Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Man Who Shot Garbo.

Blogging about Niagara and Angelique Houtkamp, one thing that became apparent to me is their shared fascination with Hollywood golden era glamour and its very distinct kind of beauty. Women today, no matter how lovely they are, are never captured in quite the same light as by the photographers and film directors of the early decades of the 20th century. Amazingly the primitive, by today's standards, cameras, lighting and imaging techniques in use then, produced some of the most gorgeous photos of the women of that era and in turn, some of the most gorgeous photos of all time. Thinking about this I was reminded of a striking exhibition I once saw.

The exhibition, entitled "The Man Who Shot Garbo - the Hollywood photographs of Clarence Sinclair Bull," came to my local city art gallery in 1989. A book, by Terence Pepper, was also printed to accompany the show. Clarence Sinclair Bull was head of stills department at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Hollywood film studios for 40 years, from their founding in 1924. He took portrait shots of all the studios stars, but for 20 years he was the photographer who, almost exclusively, handled the photography of Swedish born silent star Greta Garbo. Greta's beauty and career is legendary and many, many words have been written about her by people who can do her more justice than me.

But seeing Clarence Sinclair Bull's luminous prints, enlarged and placed on show in a darkened room, was like opening a treasure chest of silver. The light spilled out of the portraits. Some of them literally sparkled and dazzled.

(Greta Garbo as Mata Hari - Clarence Sinclair Bull.)

While some emitted a warm hypnotic glow.

(Greta Garbo - portrait by Clarence Sinclair Bull.)

Sinclair Bull captured many great film stars in many magnificent moods and poses.

(Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu - Clarence Sinclair Bull.)

But his ability to not only capture on film the stunning appearance of Garbo, but also to transform it into the very essence of an aesthetic, that even today is a benchmark of classic feminine beauty, was quite an achievement to witness.

No comments:

Post a Comment