The mirror of Hollywood

Posted by aug 13 2009

Greg Gorman – a name that may not have been written in giant letters on film advertisements, yet many memorable posters are connected with him. In addition to Tootsie, The Big Chill, Tomorrow Never Dies, Pirates of the CarribeanItalian Job,Pearl Harbor and King Arthur, he has caught moments of several actors, musicians, dancers and models which over the years have become acknowledged as well-known portraits. Jimmy Hendrix, Alfred Hitchcock and Andy Warhol – only a few of the legends who remind you that Greg recalls the golden days of Hollywood and the dawn of pop art, while still being absolutely fresh, current and up-to-date. No wonder that the world’s trendiest advertising and fashion photographers want to learn tricks from the living legend, and thanks to Greg’s workshops they can do so without plagiarism. My article for Horizon, MALEV – Hungarian Airline’s in-flight magazine.

“The whole thing’s about wine,” laughs a photographer, who took part in the master’s one-week workshop in California held at his own country house. Besides photography Greg is obsessed with fine wines. He himself makes and bottles the drink in containers of his own design. During the workshop Greg’s own cook made sure that photographers studying on the sand of the beach house would be in need of nothing, while deciding whether to take a portrait, a nude or a landscape. Yet, the devil of VogueVanity Fair and Rolling Stone has recently decided it was time he toured the old continent and naturally, as everywhere, he has found followers here, too.

The stars who are out of our reach are not only Greg’s close colleagues but also true friends. For example, during our talk the star of The Blue Lagoon, Christopher Atkins, was mentioned. Greg took nude photographs of him when young as well as some decades later. “Chris carries his age very well. He still looks great.” Greg shows the black and white photographs which truly amaze me – Atkins is really in fantastic form but Greg’s work is also captivating. He knows exactly where to turn the reflecting screen by half a centimetre so that someone would look not only quite well but perfect in the pictures.

During his three-day workshop in Budapest, in addition to the art of photography Greg also introduced the magic world of post-production. Many may hear the news with regret, others with malice, that Hollywood celebs are not as perfect as they seem on their photos. Gorman is able to do the impossible: he can turn sloppily drooping shoulders into an athletic shape at a stroke, a badly tucked-in shirt on Richard Gere becomes properly done at once and instead of the stylist he himself worked on Lionel Richie’s hairdo – on the computer screen. Naturally there are some who hardly require any changes. “Sharon Stone looks fantastic. In her case fine touches are barely needed. I’ve also had models who were worked on by the plastic surgeon instead of me,” he says laughing.

After adventures in Moscow, Prague, Barcelona, Vienna and several other European cities, in Hungary Greg photographed his models in the derelict mansion of Tura. The captivating atmosphere of its hunting lodge designed by Miklós Ybl, architect of the Hungarian State Opera House, recalls the enchanted world of Beauty and the Beast. Greg, who has already seen a great deal, practically bathed in the beauty of the romantic building. “It’s an amazing place. I was already excited just having seen the pictures,” he says, and while a summer storm is raging outside and a silver sun is shining at the edge of black clouds he is taking photographs of stark-naked girls and guys of statuesque beauty. He is not bothered at all that the old mansion has no running water or electricity – at lunchtime, free of star-like poses and conduct, he enjoys eating the goulash soup made by an elderly woman in the village. “I’ve put on five kilos since I came to Europe. Local specialities are so tasty it’s difficult to resist the temptation,” he comments, biting into a thickly cut slice of white bread.

Asked which star he was most pleased to photograph Greg answers: “Bette Davis. She was a true Hollywood star in the best sense of the word, who despised women and adored men.” Her photograph shows an elegant, meticulous vamp who as an ice queen looks at the viewer with her famous glance, which was even sung about. Greg’s photos are far from being reserved. For instance, his album Just Between Usfocuses on a single male model who shocks readers with various provocative positions – mostly of course naked. The legendary actor John Waters says that Greg’s photographs are elegant, dirty and breathtaking all at once.

“The title of my next book is In Their Youth,” says Greg, while showing the newly printed samples from his soon-to-appear album. Besides the pictures of stars and models in their youth – including Leonardo Di Caprio, Johnny Depp and Kevin Bacon – there is also a photo of himself in his early teens. With a sardonic look Greg is sneering at the camera while holding a huge trout as if sending the message: in the next fifty years I will catch all the big fish.

Indeed, today Greg Gorman at the age of 60 is not only unstoppable and unique, he really has caught all the big fish.

Kristóf Steiner