DPP Home Profiles Douglas Kirkland: Master Of The Parka

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

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"Dominik is a very good example," he explains. "In her 8x10, she had to sit still and she looked wonderful. There's one look of her there, and then, of course, you get the total contrary with the motion and movement. It's like two different people, and that's the contrast that I love. Sometimes I sketch things out or I'm given sketches to work to, but I love having an edge. I didn't have the idea of her leaping in the air—I just knew I wanted to get a strong picture. And, boy, did she do it well. She looks spectacular midair.

"You have to look at your subject," Kirkland continues. "You have to respond to them as an individual. This isn't cookie cutter. I don't think photography should be. I think it's sad when creativity and originality and expression from the subject can't go into it. That's what's so important. I say to my subjects, 'We're going to do this picture,' because I can't do it alone. And if they feel good or energized or serious, I feel that should be reflected in the picture. That's who they are. I can't say now you've got to smile and do this or look sad. I can make suggestions of that kind, but I'm not compelling anybody to do anything. I want them to look good. If they're slouched down, I'll say, 'You know it would look a lot better if you sit up a little higher, could you lean on this...' I will make that type of suggestion, but I really want them to have a constructive input."

Elle Fanning Erika Lemay

Adds Kirkland, "There's less opportunity for that with 8x10 because they can't move around a lot. You need to have a good relationship with them and explain clearly what you're doing. I like to shoot wide open because I like that incredible shallow depth of field it gives. In doing that, they only have, like, half an inch they can move forward or backward, or they'll be out of focus. So I have to have that conversation with them. That's where part of that wonderful mistiness, almost coming from a different century, comes from."

The parka project typifies Kirkland's life in photography. With a career spanning more than 50 years, he has worked with traditional large-format film as efficiently and effectively as digital capture and postproduction. Incorporating these varied techniques not only made this particular project more successful, but it's part of what makes Kirkland such a talent. He chooses the technique, any technique, to serve his vision—no matter how new or old that technique might be.

Maxim Ludwig & The Santa Fe Seven
Gabriel Garko

"It's really exciting," he says. "We're very lucky as photographers today. This allows us just to stretch even more. The possibilities we have with digital are exceptional. It's a very exciting period, as far as I'm concerned, in terms of creativity. And the liberty I was given is such that I didn't have restraints. I was inventing. I love that. That's what photography should be. It should be an expression."

Of the creative freedom entrusted to him, Kirkland says, "You can always hang yourself, but I wasn't worried about that. My greater concern was using it well, realizing the value of it and making the most of it. I wanted to treat every image with great sincerity and seriousness because this is an opportunity that we don't very often get, and I just wanted it not to slip away. I wanted to give it truly my best shot.

To see more of Douglas Kirkland's photography, go to www.douglaskirkland.com.


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