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Master Photographer: George Hurrell

George Hurrell's Hollywood

I enjoy reading about photography history and lap up documentaries like they were raindrops of rum flavoured chocolate. And my back-list is too large. So when I got around to watching George Hurrell: Legends in Light [55 mins] it was inspiring to see this is someone I both knew and had no idea about at the same time.

And you know George Hurrell (1904-1992), too. Think of all those beautiful large format Hollywood star photographs through the twenties and thirties and then expand that group of images right out to the late 1980s. He appears to have worked his entire career with the same ethos of simplicity in and out of the studio. Later photographs – interviews are in the documentary – included Sharon Stone and Brooke Shields.

Another interesting point that I hadn’t really considered in all those George Hurrell photographs was that in the studio he only shot with a single tungsten light. He knew exactly where it would fall off and controlled it for the strength a single light offers. His signature is how he masterfully paints light.

Which brings me to another point. George Hurrell, like so many master photographers, was initially a painter who turned to photography for commercial reasons. Not an uncommon scenario. And, like other painters bringing the trained eye to the camera, his way of seeing shape, light and structure came from an education in what a good picture entails.

So, in his twenties he moved to Laguna Beach (tragedy of tragedies we don’t have those places left) and set about shooting pictures of the local artists and creative personalities. That eventually got him the gig at MGM and rolled out a truly astounding career.

Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Harriet Lake, Pancho Barnes, Dorothy Jordan, Paulette Goddard – feast your memory on the George Hurrell Trust gallery page. He had an incredible eye for beauty and elegance that seems to be missing in a lot of modern portraiture.

Sigh. If I had the ready cash I wouldn’t mind a few nicely framed Hurrell’s on the walls of our home for inspiration. I’ll have to settle for a pre-order of George Hurrell’s Hollywood on Amazon.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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