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"Rollie McKenna: Artists and Writers"
2001-03-01 until 2001-05-13
National Portrait Gallery
UK United Kingdom
A retrospective of the American photographer best known for her portraits of American and British poets and artists from the 1950s to the 1980s. Subjects include Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound, Ted Hughes, Bill Brandt and Henry Moore.
Born in Texas in 1918, McKenna began her photographic career at the age of 30, when she purchased her first camera on a visit to Paris. Her travels in Europe and America and her work for Time and Life magazines as a researcher exposed her to the prominent literary and artistic circles of the time. Her interest in portrait photography came from taking pictures of London-based artists and writers for the Poetry Center in New York where she held her first solo exhibition.
McKenna's close friend John Malcolm Brinnin introduced her to many prominent figures in the literary circles of the time. She formed close, even life-long, friendships with many of her subjects and re-photographed a number of them on several occasions. In 1965, McKenna produced a film entitled The Days of Dylan Thomas and in 1981 she published the photographic biography Portrait of Dylan: A Photographer's Memoir. A section of the exhibition is devoted to this writer.
Although also known for her architectural photographs, this selection concentrates on portrait photography and it is that which best epitomises her style. Her career has spanned over 40 years. She almost never uses a studio, preferring instead to photograph her subjects in a more natural environment, and this results in relaxed, informal and unforced images, capturing the very.essence of those who sit for her .