Glamour of the Gods exhibition, National Portrait Gallery
I'd wanted to see this exhibition of Hollywood film photo portraits since I saw it advertised, but I have to confess, I wasn't immensely impressed with it. It is exactly what you'd expect: a collection of some of the classic photos of stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and it was horribly crowded when we went yesterday afternoon. (Crowds, on a Saturday in London – yes, I should have expected that!)
If you are purely interested in the visual side of things, they are indeed very beautiful pictures, but I went with Mr Robot, who is a keen photographer, and had my old-tech photography head on too. Neither of us were much interested in the mini-biographies of the stars as we knew who they all were anyway. What we'd have loved was more information on the technical side: angles of lighting and flashes, size of negative, type of paper, type of print, that sort of thing. There was one cabinet with a retouched plate and worked-over and unworked photos in, and a couple of photos in another case with crop marks and retouching symbols scrawled on, but that was about it.
I did think my favourite photos were on matte paper because I love the velvety looks of the black you get, whereas Mr Robot much prefers a high-gloss finish because he says it's crisper. We also found the fairly shallow depth of field in many of them interesting.
If you love old films and film stars, you've probably already seen every photo in this collection. It is true that if you go, you will be seeing actual prints from negatives, as crisp and clean as can be, but as you'd have so much noise and so many other people around you at the exhibition, you're probably best off buying the book and appreciating their beauty in a dot-printed form at your leisure.