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May 22, 2021

Stunning Portraits of Elizabeth Taylor Taken by Douglas Kirkland in 1961

Over the course of his six-decade-long career, legendary photographer Douglas Kirkland has taken some of the most recognizable photos of some the most iconic celebrities of all time, among them is Elizabeth Taylor who he photographed her in 1961 when he just started his photography career. Elizabeth’s tracheotomy scar from an emergency procedure due to pneumonia that left her unable to breathe during the filming of Cleopatra in Rome is clearly visible.

“Elizabeth was the one who started my career,” Kirkland said. “At the time she was the biggest movie star in the world, but she had been very ill and had vanished from the public eye for close to a year, and this was the first time people were going to see her — that was if she would allow me to photograph her. [One thing you notice is] her tracheotomy scar; she felt it was her statement and who she was at the time. She wasn’t into hiding it, ‘cause it was something that had saved her life.”

Douglas Kirkland was a young photographer at Look magazine and was sent to Las Vegas to sit on an interview with Elizabeth. She has said yes to the interview but no picture. She has not been seen for a while and had has a tracheotomy as result of being ill during the first attempt to shoot Cleopatra. “After the interview I went up to her and held her hand and said:,‘it is wonderful to meet you. My name is Douglas Kirkland, I am new with this magazine, can you imagine what it would mean to me if you let me photograph you’ I did not let go of her hand, she wore jungle gardenia perfume which I could smell later on, she thought for a while and said “Come back tomorrow at 8pm.’”


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