I grew up in a household obsessed with Stanley Kubrick films. To romanticise these times, I spent many an hour watching The Shining – my Dad’s particular favourite, lines from which have weirdly now become family catchphrases. As a result, I became an unknowing conoissoir of Kubrick movies at a young age.
But, I just read that Stanley Kubrick, the master filmmaker, didn’t ever go to film school or begin his career in the film industry. So what was he doing before?
Well, turns out that long before he made The Shining, in 1945 he took a job as a photographer for a magazine called, Look, (the less classy competitor to LIFE Magazine), and got schooled on the New York city streets. Known then as Stan Kubrick, it was his first job and he was just 17 years old – making him the youngest photographer on the staff.
“By the time I was 21 I had four years of seeing how things worked in the world,” Kubrick told an interviewer in 1972. “I think if I had gone to college I would never have been a director.”
Quote from the New York Times article, Stanley Kubrick: Before He Wrote Scripts, He Took Photos.
His assignments took him from the boxing ring to the dancehall, from the subway to the sets of films and television shows – from everyday people going about their business to circus performers and film stars. Through them, he learned how to tell a story, reveal a character, and master the skill of framing, composition and lighting.
Apparently, he would also sometimes staged them with his friends on subway platforms or in movie theatres, like in this one below.
Stan Kubrick’s Look archive can be found at the Museum of the City of New York, which hosted an exhibition of the photos “Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs,” a couple of years ago.