It’s a truism in portrait photography that hundreds of images can be taken during a sitting with the goal of capturing just one that’s deemed perfect — when the stars align and every element, from the subject’s expression to the lighting and the framing, combines to create a “wow” moment. As for the dismissed photos? They might sit buried in a computer hard drive or, in the case of prints or negatives, in a file drawer, largely forgotten while all the players involved move on to their next project.
Now the work of six photographers who captured images of Audrey Hepburn over the years has been gathered in a new book, not only showcasing how the celebrated beauty rarely took a bad photo, but also tracing her life’s journey on and off film sets, as she evolved from a youthful gamine to a bona fide icon. Always Audrey: Six Iconic Photographers. One Legendary Star (ACC Art Books, $65), set for release Oct. 15, features the work of Lawrence Fried, Norman Parkinson, Milton H. Greene, Douglas Kirkland, Terry O’Neill and Eva Sereny and offers behind-the-scenes anecdotes on their experiences working with Hepburn.
Of the six photographers, only three — Kirkland, O’Neill and Sereny — are still living and contributed their own images and thoughts, while representatives of Greene, Parkinson and Fried also worked with London-based publisher ACC Art Books on the project. The book kicks off with the work of Fried, who first met Hepburn in New York in 1951, when he was 25 and she was just 22, starring in her first Broadway role in Gigi, which opened November 1951. Heavily influenced by street photographers like Garry Winogrand, Fried captured Hepburn in a variety of candid moments, including a delightful series in which she is standing outside the Fulton Theater, where Gigi was playing, a wide smile on her face as the marquee above states, “Audrey Hepburn in Gigi – Comedy Hit.”
In 1952, Parkinson did a sitting with Hepburn for British Vogue, also during her Broadway run of Gigi. Only one image was used in the magazine’s March 1952 issue, in black and white, while British Vogue proclaimed, “[Hepburn] is now playing with fabulous personal success on Broadway…she has a Paramount contract waiting.” That contract was for 1953’s Roman Holiday, the film that made Hepburn an international star.
Milton H. Greene likewise met Hepburn while she was starring in Gigi. “The first sitting that Milton did with Audrey, for Life magazine, she’s wearing her sailor suit from Gigi, and I think only two of those pictures were actually published, while there are probably 60 from the whole sitting,” explains Joshua Greene, one of Milton’s two sons and a photographer himself, who over the years also has been working to preserve and organize his father’s extensive archives. “Some of the images can look similar to those Life published, but there are others that have never been seen, including some pictures with her and [then-husband] Mel Ferrer, while they were in Italy shooting War and Peace, in which they look very domestic. I think those are absolutely charming.”
Milton Greene and Hepburn formed a close friendship over the years, including a romantic relationship at one point, before Hepburn met Ferrer and before Greene had met his second wife, Amy Greene, Joshua’s mother. “Milton was a very attractive, elegant man,” Joshua told The Hollywood Reporter. “He didn’t pursue women, but there were certain women he really enjoyed being with, and Audrey was one of them. It’s pretty amazing that they had a relationship but remained friends all their lives. When Milton went to Italy to photograph Audrey for War and Peace, she was already married to Mel Ferrer, but my father was always welcome and very respectful. And my mother just told me a story yesterday about how she and Audrey remained friends through all the years she was married to Milton. They would call each other all the time.”
O’Neill also got to know the many facets of Hepburn when he photographed her on the sets of two films: 1966’s How to Steal a Million in Paris, and 1967’s Two for the Road in the south of France. “You couldn’t miss with Audrey Hepburn,” he writes in Always Audrey. “In fact, I can’t recall seeing many bad shots of her at all. She was always photographed as the iconic, stylish beauty — but she had such an impish sense of humor and she could get really frisky.”
Kirkland, meanwhile, also photographed Hepburn on the set of How to Steal a Million, having been hired as the official set photographer. What he remembers most is not only her professionalism, but also, like O’Neill, that the camera loved her. “It’s a special chemistry some individuals have with the camera,” he tells THR. “It is difficult to describe. Someone can be extraordinarily beautiful in real life and not necessarily photograph well. Audrey had a unique quality, gamine when she was younger and more sophisticated and chic as she got older. She was totally in charge of her look. And she was unlike a ‘movie star.’ She was kind and professional and unpretentious. She did everything I asked her to do. On the set she was the same.”
The final chapter of Always Audrey is devoted to the work of Sereny, who photographed Hepburn on the set of Steven Spielberg’s 1989 film, Always. It was also Hepburn’s final film; she died from cancer in 1993, and Sereny believes the images she took exhibit the actress in a more introspective mood. “She wasn’t the bubbly young girl, but a beautiful, soft-spoken woman of a certain age — you see that contrast so clearly in the book,” Sereny says from her London home. “I only had about a half hour with her, and I told her, ‘Just do what you feel like doing.’ We were in this forest with a meadow where Steven was filming, and she sat down and just looked like she was thinking. It was very calm, and she had this sort of magical aura all around her. It’s easy to look at those shots and feel very close to her.”
From the anecdotes and interviews, it’s clear that each photographer agrees: Photographing Audrey Hepburn was a special experience. “She was one of the most kind and generous people I’ve ever worked with,” O’Neill says. “She lit up a room and never took a bad picture. My job was easy — I just had to be there and press the button. I can’t say enough good things about Audrey. I was lucky to be there.”