Farrah Fawcett: An Iconic Career

By Rob Moynihan | July 1, 2009 from TV Guide Magazine

Farrah Fawcett photograph by Douglas KirklandFarrah Fawcett graced the cover of TV Guide Magazine six times in her career, each image adding to her iconic portfolio. Legendary photographer Douglas Kirkland shot this picture of Fawcett in 1977, and TV Guide Magazine will be highlighting the picture again on our July 6, 2009 cover. We spoke with Kirkland about working with Fawcett, and he shared some behind the scenes stories from the photo shoots.

What was it like to photograph and work with Farrah? I photographed her a lot, probably just as much, if not more, than anybody else during that period. She was always a fantastic pearl, one of my favorites to work with. She had a look that seduced the camera as well as any viewer seeing it. She was the pristine, perfect, white blonde American female—impeccable. With all of that, she knew how to use everything that she had. She knew how to project to the camera, which is really a lot about what this type of photography is about. In this image, when she’s projecting out that way, she’s not holding back anything. This is a Texas girl projecting her beauty, her God-given beauty, her true beauty, which is not that artificial. She’s projecting that real beauty in a real true way. But with Farrah, it was always very simple. I would put her in the position I wanted her to work. She had worked years ago as a model in New York, and probably had gotten a lot of experience with still photography. Frankly, I would say she was one of my favorite subjects in the 20th century, and there were a lot of them.

When did you first shoot her? 1971. I was doing a story for Look magazine, an issue devoted to Hollywood. We asked all the studios to send their most promising young actresses, and it was amazing, 52 of them arrived. We were shooting over at MGM on a stairway outside the lot. Farrah was one of the 52, and it’s an amazing picture in itself.

Did she stand out to you immediately? She pops out. Farrah is right down in the front right hand corner and she’s the one you see the most of all. There were others, they came with hot pants, long coats, every variety of female.

Do you have a favorite memory of working with Farrah? We shot a cover for Time magazine of Charlie’s Angels. I thought what was appropriate before the shoot, and I had a florist bring them all flowers. We brought the three girls all a bouquet of red roses. And when I got over there, they all were just knocked out because they said this show has been going on at that time for three years and nobody from the production has ever done anything like this. And then when we were shooting, Farrah was in the back just because it was a good place for her, and the other two girls were there. They were very concerned that they might be overshadowed by Farrah, and they kept saying, “What are you doing, Farrah? What are you doing?” She wasn’t doing anything! She was performing the same as they were, but she was such a star, they were afraid that she would pop out more than anybody else, which she did. It wasn’t her fault—she did nothing wrong. She popped out, and she did among the 52 girls sitting on those steps. I mean, that’s amazing when you think about it, 52 of the most promising young actresses, and I go to her immediately. So many others you sort of half-know, but she’s the one that really made it.

When was the last time you worked with her? 1994, for TV Guide Magazine. She was as fantastic then as she was the first day I ever photographed her. When she was sitting in the chair with the lights on her and everything, I have to really take my hat off to Farrah. I did everything technically right, and I certainly wanted her best intention, but it was Farrah who made it happen. And that’s what I think made Farrah’s career, that she could light things up. She arrived on the scene with a smash, but it went on for some time, she was not an overnight wonder, but she didn’t blow away like many starlets. Of all of the people in my 50-year plus career, she really was most commanding of attention and most of my affection because she was so good. She was so idolized by many people, it probably went beyond even what she truly knew for quite some time because she enjoyed it, she used it. But of all the people I’ve photographed, and there have been a lot of them, I can’t compare her others. She’s among the top of all of the people who I’ve photographed in my career.

BACKGROUND CHECK

By Rob Moynihan July 1, 2009 TV Guide Magazine