Classic Hollywood in Still

Last night, I made a visit to the Knoxville Museum of Art to A. Check out the Alive After Five for the first time in a long time (Jenna and the Joneses … Good show) and B. to see their new exhibit, “Made in Hollywood: Images from the Jon Kobal Foundation.” Still photographs from Hollywood from the 1920s to the 1950s are displayed. Some are classic portraits where the stars would go to the studio and sit for a session and others are on-the-set images taken while the movies were being filmed. Silent film stars Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, on up to The Marx Brothers, James Cagney, Audrey Hepburn, Rock Hudson, and on and on.

Several different photographers are featured, and the point of the show is not so much, “Check out the Hollywood stars!” but more, “Here is some amazing work by some of the best photographers in their day, many of whom were responsible for launching and/or saving the careers of many of their subjects.”

It’s interesting how the quality on some of these is sort of … lacking. A handful were simply blurry/out of focus, which is particularly odd for them being still images of a still subject. But those were in the 20s when photos didn’t necessarily have to be good, they just had to be photos.

There were more than a few, however, that were just stunning. In some ways, I don’t think some of these techniques can be duplicted today. Or, if they could, likely wouldn’t because many photographers just won’t take the time to make the effort, nor (more importantly) will clients pay for the extra effort.

The exhibit has definitely inspired me to take some time to make some images like some of the ones I saw. I have a model or two that I just may have to get into the studio and make some Hollywood magic happen.