Other Stuff: The Audrey Hepburn Photo Exhibit

by Lynn on October 8, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

Audrey HepburnThe Audrey Hepburn Photo Exhibit

How to feel absolutely inadequate? Simple: see the Audrey Hepburn exhibit of photographs chronicling her film career at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

I was urged to see this when I was there this past summer. The exhibit was hugely popular. It was a special exhibit. You had to pay to see it. The tickets were timed and when I waltzed in wanting to see it then! I was told I would have to come back the next day when tickets and times were available.

Bright and early the next day, well 10 am actually, I was there, along with the other hordes waiting for the Gallery to open. It was all very civilized. The exhibit was put together with the help of Hepburn’s two sons: Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer from many photographs in their personal collections and elsewhere.

Audrey Hepburn was photographed by some of the finest photographers in the world: Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson and Irving Penn. Her designer of choice was Hubert de Givenchy.

The photos covered her career from the beginning when she was a dancer to her days performing in a cabaret in Piccadilly in London to the films. She seemed incapable of having a bad photo taken. Of course she was being photographed by the best in the world, but that ‘thing’, that quality that can’t be manufactured, was there in every single picture. Every single picture just made you smile. They covered her work in Sabrina, Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Two for the Road, The Nun’s Story, Charade, Wait Until Dark, etc.

She was beautiful but not intimidatingly so. There are those people so beautiful you stand back in awe. Audrey Hepburn drew people in. She was impish, sophisticated, graceful, alluring and every photo suggested utter charm. She was a natural model. She knew how to wear clothes. The look was always arresting. That came out in photograph after photograph.

Something that heartened me—she had big feet. At the beginning of the exhibit where we learn about her early dancing days, there was one of her ballet slippers in a glass case. The slipper looked really big, perhaps a size 9? Don’t know but it looked big. As for the rest of the exhibit, glorious.

Two photos took my breath away. I’d never seen the first one. It was obviously taken at a formal affair. Hepburn was in a beautiful, elegant, red strapless gown designed by Givenchy, of course. The man himself stood behind her in a tux and at six feet six inches tall, towered over her. Both were smiling. His right arm curved around her shoulders with his hand resting on her left shoulder. Her right arm curved up so that her right hand rested on his arm. It was a pose of such gentleness, affection, tenderness and love that it left me smiling and stunned. The other photo was taken on one of her humanitarian tours to Africa. She wore casual jeans and a comfortable top. Her hair was pulled back in a pony tail. She wore no make-up. She was surrounded by smiling kids. Her smile broke my heart. She was suffering from the cancer that would eventually kill her. While her smile for the camera was broad it had that look that showed fear, concern, something that preoccupied her—her failing health. Is it a vein in the forehead? Is it a crease between the eyebrows or just a scared look in the eye? Don’t know but it was there. I’ve seen that look once before—with our own, beloved and sadly gone Gina Wilkinson, when she was battling the cancer that would take her as well. Two fearless women with the same fearful look, preoccupied, knowing they were dying.

These two photographs in the Audrey Hepburn exhibit showed the breadth and beauty of the woman; movie star, fashion icon, friend; a gracious, giving, joyful, humanitarian–caring, open-hearted and fearless. Both photos were reminders of what we lost when we lost Audrey Hepburn to cancer in 1993. Wonderful exhibit. Very moving.

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