A random Weblog

A study in the masters: CS Ball
September 26, 2008, 7:44 pm
Filed under: Media, Photography | Tags: ,

Following my attempts to emulate Irving Penn, Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon, this photo is based on the work of C.S. Ball.

Fill-light bounced off card in front of model and below camera, soft boxes from rear left and rear right. ISO 25. High res version from Sinar.

Clarence Sinclair Bull. b. 1896, d. 1979, USA Clarence Sinclair Bull was the head of MGM’s stills department for nearly forty years, Clarence Sinclair Bull, along with George Hurrell virtually invented celebrity portraiture as we know it today, capturing with rare artistry a breathtaking roster of stars in brilliant and often surprising ways. His magical and dream‐like photographs in particular his collaboration with Greta Garbo, whom he photographed almost exclusively from 1929 until 1941 became the classic images of Hollywood portrait photography, instrumental in fixing the essential look of a star and in setting standards of beauty male and female ‐ to this day. Bull’s days at MGM included 200 of his enduring portraits of such legendary film stars as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Hedy Lamarr, Gary Cooper, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivian Leigh, Spencer Tracy, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Jean Harlow and Greta Garbo – in fact he took over 4000 photographs of Garbo. He became Garbo’s favourite photographer (she had clashed with Hurrell and did not care for his manic personality) and as her power at the studio grew, she eventually requested that only Bull photograph her.

Winner of four Academy still photography exhibition awards, his early interest in photography took him to Hollywood in 1918 where he was hired as an assistant cameraman at Metro Pictures. He shot stills of the stars during the production breaks, and when Goldwyn merged with Metro in 1924, he became head of the MGM stills department, and remained at MGM for the rest of his career. Though Bull was experienced in every branch of his department, from lighting to printing and retouching, he is best‐known for his remarkable portraits of Hollywood stars.


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