Updated: Oct 27, 2019
A new book showcases never-before-seen photographs of Audrey Hepburn by six of the best-known photographers of the 20th century, each offering his or her take on the legendary actress.
Always Audrey: Six Iconic Photographers. One Legendary Star (ACC Art Books, $65), released today, is a journey through Hepburn’s life via the photographers who captured her image over the years, starting with her breakthrough success, starring in Gigi on Broadway in 1951. An admirer of street photographers like Gary Winogrand and Ed Feingersh, Lawrence Fried captured candid images of Hepburn that depict a girl on the cusp of stardom, photos taken inside her dressing room, at the entrance of New York’s Fulton Theater, where Gigi was playing to sold-out audiences, and in nearby Times Square.
Norman Parkinson likewise met Hepburn while she was still starring in Gigi, taking images of her both in one of her costumes and in modern-day clothes during a January 1952 sitting. Only one of these images ultimately was used, in the March 1952 issue of British Vogue. Three years later, and Hepburn already a worldwide star following 1953’s Roman Holiday, Parkinson trekked to Italy, where the actress and then-husband Mel Ferrer were filming War and Peace with director Charles “King” Vidor. Hepburn and Ferrer were staying at a rented farmhouse called Villa Rolli, not far from Rome’s Cinecittà Studios, and Parkinson once again was assigned by British Vogue, this time taking playful images of the newlywed couple. It was during that shoot that Parkinson also captured what became among Hepburn’s most iconic images, as she stands in front of pink bougainvillea wearing a sleeveless dress in a paler shade of pink by Hubert de Givenchy. In addition to one of the bougainvillea images used for the cover of Always Audrey, the book features several outtakes, which reveal Hepburn changed into another Givenchy dress during the sitting, as well as a note that the pearl bracelet seen in several shots, an anniversary present from Ferrer, was by Van Cleef & Arpels.
Milton H. Greene also met Hepburn during Gigi, when he was assigned to photograph the 22-year-old actress for Life magazine; but of all the photographers featured in Always Audrey, he ultimately formed the closest relationship with the star, says his son, Joshua Greene, a photographer who also oversees his father’s archives. “They had a brief affair, but most people in those days, they didn’t kiss and tell,” Joshua says. The relationship occurred in the years prior to Hepburn meeting Ferrer and Milton meeting his second wife, Amy Greene, who is Joshua’s mother. “After the marriages and throughout their lives, they stayed friends,” Joshua adds. “Even after Milton died [in 1985], Audrey and my mother would stay in touch. Even though Audrey was living in Switzerland, they would call each other and enjoy this wonderful girl talk.”
Hepburn was a bona fide fashion icon by the 1960s, following Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 and while she was starring in films like 1966’s How to Steal a Million with Peter O'Toole and 1967’s Two for the Road with Albert Finney. Yet Douglas Kirkland recalls that Hepburn was utterly “unlike a movie star” when he met her in 1965 as the on-set photographer of How to Steal a Million. Kirkland agrees that Hepburn possessed both a look and a unique instinct that translated well in the camera, an idea that was solidified when he photographed Hepburn more than a decade later, during the filming of 1976’s Robin and Marian. “In the photography world we say 'the camera loves you!' It is a special chemistry some individuals have with the camera [and] is difficult to describe,” Kirkland says. “Someone can be extraordinarily beautiful in real life and not necessarily photograph well. Audrey had a unique quality, gamine when she was younger and more sophisticated and chic as she got older. She was totally in charge of her look.”
“Stars didn’t shine much brighter than Audrey,” Terry O’Neill writes in Always Audrey. The photographer, known for shooting everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Beatles, Judy Garland and Faye Dunaway (his second wife from 1983 to 1987), O’Neill met Hepburn on the Paris set of How to Steal a Million, taking candid photos of the actress and O’Toole, as well as director William Wyler. “While waiting for the director to yell ‘Action!’, there’s a lot of sitting around,” O’Neill notes. “[Audrey] was scrubbing floors in one scene, and assistants would bring around ice-packs for her to wear while waiting for the next scene to be set up.”
The following year O’Neill traveled to the south of France to photograph Hepburn on the set of Two for the Road, where it was rumored that she and Finney were in a relationship. “There was definitely chemistry between the two stars,” O’Neill writes in Always Audrey. “You can see it in the film, and you can see it in these photographs.”
Like Parkinson, during this shoot O’Neill also captured photographs that have come to be thought of as iconic in the subsequent years, from images of Finney playfully tossing Hepburn into a swimming pool — “Audrey hated the water, she was afraid of it, but the scene had to be shot,” O’Neill says — as well as a behind-the-scenes image that was pure luck, when a white dove landed on Hepburn’s shoulder while O’Neill was taking a photograph. “Now, anyone else would have flinched and quickly brushed the dove away,” the photographer writes. “But not Audrey – she knew I was taking photos. She stood perfectly still, then looked up and smiled. She understood what makes a great image.”
The final collection of images in Always Audrey are by Eva Sereny, who was hired as the photographer on the Montana set for 1989’s Always, directed by Steven Spielberg. Hepburn passed away from cancer in 1993, making Always her final film, and Sereny believes there’s a sense of introspection in the images she took. “There was something mystic about the whole thing,” Sereny says of her photo shoot with Hepburn; allotted only a half hour with the star, Sereny asked her to sit in a meadow on a Montana hillside and do whatever felt natural. “It was absolute calm,” she adds. “I let her move around however she liked, but the whole thing felt very delicate. And everything about the images feels very serious, as though she’s thinking deeply about something. I found her to be quite extraordinary.”
To coincide with the book’s release, Iconic Images in London is hosting an exhibition through January 2020, featuring a variety of Hepburn images by the six photographers, as well as a never-before-seen image by Anthony Beauchamp. “I love the idea that the images seen in the book have also been gathered together in a gallery, because the book also feels like a museum exhibit,” Joshua Greene says. Ultimately, why does he believe Hepburn, and her photographs, continue to resonate with fans? “I think the images reveal a genuine, authentic person with a heart,” he says. “When you look at everything she did in her later years [as a UNICEF ambassador], the girl and the woman you see in the earlier images won't surprise you. Even in the most carefree photos, you get a sense that there’s a serious actress and a thoughtful woman behind them. That’s what made her special.”
All images courtesy of ACC Art Books; click here for more information about Always Audrey: Six Iconic Photographers. One Legendary Star.