Magnum Photos Blog
Ajax loader
Screen Idols
November 20, 2012
by Magnum Photographers
This December, Magnum Photos’ Print Room pops up at the 99 Mount Street Gallery in Mayfair with an exhibition of classic portraits of cinematic royalty, both historic and contemporary.

Collectively Magnum’s archive of film imagery, the product of working on film sets capturing behind-the-scenes moments and photographing film directors, actors and actresses on and off camera, includes a large part of the history of cinema. The pictures included in this exhibition date primarily from the Fifties and Sixties, with the inclusion of a small selection from the Twenty First century, and are a mix of vintage and contemporary prints.

Included here are images famous beyond the reputation of the individual photographer or the Magnum agency, pictures such as those by Dennis Stock of James Dean in a rain swept Times Square (1954) or those produced by Eve Arnold during ten years working with Marilyn Monroe from 1950 to her last film, The Misfits (1961). The 1950s, a period when the cult of the cinema idol grew, coincided with Magnum’s own ‘Golden Age’ – a time before television was widely available and the picture magazines reigned supreme as the main disseminators of news and publicity. Individual Magnum photographers forged friendships with movie stars and directors, getting the kind of unchecked access no longer conceivable to today’s celebrities.

Magnum’s photographers were commissioned for off duty stories, formal press shots and work on film sets. The strength of many of these portraits is that they are both candid and respectful. Such is the work of one of the agency’s founding members, David “Chim” Seymour (1911-1956), who was assigned to shoot a relatively unknown Sophia Loren in her Rome apartment in 1955. Rather than capturing the off duty reportage he expected, Loren chose to play up to the camera in one after another pose prepared with a nod to her role model Marilyn Monroe. The best-known image from this series depicts the actress atop a table on her balcony in heels, fishnets and bodice, displaying her glorious curves in a self-conscious embodiment of a screen idol.

In the Sixties, when Mount Street was “swinging”, David Hurn worked in London photographing models and rising movie stars. Amongst these pictures are those taken of his friend Jane Fonda: a black and white vintage print from the Italian set of her film Barbarella (1967) and two cibachromes from a series of publicity shots for the film, recording Fonda’s outlandish and sexy wardrobe devised by her husband, the film’s director, Roger Vadim.

Paolo Pellegrin’s series of colour photographs of Oscar nominees taken for the New York Times in 2008 are a lesson in contemporary “off duty” portraiture. Working within the confines of the carefully controlled access that in this age of celebrity maintains a film star’s mystique as well as privacy, Pellegrin’s photographs were grabbed in hotel rooms or the backs of cars on the way to press events. Despite these limitations, he artfully captures an introspective mood in pictures like that of Kate Winslet, which transcend the rush and bustle of promotion.

Magnum Photos is delighted to be working with the 99 Mount Street Gallery in a location previously inhabited for many years by Eve Arnold’s gallerist Zelda Cheatle and frequented by Eve Arnold herself, who lived on the street.

Screen Idols
5 – 31 December 2012

99 Mount Street, London, W1K 2TF
T +44(0) 20 7629 9355

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30am - 5:30pm

More information
View photographs