From a blood-filled elevator to the mechanic red eye of HAL 9000, Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film masterpieces cemented his status as an acclaimed director and still have the power to leave their viewers with chills. Yet his flair for the eccentric and the unique was evident far before his film career. “Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs,” a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, explores his early years as a photographer for Look magazine, beginning in 1945, and establishes the connection between his photography and directing styles. Though admittedly self-taught in many aspects related to film production, Kubrick learned necessary framing, composing, and lighting skills while at Look that invariably influenced his cinematic works.
The exhibit, which we’re offering a walkthrough of exclusively for Untapped Cities Insiders, is extensive yet manageable, as it guides viewers easily through the four themes that chronologically divide the space. The first theme is “Looking” and showcases the more voyeuristic photos that reveal Kubrick’s fascination with capturing the illicit, the taboo, and the eccentric. The second, “Media Savvy,” centers around his ability to go behind the scenes in media production and, through his personality profiles, explores the ways in which celebrities craft such public personas. “Mastering the System,” the third theme, features the work Kubrick produced during photographic encounters with large-scale American organizations, many of which prepared him for the film industry. The final theme, “Visual Style,” marks his turn towards the more cinematic as he begins imitating the film noir styles popular at the time. The exhibition culminates with an epilogue concerning the link between his photos and movies, with scenes from his movies Killer’s Kiss and Day of the Fight screened at the very end.
While it is a relatively short exhibit, one could really spend several hours looking at all of the pieces. The more than 120 photographs are sourced from the Museum’s Look magazine archive, which includes 129 of Kubrick’s photography assignments and over 12,000 negatives. These works, completed between the ages of 17 and 22, reinforce his fame as a master story teller and image maker. From themes of teenage love, marital jealousy, and dating, to celebrities and their various pets, the Ringling Brothers Circus performers, and average New Yorkers riding the subway, Kubrick photographs are obsessed with the power of gaze and, in turn, demand to be looked at.
“Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs” is on view now until October 2018. With our special partnership with the Museum of the City of New York, we’ll also be offering Untapped Cities Insiders a special curator-led walkthrough of the exhibition on May 23rd at 6pm. Learn more here.