Bob Willoughby’s essential art emerges in his ability to create a special documentation of the course of each movie he photographed. In doing so, he captured, with wonderful perception, the actors and directors on and off the set, in moments of repose and high drama. Popular Photography has called Bob Willoughby “…the man who virtually invented the photojournalistic motion picture still.”
From the age of 12, Bob Willoughby was convinced that his camera, a gift from him father, was going to play an important part in his life. In 1950, his first exhibition at the Cornet Theatre in Los Angeles proved to be a launching point to this assertion. Discovered there by the film studios, he became the first ‘special’ photographer, when Warner Brothers assigned him to photograph Judy Garland on “A Star Is Born.” This began a non-stop collaboration with the publicity departments of all the major Hollywood studios. In fact, Willoughby’s work was never out of print for even a week throughout a 20-year period.
Willoughby has photographed countless screen icons, including Jack Lemmon for ‘The Great Race,’ ‘Marilyn Monroe for ‘Lets Make Love,’ Mia Farrow for ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ John Wayne for ‘The Cowboys,’ Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for ‘Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?,’ Natalie Wood on ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?,’ Audrey Hepburn on ‘My Fair Lady,’ Dustin Hoffman and Ann Bancroft for ‘The Graduate,’ Alfred Hitchcock for ‘ Marnie,’ Jimmy Dean on ‘Rebel Without A Cause,’ as well as Michael Caine, Lee Marvin Jane Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine and Marlon Brando — the list goes on.
Bob Willoughby carried his creativity to other photographic realms as well, including innovations such as the first sound blimp for still cameras, radio-controlled cameras for complicated and difficult sets, and various brackets to hold a still camera onto a Panavision camera. His innovations are currently used on sets throughout the cinema industry.
Willoughby’s work also is in the permanent collection of The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; The National Portrait Gallery, London; The Biblioteque Nationale, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, Film Department, New York; and La Musee de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium; among others.
Purchase an iconic image by Bob Willoughby through Lucie Editions here.