In the current selection of artworks from the Igal Ahouvi Art Collection, we are focusing on less obvious aspects of our art collection, celebrities’ black and white photography from the 20th century. Which is a ‘mini-collection’ by its own merit.
Nowadays, celebrities have almost full control of their own image through social networks and army of stylists and agents, but in the past, it was the photographers’ role to create an image that will reflect certain aspects of the photographed personae. Before the digital age and the endless torrent of images, a single photograph could be used to capture a multitude of subtleties, that would reflect and represent the image of a known figure to the public eye. Some renowned photographers portrayed celebrities as part of their practice, sometimes by commission and sometimes as part of their own portfolio. In most cases, the portrayed celebrity did not outshine the artistic endeavour of the photographer.
In this selection, we presented choice examples for that practice. Each photograph merges together both the photographer’s unique vision and the sitter’s persona. Each photographer, with their individual style and visual language, faced a complex challenge, finding the balance between their own vision and the sitter’s. They had to incorporate their artistic statement with the will of the person, who (usually) had some pre-conceived notions about themselves and how they want to be perceived by the public.
The successful combination of talent, the well-aware celebrities and the sharp eye of the best photographers, captured some of the most iconic images of the previous century. David Bailey’s portrait of Mick Jager is one of the best-known images of both the photographer and the singer. The portrait is part of Bailey’s first photography book, Box of Pin-Ups, which was published in 1965, and depicted media stars who captured the spirit of swinging London in the mid-sixties, where both Bailey and Jager started their careers. Yousuf Karsh was in his mid-thirties when he came to Princeton University to photograph the most famous of all physicists, Albert Einstein. Einstein was well known and used to be photographed in a manner that shows his signature ‘wildness’. Karsh, who famously captured the image of Winston Churchill without a cigar in his mouth few years before, liked to do things differently and took a picture of a contemplating Einstein.
We invite you to take a moment and reflect on a bygone era, when the mystery surrounding the personal life of celebrities was yet to be unveiled. When an image of a celebrity was more than merely a tool to promote commodities. When the illusion that celebrities are elevated above the rest of us was part of their charm.