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Famed Hollywood photographer, Douglas Kirkland, dies at 88

A photograph by Antonio Marín Segovia depicting Douglas Kirkland photographing iconic actress Marilyn Monroe for Look Magazine’s 25th anniversary issue. Used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Famed Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland passed away at the age of 88 on Sunday, October 2nd. He was surrounded by his wife, two friends, and their dog Sonny Boy, according to an email sent out to announce the unfortunate news.

Douglas Kirkland was born on August 16, 1934 in Toronto and grew up in Fort Erie, Ontario. He became the staff photographer for Look magazine at age 24. It was his photos of Marilyn Monroe, taken for the publication’s 25th anniversary, in 1961, that catapulted him to a household name. He eventually moved on to Life magazine and, as a photojournalist, produced essays representing countries such as Greece, Lebanon and Japan. He also continued to photograph celebrities.

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‘I have a genuine philosophy. I do not want to make negative pictures about people, and so I do everything I can to help make them feel comfortable in front of the camera. That is what is going to control your picture, because you are alone if your subject is not with you. And that’s the simple answer to getting a good picture,’ says Kirkland when describing how he was able to get the personalities of his subjects to shine through.

Besides Marilyn Monroe, Kirkland created classic, distinctive images of numerous Hollywood icons including Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Audrey Hepburn, Orson Welles, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Brigitte Bardot, Diana Ross, Elizabeth Taylor and Charlie Chaplin.

His fine art photography can be found at The National Portrait Gallery in both London and Canberra, Australia, the Smithsonian, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Eastman House in Rochester, the Houston Center for Photography and the Annenberg Space for Photography.

He captured actors and directors in their element while also serving as a film set photographer for over 100 movies shot in the 20th and 21st centuries. These titles include The Great Gatsby, Out of Africa, Titanic, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Sound of Music, and Moulin Rouge!.

Decades behind the camera documenting pivotal figures in cultural history yielded plenty of material for books. Books of his work published in print include An Evening with Marilyn (2002), Coco Chanel: Three Weeks (2003), Freeze Frame (2007), and James Cameron’s Titanic (1997). The latter title was the first picture book to reach the top spot on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Douglas Kirkland is survived by his wife and business partner, Françoise, his son and animation director for The Simpsons, Mark Kirkland, daughters Karen and Lisa, along with five grandchildren and one great grandchild.