On October 2, Douglas Kirkland, a well-known photojournalist and portrait photographer whose subjects included Marilyn Monroe wrapped in a silk sheet and Coco Chanel at work in her Paris atelier, passed away at his home in the Hollywood Hills neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Kirkland was known for his work with both of these subjects. He was 88.
His wife and manager, Francoise (Kemmel-Coulter) Kirkland, announced his passing but did not provide any details on the cause of death.
Mr. Kirkland was a well-known celebrity photographer for more than sixty years. He began his career working for the magazines Look and Life, and then went on to work as a freelancer for a variety of publications, Hollywood studios, and advertising agencies. Because Mr. Kirkland was polite and enthusiastic — he wasn’t an unpleasant paparazzo — he was invited into the homes and hotel rooms of celebrities, as well as onto movie sets.
Karen Mullarkey, who worked with Mr. Kirkland as director of photography at New York and Newsweek magazines, described Mr. Kirkland as having “this magical quality.” Mr. Kirkland was described as being tall and handsome. “He had this knack of making people comfortable; he was so exuberant,” said one of his former coworkers. She handed the model Kathy Ireland a bouquet of peonies for an issue of New York, as she remembered, and while the photographer took pictures of Ms. Ireland, Ms. Mullarkey overheard the photographer remark, “Caress them!” Give them a kiss! You may call them your boyfriend!
Mr. Kirkland had two exciting experiences in 1961, one year after he had started working at Look. For the first time, he went to Las Vegas with a reporter named Jack Hamilton in order to do an interview with Elizabeth Taylor, who was considered to be one of the most famous celebrities in the world at the time. During their first encounter, the three were told that Ms. Taylor would speak, but she would not pose for photographs.
After the conversation, Mr. Kirkland recounted his attempts to get her to pose for him to the website Vintage News Daily in 2021. He said that he was unsuccessful in his efforts. He took her hand in his and said, “I just started working for this magazine. Can you even fathom how much it would mean to me if you allowed me to take your photograph?
His career began at an era in which the people he covered were more approachable to journalists, and it continued into an era in which celebrities and the people who manage them had more influence over the media. In 1990, he gave an interview to The New York Times in which he said, “In the 1960s, there was a concept of letting the camera be revelatory of reality.” “These days, it seems more like ‘Entertainment Tonight,'” the host said.
Douglas Morley Kirkland was born in Toronto on August 16, 1934, however he spent his childhood in Fort Erie, which is located in the province of Ontario. His mother, Evelyn (Reid), Kirkland, worked as the business’s bookkeeper while his father, Morley, ran a tailor shop for men in which he created clothes that was customised to the customer’s specifications.
When he was a youngster, he used a Brownie camera to take his first photograph, which was of his family posing on Christmas Day in front of the entrance of their house. Even at the age of 14, he was already shooting weddings. After graduating from high school, he attended classes at the New York Institute of Photography before moving back to Canada and finding employment at two community newspapers there. After some time, he settled down in Richmond, Virginia, where he began his career as a commercial photographer.
Mr. Kirkland is survived by his son, Mark, and his daughters, Karen Kirkland and Lisa Kirkland Gadway, from his previous marriage to Marian Perry, which resulted in a divorce; five granddaughters; and one great-granddaughter.
In August of 1962, Mr. Kirkland travelled to Paris to spend three weeks working with Coco Chanel on the magazine Look. At first, she approached him with caution, and she gave him permission to photograph just the garments that she had made but not herself. However, once he showed her his first collection of prints, she became more submissive and allowed him to watch her as she worked. She always wore a hat and was typically accompanied by her employees. She proposed that they take a trip to the Palace of Versailles on the day that he was leaving, which was his final day there. He snapped one last shot of her as she strolled by herself through the grounds of the castle.
Even though it was August, it was cool, and it had begun to rain, so I gave her my raincoat, Mr. Kirkland said in an interview with The Guardian in 2015 that he had given her his She said that being there provided her the chance to “become lost in time while being surrounded by the enormity of ancient French culture.” She stated that this was one of her favourite things about going there.