Stanley Kubrick’s early photographs of New York street life
Before he became the acclaimed and iconic director that he is now remembered, Stanley Kubrick spent five prolific years as a photographer for Look magazine, specialising in depicting the highs and lows of New York City.
Kubrick joined the publication in 1945 when he was aged just 17 and was based in the Bronx. He’d stay in this role as a staff photographer for five years and would explore every nook and cranny New York and its inhabitants had to offer. “By the time I was 21 I had four years of seeing how things worked in the world,” Kubrick told an interviewer in 1972. “I think if I had gone to college I would never have been a director.”
An exhibition, which was showing the early photographs, was hosted by the Museum of the City of New York. The show, titled ‘Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs’, explored Kubrick’s which was also collected in a book of the same name and will be published by Taschen.
Later in his life, Kubrick didn’t hide that fact that his experience in photography aided his storytelling ability within cinema. “Because of my background in photography, I have been able to quickly figure out the best visual way to photograph or represent a scene on the screen,” the director once said. “But I never start thinking in terms of shots. I first begin thinking of the main intent of the film. After the actors rehearse the scene and achieve a level of reality and excitement, only then do I really look through the viewfinder and try to figure out the best way to put this on the screen.”
He added: “Generally speaking, you can make almost any action or situation into an interesting shot, if it’s composed well and lit well. I’ve seen many films in which interesting camera angles and lighting effects are totally incongruous to the purpose of the scene. When the whole thing is over, you’ve seen a rather interestingly photographed movie that has no effect at all.
Reflecting on the exhibition about Kubrick’s work Donald Albrecht, curator of architecture and design at the museum, said: “You cannot look at photographs without knowing he’s going to be a filmmaker.”
Adding: “There were a lot of great photographers at Look and he probably wasn’t the greatest one there, but there was something about Stanley that you just knew he had what it took to get to the next level.”