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Famous persons as seen by the photographer's eye.

There is a "subtle distinction between fame that is earned through real accomplishments and celebrity created in the eyes of an adoring public."

PHOTOGRAPHY has played a vital role in the depiction, reflection, and creation of fame since the process of making multiple prints from one negative was invented in the mid 19th century. This opened the door to the mass production and distribution of photographic images, thus making portraits of people available to a wide audience. Fame, in its turn, has had a profound effect on who and what is photographed and how the subjects are represented. According to Gordon Baldwin, Assistant Curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, Calif., "With the invention of photography, fame acquired a precise visual aspect which changed its very nature."

An exhibition at the museum explores the relationship between fame and photography through portraits of celebrities of politics, literature, art, and

film. These pictures provide a fascinating visual record of more than a century of famous individuals through the photographer's eye.

The exhibition includes a tantalizing portrait of Gloria Swanson shot through black lace by Edward Steichen. Taken during the time Steichen was chief photographer for Conde Nast Publications, the picture imbues the legendary Hollywood actress with mystery and hidden allure through the concealment of her face.

The preeminent French portrait photographer of the 19th century, Nadar (Gaspard Felix Tournachon), photographed French writer George Sand (Aurore Dupin Dudevant) around 1865. Famous for her romantic novels, memoirs, plays, letters, and articles, Sand also was celebrated for her unorthodox mode of life. As a young woman, she occasionally smoked cigars and wore men's clothing in public. For her portrait sitting, she chose to wear a fitted gown, trimmed with lace and beads. Her expression is serious, perhaps uncharacteristically severe. In this portrait, Nadar demonstrates his usual interest in conveying a sitter's essential characteristics as well as his determination to do justice to a friend whose work he admired.

Demonstrating a more playful approach to photography is a strip of photo booth snapshots of Andy Warhol taken in the 1960s. The four self-portraits, spewed out by the machine in vertical format, show him progressively moving down the flat white backdrop as he responds to the rapid flashes of the camera. By shielding his eyes, casually stroking his chin, removing his sunglasses, and finally ending in a slouched, cavalier pose in the lower left corner of the last photo, Warhol appears to experiment with the range of reactions, from demure to jaded, that an individual might have to being photographed.

The exhibition, "Fame and Photography," strives to draw the subtle distinction between fame that is earned through real accomplishments and celebrity created in the eyes of an adoring public. In doing so, it explores a broad range of representations of this attribute, including Hollywood press photos, cabinet cards, magazine images, and official portraiture. It will be on view at the Getty Museum through May 23.
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Title Annotation:various photographers, J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California
Author:Nesbitt, Elizabeth
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Column
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:491
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