Showing posts with label Edward Steichen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edward Steichen. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Portrait of "scared rabbit" Charlie Chaplin by Edward Steichen, New York, 1931

Steichen remembered Chaplin as "one of the most difficult subjects I have encountered in years of photography. He sat waiting like a scared rabbit. His ears were back as though ready to scamper for cover. He was more tense than a tyro model. Timid isn't the word! The only explanation I have is that Chaplin is accustomed to being alert and on the move in his pictures. He loses himself when he gets into a role, and then seemingly gets self-conscious when he realizes he is going to pose as himself. Many actors and movie people get camera shy." (Hamilton Daily News, September 19, 1931)

Read more about their sessions here and here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Comedian In New York (1925): Part V: Chaplin poses for Edward Steichen

Chaplin sat for Steichen twice. Once in the summer of 1925, and again in February 1931. Both times were for Vanity Fair magazine and both times in New York when Chaplin was in the city promoting a film.1

Steichen later recalled that Chaplin was one of his "favorites" to photograph. He also remembered that during that first sitting in 1925, Chaplin was ill-at-ease:
The first time he came to the studio, his secretary,2 who brought him there, said, "Mr. Chaplin has another appointment, so he can only give you twenty minutes." Then the secretary left. When we got Chaplin in the studio and started to arrange the lights, he froze. I dismissed my assistants and tried to work alone with him, but nothing happened. Finally Chaplin said, "You know, I can't just sit still.3 I have to be doing something and then I'm alright. So I stopped working and got out a portfolio of my photographs...Then I started to talk to him about his films, and as I waxed enthusiastic about The Gold Rush, the film he had just released, he loosened up and became enthusiastic in turn. I called the men in and in a few minutes I had a half- dozen portraits of Chaplin relaxed and himself, the image of a dancing faun.4

Two versions of the famous photo depicting Chaplin, as himself, in the foreground and his screen persona, The Little Tramp, in shadow on the white screen behind him.  The photo on the left is the more commonly-seen version. On the right is an alternate shot with Charlie's arms slightly more bowed than in the photo on the left.

The session yielded one of the most iconic photographs ever taken of Chaplin and when the sitting was over, the two men talked until the small hours: "When he came to the studio, his secretary had told me we had twenty minutes, but we separated that morning in a café down at the Bowery at half past four. I don't know how we got home."5


1Lisa Stein Haven, "Chaplin & The Static Image," Refocusing Chaplin, Scarecrow Press, 2013
probably Chaplin's press agent, Carlyle Robinson.
3In a later interview Steichen recalled Chaplin saying: "You know it's easy for me to do something in sequence for a film, but to sit still here for a picture, I just don't know how to do that." (Wisdom: Conversations with the Elder Wise Men of Our Day, James Nelson, 1958)
4Edward Steichen, A Life In Photography, 1963
5Wisdom: Conversations with the Elder Wise Men of Our Day, James Nelson, 1958

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Hat Trick" by Edward Steichen

This famous multi-panel shot, entitled "Hat Trick," was taken by Steichen in New York in February 1931, while Charlie was in the city promoting his film City Lights and just before he left for Europe on his world tour.

The photo is described in the book Steichen's Legacy: Photographs 1895-1973, edited with text by Joanna Steichen:
The point in the photographs of actors in this section is not individual portraiture but the story being told. Among Steichen's favorites were Beatrice Lillie as 'Rule Britannia' and Charlie Chaplin. Steichen claimed that Beatrice Lillie did all the work, and all he had to do was push the button. Chaplin, however, was shy when he didn't have an action to perform. So Steichen set up a scene consisting of a vertical panel and a horizontal one along which he moved a bowler hat a little closer to the actor with each shot. Armed with a cane as protection against the encroaching hat, Chaplin sprang to life.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Two versions of the famous Edward Steichen photo

Look closely and you'll notice that the top photo is a slightly different pose than the more commonly seen version below. Both photos magically depict Chaplin, the handsome movie star, in the foreground and Charlie, the Little Tramp, in a shadow on the wall behind him. These portraits were part of a series taken by Steichen during the summer of 1925 while Charlie was in New York for the premiere of The Gold Rush.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Louise Brooks

Louise Brooks by Edward Thayer Monroe, c.1925
Charlie Chaplin by Edward Steichen, 1925
Charlie had a 2-month long affair with Louise Brooks during the summer of 1925 while he was in New York for the premiere of The Gold Rush.  Louise later spoke very openly about their relationship, including a story about an all-nude weekend at the penthouse of A.C. Blumenthal which included Louise, her friend Peggy Fears, A.C. & Charlie. At one point during the weekend, Charlie, who evidently coated his private parts with iodine to protect himself from venereal disease, burst from the bathroom and chased Louise around the room with “his little red sword." Louise said Charlie was a “sophisticated lover” who lived “totally without fear."  “His physical presence," she recalled, “revealed an exquisiteness the screen could not reflect. Small, perfectly made, meticulously dressed, with his fine grey hair and ivory skin and white teeth, he was as clean as a pearl and glowed all over." But, Louise’s recollections about Chaplin would not always be so kind.  She was quoted as saying that his sexual technique “was suitable only for little girls." She also wrote some scathing letters about him after she read his autobiography, which made her “ill."   Chaplin never publicly acknowledged their affair. However, late in his life he was quoted as saying that she had small breasts, “like pears."

For more tidbits about Charlie and Louise's affair, click here.

Louise died 27 years ago today.