Bob Willoughby is one of the world’s foremost photojournalists of the Hollywood movie industry, and was the first ‘outside’ photographer to work on what were originally closed sets. Since the early 1950s he has documented the making of literally hundreds of Hollywood films, taking intimate portraits of famous Academy Award-winning stars and directors that reflect the drama and the emotions of moviemaking that exists both on and off the screen.
In the early 1950s Los Angeles born Bob Willoughby began his career photographing for Harper’s Bazaar. He was soon discovered by the film studios, becoming the first ‘special’ photographer, when Warner Brothers assigned him to photograph Judy Garland on ‘A Star is Born’, beginning a non-stop 20 year collaboration with all of the major Hollywood studios.
His distinction as a ‘special’ photographer emerged in the unique relationships between the world of the Hollywood film, its stars and personalities and the great magazines and periodicals of the day. His essential art emerged in his ability to function not just as an adjunct to the production, but to create a special documentation of the course of each film. In doing so he captured with wonderful perception the actors and directors on and off the set, in moments of repose and high drama. He provided the great magazines like LIFE with a new link to the very essence of Hollywood filmmaking.
Willoughby was on set through several eras of exalted actors and seminal movies. He worked on over 120 films, including ‘From Here To Eternity’, ‘My Fair Lady’, ‘The Graduate’, ‘Paris When it Sizzles’, ‘High Society’ and ‘Klute’. His studies of, among others, James Dean, Alfred Hitchcock, Sophia Loren, Frank Sinatra, Rock Hudson and Audrey Hepburn are definitive cultural reference points. Away from the movie set he’s recognised globally as one of the pre-eminent portrait photographers.
Whist Willoughby is most famous as the great chronicler of Hollywood, before he began covering film production; he had already made a brilliantly considered series of portraits of jazz musicians. Willoughby had a masterful feel for the character of his sitters, and was able to convey it even in the low lighting conditions of recording studios or when they were performing on stage. Icons of jazz such as Chet Baker, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong look out at ease from his pictures.
This exhibition is a fascinating insight into Bob Willoughby’s memorable shots. It is an engaging tribute to the most popular art form and some of the greatest and most creative personalities of modern times.
His work has been exhibited in over 500 museums in 53 countries and is held in the pre-eminent collections of … photographs can be found in major collections worldwide, including those of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C., The National Portrait Gallery and The Tate Modern, London, The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris and the Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium.