Friday, February 1, 2013

STAR GLOW: Sid Avery Captured Young Hollywood Shining with Health and Success

Steve McQueen in his 1957 Jaguar XKSS
Steve McQueen in his 1957 Jaguar XKSS  ©mptv

Via The Albuquerque Journal
By on Fri, Feb 1, 2013

There is a wistful melancholy about viewing the photographs that Sid Avery took during Hollywood’s most recent golden age, the 1940s to 1960s. Audrey Hepburn has bicycled up to the camera to show off her rather smug Cairn terrier. Steve McQueen is admiring his new pistol, as well as his new Jaguar. Marlon Brando has stopped playing his bongo drums long enough to give the photographer a pensive pose. Elizabeth Taylor is stretching her shoulders into the sun on the set of “Giant.” Rock Hudson has stepped out of the shower and gleefully grabbed a ringing phone – he looks very gay, in every sense of that overused word.

Marlon Brando, At Home With Bongos, 1955
Marlon Brando, At Home With Bongos, 1955

Dean Martin, like his contemporaries, is happy and self-satisfied as he readies a song for recording. All of them are shining with health and youth and success, with not a thought for any disease or age that might lie ahead. Only Frank Sinatra looks slightly wary, as if he sensed perhaps, on the edge of the frame, some intimation of mortality.

Frank Sinatra with camera, Capitol Records
Frank Sinatra with camera, Capitol Records
These and other photographs by the late Hollywood photographer Sid Avery, fill a major exhibition opening today at Monroe Gallery of Photography on Don Gaspar. The exhibition, which will be up through March 24, is being opened concurrent with the publication of a new book: “The Art of the Hollywood Snapshot.” Avery’s son Ron, curator and archivist of his father’s work, will attend the public reception.

Elizabeth Taylor Sunning Herself on the Marfa, Texas Set of
Elizabeth Taylor Sunning Herself on the Marfa, Texas Set of "Giant"
Monroe Gallery of Photography, owned by Sidney and Michelle Monroe, specializes in classic black and white photography with an emphasis on humanist and photojournalist imagery. The gallery features work by more than 50 renowned photographers and also represents a select group of contemporary and emerging photographers. The Avery show, of which all prints are for sale, is a major coup, Sidney Monroe said. “He was one of the greatest names in Hollywood photography in the 1950s and ’60s,” Monroe said.
The book, he added, “is a sumptuous, long-overdue tribute to Avery’s prolific talent.” The text of the book was written by Ron Avery. It was edited by Tony Nourmand and additional text was written by Alison Elangasinghe and Bruce McBroom. The design is by Graham Marsh.

Avery (1918 – 2002) was born in Akron, Ohio, and introduced to photography when he was 7 years old. By the time he was 20, he had begun to photograph celebrities in nightclubs for fan magazines. In 1939, at 21, he opened his own Hollywood studio for portraiture and publicity photographs.   From 1941 to 1945, Avery was assigned to the Pictorial Service in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in London and Paris. In London, the young man supervised the Army’s official photographic history of the war.

In 1946, Avery re-established his studio in Hollywood, where he got celebrity portrait assignments from Life magazine and the Saturday Evening Post. He also became the photography editor of Photoplay, the movie magazine of the time. In 1947, while he was continuing to contribute to numerous magazines, he formed Avery and Associates to photograph commercial accounts. Avery directed television commercials and developed innovative special effects.

In 1985, Avery retired from directing and producing TV commercials to begin assembling the Motion Picture and Television Photographic Archive, which many regard as his greatest legacy. The foundation’s purpose was to preserve, document and exhibit the work of notable photographers.

His own archive, called mptvimages, now has more than a million historic Hollywood images on file and is recognized as one of the great archives of Hollywood imagery. Ron Avery runs the archive today. The new book was created entirely from its depths and includes never-before-seen pictures, contact sheets and other materials.

Avery was best known for capturing the private moments of legendary Hollywood celebrities like Taylor, Hudson, James Dean, Brando, Humphrey Bogart and Hepburn, who were showcased in his book, “Hollywood at Home.” He was the only photographer to shoot both the original 1960 cast of “Ocean’s Eleven” and the cast of the 2001 remake, recreating his iconic group shot around a pool table. He believed in capturing moments.

Avery taught at the University of California at Los Angeles and lectured at several other institutions and at museums. His own works are included in numerous museums and private collections.

Sid Avery died in 2002 at age 84. His work, however, lives on – and in that way, so do his subjects.

If you go WHAT: Sid Avery: “The Art of the Hollywood Snapshot”
WHEN: Today through March 24; opening reception 5-7 p.m. today.
Coincides with the publication of the new book, “The Art of the Hollywood Snapshot”
(The exhibition contunues through March 28, 2013)
WHERE: Monroe Gallery of Photography, 112 Don Gaspar
CONTACT: (505) 992-08

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