Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick exhibition of photographs, New York

03 August 2018


Closes: 6th January 2019 (closing date extended due to popular demand) 

Explores Kubrick’s formative years as a photographer for Look Magazine 1945-1950.

Stanley Kubrick’s early career as a photojournalist for Look magazine is a revelation for most people who know him as a filmmaker. In 1945, the future director of such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange was just a teenager – but one who was already scouting photographic human‐interest stories for Look magazine.

Turning his camera on his native city, Kubrick found inspiration in New York’s characters and settings. His photography laid the technical and aesthetic foundations for his cinematography: he learned through the camera’s lens to be an acute observer of human interactions and to tell stories through images in dynamic narrative sequences.

Copyright Stanley Kubrick from 1949 Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York SK Film Archive LLC
Stanley  Kubrick, from  “Paddy Wagon”, 1949. Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York / SK Film Archive, LLC.

Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs tells the story of how a 17‐year old amateur photographer from the Bronx took the first steps towards becoming one of the most important film directors of the 20th century. The exhibition will display over 130 photographs by Kubrick from the

Museum’s extensive Look magazine archive, all captured during his tenure as a photographer between 1945 and 1950. In his photographs, many unpublished, Kubrick explored the grit and glamour of the city, turning his lens on the nightclubs, street scenes, and sporting events that made up his first assignments. The exhibited photographs will be accompanied by the Look magazines in which they appeared, providing the journalistic context in which Kubrick’s photographs were received by the general public.

Copyright Stanley Kubrick  from Park  Benches Love is Everywhere 1946
Stanley Kubrick, from “Park Benches:  Love  is  Everywhere”, 1946.

Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. “… We are proud to have put together a show that reveals as much about post‐WWII New York City as it does to celebrate the perspective of an uncannily talented young photographer who would go on to become one of the 20th century’s most accomplished artists.”

Stanley Kubrick sold his first photograph to Look magazine in 1945: an image of a dejected newsstand vendor the day after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. For a burgeoning photographer like Kubrick, there was no better place to be at that time than New York City, home to the nation’s two leading pictorial magazines, Life and Look. After Kubrick graduated from William Howard Taft high school in 1946, Look hired him as an apprentice. Kubrick’s name first appeared on the magazine’s masthead as a staff photographer in its January 7, 1947 issue. His first extended assignment, “Life and Love on the New York Subway,” was published two months later.

Copyright Stanley Kubrick from Shoeshine Boy 1947
Stanley Kubrick, from “Shoeshine Boy”, 1947.

In the fall of that year, Kubrick began working on more extended, narrative‐based assignments. By 1949 he had fully hit his stride on the pages of Look magazine. His contributions ranged from quirky “only in New York” stories about an innovative police van and pampered city dogs to extended profiles of celebrities. Especially valuable experience for an aspiring filmmaker were stories covering a range of post‐war American entertainment: publishing (cartoonist Peter Arno), movies (Montgomery Clift), and popular music (bandleader Guy Lombardo), as well as the new medium of television. In 1950, the last year in which he published his photographs extensively in Look, Kubrick created a series of celebrity profiles, covering composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, television personality Faye Emerson, and boxer Rocky Graziano, among others. While finishing his tenure at the magazine, Kubrick began work on his first independently produced documentary, Day of the Fight. The film, which will be on view in the final section of the exhibition, was based on his 1949 article on boxer Walter Cartier, “Prizefighter,” which premiered in 1951.

The exhibition culminates with an epilogue that reveals connections between Kubrick the photographer and Kubrick the director. This section of the exhibition will screen his first film, the Cartier documentary Day of the Fight. His photographic work for Look became the storyboard for the film, enabling Kubrick to work out the scenes, camera angles, framing, and lighting. Kubrick maintained this practice of storyboarding from photographs throughout his life. This section will also include an excerpt from his second feature film, Killer’s Kiss (1955). The latter owed debts to the film noir aesthetic and themes—boxing, crime, nightclubs, and showgirls as well as ambition and alienation‐‐that he explored at Look.

A 332‐page large format TASCHEN book accompanies the exhibition.

Alec Baldwin on Stanley Kubrick the Photographer

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St.,
New York


Picture copyright - main image: Stanley Kubrick, from "Life and Love on the New York City Subway", 1947.