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Bob Willoughby

Bob Willoughby

The Man who Invented the Motion Picture Still

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Bob Willoughby

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Bob Willoughby (1927–2009) was born in Los Angeles, California and pursued photography after receiving a camera as a gift on his 12th birthday. He pioneered the art of capturing the movies in the form of still photographs, a publicity format that he largely invented. Willoughby studied photography at the film school at the University of Southern California and worked under film maker and graphic designer Saul Bass at the Kahn Institute of Art. He had an early interest in documenting performance, and between 1948 and 1954, his exhibitions of photographs of jazz musicians and dancers led to a contract with Globe Photos and later Harper’s Bazaar magazine.

The photographer’s first big break came when he was hired to photograph Judy Garland during the filming of A Star is Born. Subsequently he was hired by Warner Brothers to film the extensive ‘Born in a Trunk’ sequence. This was the first time a motion picture studio hired a special or unit photographer to specifically take photographs for sale to magazines. The result was a Life magazine cover and the beginning of a new career path. Willoughby went on to shoot Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, and one actor in particular who he would carry on photographing for the rest of his life - Audrey Hepburn.

After meeting Hepburn on the set of My Fair Lady, Willoughby became mesmerized by her beauty and charm and endeavored to capture it continuously - on set, behind the scenes, and even at home. TASCHEN Books has commemorated Willoughby’s infatuation with Hepburn by publishing a book dedicated to his photographs of the classic movie star par excellence. Much of Willoughby's popularity stemmed from his ability to capture film stars in unguarded moments of repose and vulnerability. He introduced techniques of photojournalism to the realm of cinema advertising, bringing ‘behind the scenes’ to the the forefront of showbiz.