How often does a photographer have something handed to him like this? They basically said, 'Tell us what you think should be done.' I wanted to use this opportunity in a very careful manner because so rarely where anything commercial is involved are we given this much license. Everybody wants to be sure; the art directors and this group and that group make sure that it all conforms to this rule and that. Nothing like that kind of constraint was imposed upon me."
Free to photograph as he saw fit, Kirkland quickly arrived at his ideal approach: two portraits of each subject, one made in a traditional manner on large-format black-and-white film—reminiscent of the portraits that would have been made when Woolrich was still a young company—and the other a high-energy contemporary color portrait made with a digital SLR. The series would serve to visually parallel the Woolrich parka through the decades.
"I thought, let's reach back to the earliest days of photography and what it would look like," Kirkland explains. "When someone is photographed with a camera like this, it takes time. You have to set it up carefully; you look through the back, and the image is upside down, and you have to focus it carefully and have your subject stay in one place as they did in Mathew Brady's time. Although we're not flowing plates like he used to have to do, it's a slower process than what most people think of as photography today.
"As a result of that," he continues, "I have learned that people have a different look on their faces. They look like they're from the 19th century rather than the 20th or the 21st. And I saw a value in that, so I suggested that we reach to both ends: We do a portrait of each individual with that camera, a Deardorff 8x10, and then also use the latest digital technology, the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Each individual was photographed in two different ways."
Says Kirkland, "Woolrich allowed me to select most of the people. They made some suggestions, but the majority of them are people whom I know or I felt were appropriate. Among them is a friend of mine whom I've worked with through the years; her name is Erika Lemay and she's been with Cirque du Soleil. On her black-and-white image, I had her hanging upside down wearing the great jacket, the sort of signature jacket, which is very warm and wonderful in cold weather. Everybody was using these jackets as a parallel throughout."
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