Stanley Kubrick was just 17 when he sold his first photograph to the pictorial magazine Look in 1945. In his photographs, many unpublished, Manhattan-born and Bronx-raised Kubrick trained the camera on his native city, drawing inspiration from the nightclubs, street scenes, and sporting events that made up his first assignments, and capturing the pathos of ordinary life with a sophistication that belied his young age.
Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs features more than 120 photographs by Kubrick from the Look Magazine archive of the Museum of the City of New York, an unparalleled collection that includes 129 photography assignments and more than 12,000 negatives from his five years as a staff photographer.
The exhibition was on show in the Museum of the City of New York through October 2018, a tribute to the great cinematographer-to-be, capturing life in his City. It is now traveling and on show in Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles through March 8, 2020.
This series of photographs captured New Yorkers, many unaware of Kubrick’s camera, in romantic situations on park benches, fire escapes and other locations. Several images were probably taken with infrared film and flash, which allowed Kubrick to photograph in the dark. Kubrick likely learned of this technology, rare among magazine photographers at the time, from the celebrated tabloid photographer Weegee, who used the technique in the early 1940s to photograph seemingly unaware patrons at movie theatres.
Kubrick shared this unpublished assignment with two other photographers, Frank Bauman and Tom Weber. The photographers documented a publicity stunt performed by sign painters and a live female model as they created a billboard for a Peter Pan bra advertisement high above the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.
One of the earliest narrative assignments Kubrick created for Look was a series of photographs of Mickey, an adolescent shoeshine boy. Kubrick shot more than 250 photographs that closely followed Mickey through the course of his day.
One of Kubrick’s largest unpublished profiles, approximately 700 images of aspiring model and actress Rosemary Williams, was likely created for a proposed day-in-the-life piece contrasting her onstage persona and her backstage real life.
Exploring the lives of New York’s 291,018 licensed dogs, this story extolled an ”only in New York” quirkiness that Look often promoted in its coverage of the city.
Museum of the City of New York, East Harlem, Manhattan
May 9th, 2018