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Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs

Stanley Kubrick (1928–1999) worked as a photojournalist for Lookmagazine years before he became known as a filmmaker and the director of such classics as Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and A Clockwork Orange (1971).

Stanley Kubrick for Look Magazine. Walter Cartier, Prizefighter of Greenwich Village. 1949. Museum of the City of New York. The LOOK Collection. X2011.4.11122.124A. Gift of Cowles Magazines, Inc., 1961. Used with permission of SK Film Archives and Museum of the City of New York.

Kubrick was born in 1928 in New York City and raised in the borough of The Bronx. As a young adult, he was less interested in formal education than in lessons learned in the real world. As a teenager with a photographic sensibility, Kubrick was already scouting human-interest stories for Look. For a budding photographer like Kubrick, there was no better place to be at the time than New York City, home to Life and Look, America’s two leading pictorial magazines. Look’s Manhattan office became his college, its editors and his fellow photographers his professors, and New York City his field of study. Kubrick worked at the magazine for five years (1945–1950), during which he participated in the process of making art in a collaborative setting not unlike that of the film studios he would soon enter.

Kubrick’s photographs for Look generally accorded with the magazine’s populist perspective, which was attuned to postwar American themes such as consumerism, entertainment, science, and the family. Sometimes, however, he deviated from its mainstream approach, indulging his idiosyncratic taste for the eccentric and offbeat. Kubrick’s photography laid the technical and aesthetic foundations for his cinematography: it was through the lens of the photographic camera that he learned to be an acute observer of human interactions and to tell stories through images arranged into dynamic narrative sequences. His years at Look proved to be a basis for his subsequent career as a celebrated filmmaker—a formative period when he honed his skills as both a storyteller and a crafter of images, albeit through a different lens.


Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs was organized in collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York and the SK Film Archives LLC.

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