28 November 2007

George Hurrell - a study in glamour

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When the word Hollywood is mentioned, images of glamour are automatically conjured. In fact, Hollywood and glamour could be synonyms. Even in this age of three named teeny boppers and politically correct Disney drab, the mention of Hollywood puts stars in your eyes.

Photographer George Hurrell is largely responsible for creating this image of glamour associated with Hollywood. During the golden age of Hollywood, he authored publicity photos of all the big names. Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, Norma Shearer, Rita Hayworth and even less glamorous ventures like the United States Army all gained benefit from Hurrel's eye for composition and the intricate play of black and white portrayed in his work.

Following his work for the United States Army, Hurrell worked for fashion magazines in New York. During the seventies, he returned to Hollywood to photograph the leading stars of the day including Raquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett and John Travolta. One can't help but wonder how he kept the gaping black hole that is John Travolta's chin from sucking all the studio light in, or even bending it. Maybe his magical Scientology abilities prevented this.

During the mid-seventies Hurrell officially retired as a photographer, but still took photographs of newer stars he felt were interesting. During the eighties, Joan Collins(aged 50 at the time) was asked to appear nude in Playboy, and agreed on the condition that George Hurrell would be the photographer. With nerves of steel, Hurrell survived the ordeal and produced the now famous 12 page layout for Playboy. I have no idea what they look like. I like my horror, but I do have my limits.

Shortly before his death in 1992, Hurrell gathered a galaxy of new stars once again. This time he had them dressed in the thirties style and took photos to resemble the glamour of that period. Sean Penn, Julian Sands, Eric Roberts, Sharon Stone and once again Raquel Welch are among those who posed for his period piece portraits.

Hollywood Photography of Hurrell, with examples of his work
Wikipedia page on George Hurrell

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