The twentieth annual Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue features a unique photo portfolio of raw and candid celebrity portraits created by world-renowned Painter and Photographer Chuck Close. Known for his incredibly scrutinizing, and larger-than-life studies of the human façade, Close photographed some of Hollywood’s elite with a rare 20” x 24” Polaroid camera.
Each subject, hand chosen by Close for the Vanity Fair assignment, was invited to sit for the famous artist and given specific instructions. As cited by VF, the following circumstances were presented to each invitee, and were non-negotiable: (1) Arrive alone or with one close friend or associate. (2) Be available for three hours. (3) Be responsible for your own look—no professional styling or hair or makeup. (4) Be content with coffee and deli sandwiches or salads—nothing fancy will be served. (5) Get to the studio under your own steam. When one is a well-known in both the Art and Entertainment worlds, an icon like Close can demand well-coifed stars to abandon the usual polish and pretense typically seen in celebrity portraiture.
Upon arrival, each of Close’s subjects had to simply sit still on a humble stool mere inches away from the imposing vintage camera. Each photo creates an automatic 20 inch by 24 inch positive contact sheet, the artist and subject can review minutes after developing. On a photo “negative” of this size, there is not only zero loss of visual information, but rather an intense magnification of every tiny detail. Only six 20x24 cameras were built 1977-1978. One was the prototype (which now resides in the Harvard Museum of Scientific Instruments), and five others are available as rentals at studios in the United States, France, and Czech Republic. The 235-pound camera requires a trained technician to help Photographers utilize it. Before Polaroid filed bankruptcy and stopped production of all Polaroid-related media, the last films, paper rolls, and chemicals were bought and are now carefully archived and made available on an on-demand basis. According to Photoblographer, the cost of each shot runs about $200, not including the camera and studio rental fees.
Among the twenty Hollywood icons chosen to sit for Close are Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johannson, Kate Winslet, George Clooney, Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Bette Midler, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Willis, Jessica Lange, Sean Penn, Martin Scorsese, and Robert DeNiro. Each portrait, chosen in partner with the subjects, reveals a profoundly self-effacing soul, rather than a glamorized Hollywood veneer.
For a candid behind-the-scenes look at the photos shoots, visit: Vanity Fair, Chuck Close Hollywood Issue. At this site, there is also a fascinating video of Chuck Close speaking about the collaborative process, getting his famous subjects to trust him, and why his work shows a unique humanity in each portrait. To see the complete series, simply subscribe to Vanity Fair or purchase the latest issue at your local newsstand.
To read more about the legendary 20” x 24” Polaroid camera, visit: 20x24 Studio.