PHOTOGRAPHY: George Hurrell’s portraiture

I was recently honoured to be part of my lovely and talented friend Emma’s latest photography project; a 40s Hollywood glamour shoot which forms part of her final year of Photography study. Together with a friend, the gorgeous and elegant Deb Wilson, who modelled some of her very own homemade artisan jewels, we tried to evoke and capture the mood of the early Hollywood head shots by master of black and white glamour photography, George Hurrell.

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Hurrell (1904–1992) was one of the most important American photographers of the 1930s, but you won’t find his work in many history books.  He made commercial portraits of movie stars between 1930, when he became the primary portrait photographer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and 1942, when he was drafted to take photos for the Army. During this time he developed the lighting techniques and visual vocabulary that gave Hollywood stars their special aura of grace, mystery, and perfection. He is considered the master of Hollywood glamour, encouraging his stars to reveal their inner selves to his lens. Then he intensified their defining qualities, while creating mystery with light and shadow.

Such photos were a major element in the studio’s star-making process, establishing and updating actors’ public identities and promoting them between films. Even more than the movies themselves, the stills depicted a grace that could transcend age and time. The goal was not to humanise stars but to elevate them: These were not down-to-earth actors, but idealised screen gods and goddesses.

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The brief for me for Emma’s shoot was fairly straightforward; glamorous, elegant makeup, not too heavy, but with enough texture to the eyes and cheeks to ensure that they come alive out of all that shadow. Strong lips in a creme texture, smouldery eyes without being too heavy or dark on the lids. Nice.

We were all very pleased with the results and Emma did an absolutely tremendous job of capturing Deb’s beauty whilst staying true to the spirit and the mood of Hurrell’s work. She was adept at getting the lighting just perfect, which resulted in some truly phenomenal shots that really evoke that true Hollywood glamour vibe; the kind of shots that just take your breath away with their still, refined elegance and subdued mood.

I will post some of our handiwork in a separate post soon!  For now, enjoy some of the inspiration for this shoot by the fabulous George Hurrell:

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Carole Lombard

Hurrell considered glamour an illusion intrinsic to photography. “All of us glamorize everything, including the [documentary photographers] who glamorize filth and squalor,” he said. “Even [Hurrell’s friend, the noted photographer Edward] Weston does it, taking a picture of a gnarled tree trunk. It’s a question of emphasizing … the dirt or the beauty.”

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Veronica Lake – 1941

Hurrell’s work emphasized beauty and celebrated the human face.

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Joan Crawford 1934

Hurrell sculpted his subjects’ faces with light and shadow, using an easily movable boom light that he modeled on a boom microphone, to illuminate cheekbones and create shadows under the eyes and nose. “The most essential thing about my style was working with shadows to design the face instead of flooding it with light,” he has said.

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Carole Lombard 1934/36

Until recently, his subjects’ celebrity overshadowed his art; even collectors generally paid more attention to Hurrell’s subjects than to his techniques.  However, with memories of the era’s stars fading, however, museums and art collectors have begun to recognize the photographs’ aesthetic value. The focus is now less on the subject and now on the considered and beautiful lighting, the retouching, the extreme detail, the way the eyelashes are drawn in.

Joan Crawford - by George Hurrell 1935

Joan Crawford

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Joan Crawford

Hedy Lamar

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MUSIC: Wax Idols ‘When It Happens’

Forgoing any sort of overblown production or a fancy video, Wax Idols produced a raw black and white video for their track, “When It Happens”.  Directed by Hayden Shiebler, the song revels in its black and white, stripped down visuals, showcasing the band performing live in all their unfiltered post-punk glory.

Apparently Oakland, CA’s Wax Idols prefer to zig where others might zag. With their melodic dark-pop aesthetic, their full, twisted sound would seem more at home in the foggy, damp British climate than that of sunny California.  Wax Idols seem to prefer hiding in the shadows of that other California, where the sun doesn’t always shine.

Wax Idols’ new album, Discipline & Desire, is out now via Slumberland Records.  Sure to pique the interest of anyone into dark, new wave vibes.

Watch their suitably shadowy visuals below.

‘I was dancing alone at the edge of the world
I was singing my old praises to the audience alone
I was listening in on’across the yard
I was laughing to myself because I don’t feel so alone
So if they’re right, yeah, if they’re right
I’m talking here tonight’

KNOW YOUR PRODUCT: The wonder of primer

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Primer : that all important first step to creating a lasting professional base. As a makeup artist I can’t stress enough the importance of priming. Primers are a crucial step at keeping oil at bay, filling in fine lines and providing a smooth canvas for your foundation to stick to.

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Other than the fact that it gives your makeup super powers of longevity and stops it from sliding off your face, did you know that a primer is also rather excellent at keeping those pores under control? It forms a kind of protective barrier between your dermis and foundation, and in doing so it won’t let foundation ‘settle’ into pores.

The result? Less visible pores. Win! This is particularly good if you have clogged or enlarged pores (like me!). It’s also a champion at smoothing over fine wrinkles and lumps and bumps. Converted yet?

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Primer comes in many different varieties and there is likely to be a primer out there to suit your most wildest of purposes. Consistency-wise, there are the heavier-duty silicone based primers that glide on like a velvet glove (which are great if you don’t mind using silicone on your skin- I do). There are also lighter primers without silicone in a range of creams, gels and lotions.

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There are also different hues available to address specific skin concerns. Green-colored primers will combat redness from rosacea or acne. Mauve/light purple counteracts sallow undertones while pink helps brighten complexions.

You can also choose a primer that is suited for your specific skin type also- be it oily, dry or combination.

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At the mo, I am particularly enamoured with the Korres Quercitin and Oak Anti-Ageing Primer. It’s an awesome ultra-smoothing lotion that feels really light and fresh on the skin. The real winner for me is that its free of parabens/ sulfates/ synthetic fragrances/ petro-Chemicals/ phthalates/ GMOs and triclosan! Yep- free of all the baddies. Probably the best I have tried personally for a while.

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I’ve been using a sample sized one and it’s lasted me about two months (I just used the last drop today- boo). While I can’t tote its anti-ageing benefits (I’m not a huge fan of that label) I mainly use it for its pore-reducing effects.  I can vouch for the fact that my skin has looked a lot smoother and more refreshed and less like the surface of the moon since I’ve been using it!

So there you go. Celeb glamour makeup denizen Napoleon Perdis has made a mantra of ‘not to prime is a crime.’

“It’s been my career-long mantra as it helps finesse your foundation, helping your skin to stay flawless for longer,” says Perdis.

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Remember that and make one part of your daily routine!

xDS

PHOTOGRAPHY: Guy Bourdin

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Guy Bourdin (1928-1991) was an influential, highly-revered fashion photographer born in Paris. His vivid, narrative-infused work placed him at the vanguard of fashion photography for a career that spanned four decades.  Today, his work is exhibited in the most prestigious museums, such as The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Jeu de Paume, and The National Museum of China.

From his first provocative editorial feature in 1955, capturing haute couture alongside butchered cow heads, Guy Bourdin pushed the limits of fashion photography into foreign territory.

Seductive and surreal, Guy Bourdin’s work is dark, stylized and filled with suggestive narratives and fantastic aesthetics.  He broke conventions of commercial photography with his relentless perfectionism and sharp humor, his images setting the tone for fashion photography in the ’70s and capturing the imagination of a generation.

He rode a camel, picked models by star sign, and once he actually tried to dye the sea.

Guy Bourdin

The French provocateur’s mesmerizing memoir of images include glossy yet subversive Vogue editorials and iconic campaigns for footwear label Charles Jourdan, which sexualised shoes like never before.  The legendary, nearly forgotten images he made with Nicolle Meyer as his model formed part of a large canon of work that is recognized as the highest note in Bourdin’s career, in his golden era, the 70s.
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Though he died in relative obscurity, unflattering stories came to light in 2003 when the V&A ran a retrospective of his work. Bourdin was accused of being cruel to his models, whom he photographed in highly stylised, surreal scenarios: vomiting up nail varnish, lying apparently dead in immaculate shoes.  He was known to push his models beyond their limits, but only to get his vision recorded on celluloid. There have been even more eccentric rumours about Bourdin’s life, such as his insistence on only working with people born under certain star signs; his use of sleeping pills in order to dream for long periods; and his arrival at French Vogue’s offices on a camel.
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Much of his work features red-headed, pale skinned, heavily made-up  models, which were purposefully reminiscent of Bourdin’s mother. The scenes he used were carefully manufactured, even them of a nature scenes, for which he would manipulate the natural lighting with reflectors to create a surreal feeling to his photos.
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Bourdin tailored his compositions to the constraints of the printed page both conceptually and graphically, and the mirror motif so central in his work finds its formal counterpart in the doubleness of the magazine spread.
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Layout and design become powerful metaphors for the photographic medium, engaging the eye and with it, the mind.
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With the eye of a painter and the freedom of a photographer, Guy Bourdin created images full of fascinating stories, compositions, and colors.
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Using fashion and fashion photography as his vehicle, he explored the realms between the absurd and the sublime, taking cues from the theater and Surrealism.
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Bourdin would obsessively pursue perfection, only to have the images destroyed, which was his request to be carried out after his death.
Was the end product the photograph, or was it the process that mattered so much to him?
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To this day, Guy Bourdin, remains an enigma, and he leaves a provocative and compelling legacy.
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You can find more of Bourdin’s work just over here.
xDS