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Live by the Lens, Die by the Lens

This exhibition looked at the complex world of film publicity and the photographers whose image-making talents can make or break a star’s reputation.

Film stars’ glamorous publicity pictures are carefully crafted and controlled. A range of photographers are involved in creating the star ‘image’, while others delight in exposing the reality behind the glamour. Live by the Lens, Die by the Lens brought together the diverse ways in which film stars are presented by the media, offering an insight into the relationship between film stars, photographers, publicists and the media, and the tensions that can be inherent in that relationship.

Elizabeth Taylor mobbed in London, March 1961, Ron Burton, the Daily Herald archive © Science Museum Group collection
Elizabeth Taylor mobbed in London, March 1961, Ron Burton, the Daily Herald archive © Science Museum Group collection

The exhibition celebrated the work of the stars behind the lenses—the photographers themselves—with images of over 100 stars, including portraits, film stills, editorials and paparazzi shots. Featured photographers included George Hurrell, Clarence S Bull, Cecil Beaton, Ken Danvers, Bob Willoughby, Cornel Lucas, Terry O’Neill and Rankin. Work from Matrix Syndication, Splash News and Picture Agency, and World Entertainment News Network was also on show.

The exhibition featured stunning photographs of film greats such as Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Caine, Peter O’Toole, Sophia Loren and Greta Garbo through to Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson, Jude Law and Brad Pitt, and stills from films ranging from Anna Karenina (1935) to the Harry Potter films.

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