These days, the phrase “celebrity photography” conjures wardrobe malfunctions and morning-after images of hungover, Starbucks-wielding starlets. But for Kenn Duncan, the prolific dance and theater lensman who died in 1986, photographing stars was about straight-up glamour.
Today, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is unveiling the exhibit “Focus on the 70s: The Fabulous Photography of Kenn Duncan.” As curator Bob Taylor notes in the accompanying Rizzoli book, Duncan’s images represented “celebrity at its classiest.” While we might expect dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Carla Fracci to ooze grace and elegance, it’s some of Duncan’s least expected subjects that turn out to be the most bewitching. Take, for instance, his shot of Lily Tomlin looking positively ethereal in a gauzy floral gown, or the portrait of Warhol superstar Candy Darling decked out like a latter-day Jean Harlow.
Photos of Eartha Kitt (left) and Candy Carling (right) courtesy of The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, Universe Publishing, 2008