Monday, December 5, 2011


I was flipping through Terry Richardson’s Diary – only metaphorically – it’s just a photo blog - and I came across some photographs captioned “Lydia Hearst at the Chateau Marmont.”

And the first thing I thought was, boy, that’s a really nice stove.  The first place I ever lived in LA had a stove like that, if not quite as big, so maybe it’s an LA thing.  Perhaps the Chateau Marmont retains the old stoves as a kind of retro design feature, but I don’t know if they get a lot of use.  I’m sure I don’t know the half of what goes on in the Chateau Marmont, but I’m going to bet that not much cooking gets done in the rooms and bungalows, and certainly not the kind that requires a double oven.  And certainly judging by the pristine state of the stove in the Richardson photographs, definitely not in his.

But then those photographs reminded me of some other pictures, the ones taken of Julie Strain by Helmut Newton and titled  “In My Kitchen, Château Marmont, Hollywood” - they date from 1992.

Now this is perhaps what the critic Lawrence Weschler would call a “convergence,” although since I’m sure Richardson knows the Newton photographs, maybe it’s actually a kind of homage.  I did wonder a first whether it might even be the same kitchen and the same stove, but as you can see, it’s not.  The kitchen door opens the other way for one things, and the stove is actually rather cooler and more stylish in the Newton pictures.

The Newton kitchen is also less pristine, with newspapers in the trash (one has Newton’s picture on the front), a pot and a kettle on the stove, and most tellingly there’s a box of Rice Crispies in both the photographs seen here.  The presence may look accidental but it’s been moved between shots.  So is it a deliberate compositional element in the photographs?  Or did Helmut and Julie stop and have a bowl of cereal halfway through the shoot?  I’m sure there are ways of finding out, but in the wider world of photographic research it might seem a tad trivial.

However at the risk over over-egging the pudding here, if the Richardson photograph contains an homage to Newton, the Newton contains an (admittedly passing, and possibly ironic) homage to Fritz Lang.  In the second Julie Strain picture she's rather delicately changing the hands of the clock.  In Metropolis, Fritz Lang imagines something more robust is required.

I’ve not been able to find a picture of Fritz Lang in his kitchen, but here he is in a restaurant (or at least on a restaurant set) with Keith Andes, while making Clash By Night.  The movie features Marilyn Monroe as Peggy, a girl who works in a fish cannery.  Yeah, right. 

1 comment:

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