Fashion & Lifestyle February 2024

Elizabeth Taylor Through the Eyes of Legendary Photographer Douglas Kirkland

Douglas Kirkland: A Life in Pictures is a retrospective exhibition of photographs celebrating Kirkland’s ability to capture legendary images of Hollywood stars, including Elizabeth Taylor, that stand the test of time. 

Before meeting the unknown photographer who would take her picture for the cover of Look Magazine’s August 1961 issue, Elizabeth Taylor was at the top of her game and at the forefront of everyone’s mind. She had just walked away from a suffocating relationship with MGM Studios, earned her first Oscar for her role in BUtterfield 8, and signed a contract to star in Cleopatra, making her the world’s highest-paid actor of the time. 

On a personal level, she was simultaneously grieving the death of her third husband, Mike Todd, and receiving major backlash for her affair with Eddie Fisher after the fact. At this point in her career, photographers everywhere were vying for a chance to work with Elizabeth, and true to her character, she surprised everyone when a young, gutsy Douglas Kirkland found an opportunity. 

Kirkland’s prolific career took off and never looked back when he asked Elizabeth Taylor if he could take her photo. While on set for a swimsuit photoshoot in Pismo Beach, Kirkland received a call from Bill Arthur, his boss in New York, saying Look needed him in Las Vegas for an interview with Elizabeth. 

Although her team requested that no pictures be taken, at the end of the interview, figuring he had nothing to lose, Kirkland introduced himself to Elizabeth and asked if he could photograph her, knowing how unlikely that would be. What he didn't know, was that this wouldn’t be the first, or last, time Elizabeth would give undiscovered talent countless opportunities. Her shocking ‘yes’ was instrumental in launching his career as a celebrity photographer who would go on to work with stars such as Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Judy Garland. 

Kirkland and Elizabeth would continue to work together over the years, both appreciative of their tendency to overlook the rules and take risks. Whether he was capturing intimate moments between her and Richard Burton (some of his most cherished photos) or taking pictures of Elizabeth that would be seen worldwide, his portraits came alive through his lens. 

Check out our socials for more of Kirkland’s wonderful images of Elizabeth.