The latest exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City focuses on portraits of celebrities published in the magazine Vanity Fair (not just movie stars, but also film directors), captured by famous photographers.
Annie Leibovitz is a big presence with prints of Brad Pitt (1995), Robert Mitchum (1995), Robert De Niro (2000), Heath Ledger (2006), Helmut Newton with Faye Dunaway (1987) and Sigourney Weaver (1995), Herb Ritts with Barbra Streisand (1991), Meryl Streep (1996), Sidney Poitier (2000), Snowdon with Tom Cruise (1984), Emma Thompson (1992), Helen Mirren (1993). Even the legendary George Hurrell is represented with a color print of Drew Barrymore (1984).
Vintage prints in Color and Black and White are not the only attraction at the Annenberg, the most interesting part of each show is the video that illustrates how the photographers work. In this case we are guided behind the scenes of the big production of shooting Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue 2020. The complex task is entrusted to a young photographer, Ethan James Green, 30, who used to be a fashion model. He says that photographing actors is different than working with models, because they know how to play characters. The setting is a surreal road trip along Route 66.
On the foldout cover are Eddie Murphy (Dolemite is My Name), Renee Zellweger (Judy), Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers). Twenty more actors are on the inside: Florence Pugh (Little Women), Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit), Daniel Kaluuja (Queen & Slim), Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Awkwafina (The Farewell), Lily-Rose Depp (The King), Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Little Women), Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse), Alfree Woodard (Clemency), Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit), Noah Jupe (Ford v Ferrari, Honey Boy), Oakes Fegley (The Goldfinch), Da’vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite is My Name), Jennifer Hudson (Cats), Lili Reinhart (Hustlers), Park So-Dam (Parasite), Taylor Russell (Waves), Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Austin Butler (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Beanie Felstein (Booksmart).
Banderas and Dafoe are interviewed in the video, as is Jennifer Hudson, who says, “This almost feels like making a movie.”
The first Vanity Fair Hollywood cover was photographed by Annie Leibovitz in 1995, portraying Jennifer Jason Leigh, Uma Thurman, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore, Angela Bassett, and Sandra Bullock. A backlit display scrolls through everyone of the 26 issues.
Firhooz Zahedi explains how he wanted to photograph Jennifer Lopez in the style of pin-ups like Betty Grable.
Mark Seliger says that he likes to photograph comedians like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner because they contribute ideas to the creation of the image. Seliger has also been taking special portraits at the Vanity Fair Oscar party since 2015. This studio setting is recreated at the Annenberg to encourage visitors to take there own portrait and email it to themselves. I did and it was fun, you may wish to try it too.
Vanity Fair-Hollywood Calling runs through July 26, 2020.