This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to commission portraits of each of the 20 2012 Oscar-nominated actors and actresses.
Who did they call? Renowned photographer (and lynda.com author) Douglas Kirkland, who has photographed hundreds of actors and performers in his storied career. The resulting portraits form an exhibit called Out of Character, which is on display at the Academy’s Beverly Hills headquarters until March 18.
Last Friday, Douglas gave a few of us an exhibit tour, during which he talked about the portraits and his process. We’re pleased to be able to share it with you. Check it out, then check out his Douglas Kirkland on Photography series.
In this latest installment of his series, Douglas visits his friend Gerd Ludwig, a photojournalist best known for his work in National Geographic magazine. Ludwig has taken a special interest in Russia and the former Soviet Union—in particular, the people and stories surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Ludwig has photographed Chernobyl several times over the years. He wanted to return to document the conditions there today, but support from the traditional publishing industry wasn’t there. So he turned to the crowd—specifically, to Kickstarter.com, the crowdfunding website. He created a project proposal containing text and video descriptions of his project. He raised more than $23,000 from 435 backers and in March, he departed for Chernobyl.
Douglas visited with Ludwig in his home on the day before he left, and the course includes a tour of his gear and a look at how he packs for an expedition. When he returned, he and Douglas met in our studio to look at Ludwig’s photos and talk about Chernobyl today.
Capturing the conversation between Douglas Kirkland and Gerd Ludwig (Jim Heid photo).
On his latest trip, Ludwig also shot video in the depths of the poisoned reactor using a tiny video camera strapped to his protective helmet. As he says after he and Douglas watch the footage, video is “the new work of a photojournalist or documentary photographer.”
And Ludwig’s photos? They’re powerful and moving visual essays on the nightmare of Chernobyl and on how the area is being changed by residents who have moved back, and, incredibly, by tourists who visit to take photos.
Douglas Kirkland’s passion for photography began in his youth and launched a six-decade journey that shows no signs of slowing down. His biography is the stuff of dreams for a photographer. As a staffer at Look and Life magazines, he traveled the world on assignment during the golden age of American photojournalism. He has also worked on the sets of over 100 films, photographing stars ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Michael Jackson. He has photographed astronomical observatories in Chile and railroads in Siberia. He’s published several books, and his photos have been showcased in exhibits worldwide.
It’s as impressive a résumé as you’ll find in the photographic world.
But when I met Douglas Kirkland, what impressed me most was his warmth and his generous spirit. He loves connecting with people. He loves what he does and he loves sharing his photographic passion and knowledge.
These traits are immediately obvious in Douglas Kirkland on Photography, a new monthly series in the Online Training Library®. Each month, Douglas explores a variety of real-world photographic scenarios. Follow along on a photo shoot as Douglas describes his technical and creative processes. After each shoot, Douglas reviews the results and points out the differences that can separate a good photograph from a better one.
Douglas’s tools are as diverse as his subjects. He might shoot with a digital SLR one day, a medium-format film camera the next day, and an 8×10 Deardorff view camera on the day after that. He’ll use strobes for one shoot and natural light for another. The subject is what matters, and Douglas chooses his tools accordingly.
You’ll see each of these tools in action in our new series. And because sustaining a six-decade career means being able to adapt to changing business conditions, you’ll also hear insights into the business of photography.
In the first installment of the series, Douglas shows how he works with natural light to create beautiful portraits. Next month, we’ll head into his studio for a look at shooting under the lights.
It’s a thrill for all of us to work with Douglas and his wife and business partner, Francoise, on this series. We’re eager to hear what you think of it—and what you’d like to learn from Douglas in future installments.
For an introduction to Douglas and his work, see our Creative Inspirations documentary that features him.
On Thursday, November 4, all are welcome to Celebrity Vault in Beverly Hills for the book signing of Michael Jackson: The Making of Thriller by photographer Douglas Kirkland. The book signing and reception is from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
In four days in 1983, Douglas Kirkland was the only photographer allowed on the set of Thriller. Kirkland took photos for Life magazine, but the photos were never published until now.