The photographers behind the most powerful celebrity images

Published 18th September 2017
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The photographers behind the most powerful celebrity images
Written by Clive Martin, CNN
The best celebrity portraits are embedded in our imaginations, forever informing our perceptions of the people in the photographs.
Even as the paparazzi democratized celebrity portraiture, and Instagram gave stars the tools to do it themselves, great photographers still create powerful visions of the rich and famous, as seen recently with Jean-Paul Goude's iconic "Break the Internet" Kim Kardashian cover for Paper magazine.
In Focus gallery in Cologne, Germany is now dedicating an entire exhibition to portraits of celebrities taken by master photographers. Gallery director Burkhard Arnold spoke to CNN about "Famous Faces -- Seeing and Being Seen" and what master photographers bring to the table.
CNN: What was the criteria when it came to choosing the photographs for the exhibition?
Burkhard Arnold: It's not so easy, but we've been in the business for 27 years and we know a lot of photographers ... Most of the photographs here represent a part of the gallery's program, as well as the collection of owners, the estate of Bruno Bernard. Those are the main resources and some are added to make the show more rounded.
CNN: What is behind a celebrity's attraction to having their portraits taken?
BA: Celebrities need to get photographed because without photographs, celebrities would not exist. I think portraits are imperative to being a celebrity; they need publicity and publicity needs something visual. So very famous people like to get photographed because they understand the importance of a visual presence ... especially if they are working with master photographers."
CNN: Which celebrities have best understood the power of their own image?
BA: Marilyn Monroe was one of the first movie stars to be photographed extensively. She had relationships with a lot of photographers, she knew that photography was very important.
CNN: What does a master photographer bring to the table?
BA: A great photographer manages to show more than the portraitists might. They are letting us see behind the person, through a mixture of staged or documentary photographs.
CNN: Do you have any personal favorites?
BA: There is a very sad photograph of Marilyn Monroe by Arnold Newman, shot at Harry Weinberg's party just a few weeks before she died ... which you're not used to seeing with other pictures of her. I also like his photograph of Igor Stravinsky.
I like Thomas Hoepker's picture of Muhammad Ali, which is very physical.(In) Patrick DeMarchelier's portrait of Johnny Depp when he was a young actor, he looks very open, different from how you see him today. And a picture of Alfred Hitchcock by Jeanloup Sieff where he looks a bit like a monster with a dark sky behind him and a young lady in the foreground.
CNN: Are there any interesting stories behind the photographs? Surely some of those big egos clashed.
BA: There are some stories from behind the photographs, but I prefer to tell people in person.
"Famous faces -- Seeing and Being Seen" is on at In Focus gallery in Cologne, Germany until Oct. 13, 2017.