Amidst the cacophony of stoic grey imagery of the 1950s, Mark Shaw was a photographer of emotions. His captivating works was of a world filled with palpable moments.
Born Mark Schlossman, his interest in photography grew when he was gifted a camera at the age of eight. In 1946, he began his career with Harper’s Bazaar and went on to photograph for Life magazine, where he shot an impressive series of covers and stories of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso. His intimate approach to portraiture liberated his subjects from rigid poise, capturing them in a style he coined “snapshots”, as a way of describing their complete lack of pretension.
In 1953, Shaw was granted behind-the-scenes access to Sabrina,where he easily shot 60 rolls of film of then budding starlet, Audrey Hepburn — or “The Monster” as he playfully dubbed her — over several weeks. This was not without some difficulty at first, as Hepburn had evaded Shaw until she discovered that they both had the same intense passion for their respective crafts. Their time together produced an extraordinary series of photos that documented the otherwise inconspicuous moments of the ineffable beauty.
An unofficial family photographer and close friend of the Kennedy family, it was also Shaw who gave the public a glimpse into the Camelot years, as he documented the first family at the White House and the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port. “These photographs were taken in order to catch and reflect the mood, the feeling of a given moment. If the viewer received from these pictures an understanding of the affection of the Kennedys for one another, their high spirits and enjoyment of life, the book will have fulfilled its purpose,” Shaw wrote in the first edition of his bestselling tome, The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album.
For an insight into his world of celebrity, Mark Shaw: An Asian Debut at Leica Galerie Singapore will showcase 20 prints, including that of Hepburn and Chanel, from January 15 to February 29, 2016.
Leica Galerie Singapore, Raffles Hotel Arcade, #01-18, 328 North Bridge Road