The following text is from the press release for this show. Unfortunately I only recently became aware of the show which closed in January, 2013. The show consisted of 55 prints and you can probably still view many of these prints at Fahey/Klien.
The Fahey/Klein Gallery is pleased to present “On Set,” an exhibition of classic Hollywood photographer Bob Willoughby, who is widely considered to be the first “Hollywood Special” photographer— the first “outside” photographer to be hired by the studios to document the filming of a motion picture for the major magazines and publications of the time, such as Look and Life. Working alongside legendary filmmakers and iconic Hollywood actors, Willoughby created lasting images that captured behind the scenes moments that define the very essence of the golden era of motion picture history. Willoughby’s photographs are intimate exposures from such renowned Hollywood classics as A Star Is Born, Rebel Without a Cause, My Fair Lady, The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Rosemary’s Baby.
Willoughby honed his skills by pouring over old magazines in secondhand shops at night, cutting out and studying favorite images of Hollywood stars. He began training his eye, and developed his own distinct and authentic style of photographing “on set”. Working behind the camera with filmmakers, he developed innovative devices such as the radio controlled camera, and the sound-reducing blimp camera, which allowed him to work quietly and unobstructed on set. He caught intimate and revealing moments between directors and actors on and off the set, as well as dramatic action shots during filming. Being unobtrusive and blending in with the cast and crew, he was able to capture elusive moments of genuine emotion and authenticity on set.
Sydney Pollack, director, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, recounts working alongside Willoughby and his unique ability to truly understand the story and essence of each of the films Willoughby worked on. “Sometimes a filmmaker gets a look at a photograph taken on his own set and sees the ‘soul’ of his film in one still photograph. It’s rare, but it happens. It happened to me in 1969, the first time I looked at the work of Bob Willoughby during the filming of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?…From Willoughby, I truly learned something about the telling of my own film. He is a true visual stylist, one who understands how to communicate the most complicated ideas in the simplest, most arresting form.” (Sydney Pollack, Foreword to “The Star Makers”)
The exhibition also showcases a small selection of coveted jazz photographs from Bob Willoughby’s early career, documenting the California Jazz scene during the pivotal 1950s. Himself a great appreciator of jazz, Willoughby would often drop everything to photograph a live performance he heard on local radio, as well as exclusive recording sessions by the likes of Chet Baker.
For a period of over twenty years, Willoughby’s photographs were never out of print, gracing the covers and editorial articles of countless magazines and newspapers. Willoughby’s work has been exhibited and collected by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Hollywood; The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; The National Portrait Gallery, London; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Film Department; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, among others. In December 2009, Bob Willoughby passed away at his home in Vence in the South of France, at the age of 82.
The Fahey/Klein Gallery is located at 148 North La Brea, between First Street and Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA 90036
Hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday
Phone: (323) 934-2250
By Jim McKinniss