Recapturing the golden age of cinema

Story by Jack Foley

THE golden age of cinema is being revived at a new exhibition at the Tom Blau Gallery, to mark the death of celebrated Hollywood photographer Sid Avery last month.

Avery’s pictures helped to provide a private insight into some of the most publicity-shy stars of the Sixties, helping him to gain access to the likes of James Dean and Humphrey Bogart and access onto film sets such as Giant, Rebel Without A Cause and the original version of the Rat Pack’s Ocean’s Eleven.

The exhibition at Tom Blau represents Avery’s first solo show for more than 10 years and is an absolute must for film fanatics. Images include Marlon Brando looking moody on a pair of bongos (pictured left), Audrey Hepburn on a studio back lot and Rock Hudson, on the telephone when fresh out of the shower, wearing nothing but a towel.

Each photograph provides a real glimpse into the people behind the glamour at a time when access to them was far more difficult. It catches some of cinema’s true icons at their most intimate and honest - a feat which would be difficult to repeat in today’s image-obsessed industry.

Other highlights include Steve McQueen going for a spin in his 1957 Jaguar and Paul Newman making breakfast for Joanne Woodward.

Signed collectors' prints will be available throughout the exhibition for purchase at special prices, from £450+VAT. The exhibition runs until September 7.

Sid Avery's Hollywood Lives, Until Sep 7, Tom Blau Gallery, 21 Queen Elizabeth Street, Butler's Wharf, SE1 (Tel: 020 7940 9171).

About Sid Avery…

One of six children, Sid Avery was born in Akron, Ohio, but moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was about a year old.

His infatuation with photography began at the age of seven, when his uncle, a landscape and architectural photographer, took him into his darkroom. During his teen years, he found a camera in a rubbish bin, cleaned it up and started experimenting.

At Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles, he was yearbook photographer and swept the camera club's awards and, after graduating in 1937, he studied photography at a trade school and worked as a darkroom assistant at a camera store while attending art school.

By 1938, he was shooting celebrities in nightclubs for Silver Screen, Photoplay and other fan magazines. And in 1939 he opened a studio specialising in portraiture, photojournalism and publicity photographs.

During the Second World War, Avery served in the Army Signal Corps and was stationed in London, where he helped establish the Army Pictorial Service laboratory, the processing facility for all combat still and motion picture footage from the European theatre of operations.

Avery was commissioned a lieutenant before the Normandy invasion and helped establish a second division of the Army Pictorial Service in Paris.

After the war, he returned to Hollywood and took on commercial assignments as well as doing his celebrity shoots - he counted the likes of Nat King Cole, Ernest Borgnine, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall among his friends. In the early 1960s he switched to advertising photography and, later that decade, opened a successful television commercial production company.

In the 1980s he founded the non-profit Hollywood Photographers Archive to preserve, document and exhibit the work of notable photographers. It later evolved into a for-profit stock house, the Motion Picture and Television Photo Archive, which represents the work of dozens of photographers and has more than 1 million historic Hollywood images on file.

He died in Los Angeles earlier this year, aged 83.

RELATED LINKS: Click here for the Tom Blau Gallery website...
Click here to view more of Avery's work...
Click here for a full obituary on Sid Avery...