In honor of Vanity Fair’s 2020 Hollywood Issue, and the 92nd Academy Awards, the Annenberg Space for Photography opened the new exhibition Hollywood Calling, attracting red carpet–ready celebrities like Demi Moore, Charlize Theron and Sharon Stone, among others.
Featuring 150 images by 50 photographers, the idea was born out of a conversation between Wallis Annenberg and David Friend, Vanity Fair creative development editor. Friend and co-curator Susan White — herself the former Vanity Fair director of photography — have organized a riveting and nostalgic exhibit spanning four decades.
Katie Hollander, director of the Annenberg Space for Photography, said it was thrilling to see so many iconic Vanity Fair images gathered in one place; and the exhibition includes a 20-minute film offering an inside look at the making of the 2020 Hollywood Issue.
“It is both a walk down memory lane, as well as a reflection on the impact these photographs and actors have had on our culture,” she tells the Weekly. “Just look at Demi Moore’s portrait, with her pregnant and naked on the cover, which was shocking at the time. Or the image of Jennifer Lopez in lacy bottoms paying homage to 1940s pinup images. These images capture much more than just a portrait, they reflect a moment in history.”
Instead of organizing the exhibition in chronological order, the curators have chosen to divide it into categories. These star-studded vignettes are grouped in sections, crossing timelines by decades. The categories included: Icons of Icons, Oscar Night, Family Affair, Actors as Actors, Filmmakers & Moguls, and so on.
Firooz Zahedi photographed Jennifer Lopez in 1998. “She’s an amazing woman. Love her! She’s 50 and she still rocks!” he glows.
The Elizabeth Taylor cover story was Zahedi’s favorite assignment. “I wanted to get her a cover to promote her work to fight AIDS. She had already been on the cover once before shot by Helmut Newton in that Helmuty style — kind of tough and unapproachable,” he says. “I asked if I could shoot her again. They said only if she’d hold a condom in her hand. I asked her and she said yes.”
You can find Zahedi’s cover shot of Elizabeth Taylor exhibited as part of the Vanity Fair Hollywood cover issue and portfolio wall titled “The Cover Story.” Zahedi adds, “It was a huge success for the magazine, and everyone wanted to use those photos.”
Zahedi gave the rights to three publications in Europe for a donation of $75,000 to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. “I raised over $80,000 for her foundation. That was a lot back in 1992. She was delighted and so was I. It feels good to do good. I miss that lady big time.”
A quintessential Barbara Streisand photo was shot by the late Herb Ritts in 1991 at Streisand’s own Beverly Hills garden. This celebrated portraitist captured classic Hollywood elegance with his painterly style.
A photo snapped by Mark Seliger pictured a group of men at the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party clowning around. You can almost hear the laughter echoing from the photo which was dubbed “The Funnymen.” It features Larry David, Judd Apatow, Martin Short, Bill Maher, David Steinberg and Eugene Levy having a great time. You’ll find this photo on the Kings & Queens of Comedy wall, along with a hilarious picture of Amy Schumer with her cooch on fire by Annie Leibovitz.
A deeply moving image contributed by Mark Seliger featured Kobe Bryant with his wife Vanessa. The photo was taken in 2018 at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, after Bryant won an Academy Award as the executive producer of Dear Basketball for Best Animated Short Film.
Justin Bishop, Vanity Fair staff photographer from 2014-18, nabbed the Lady Gaga and Mark Ronson image after their Oscar win in 2019. “I had seen her arrive, seen her go to the bar for a glass of champagne, and I had seen him earlier about halfway across the room. So I headed back in his direction and shot around there, hoping she’d find him and they’d have a moment,” he recalls. “They did!”
The imagery and artistic voice of Leibovitz, who was the principal Vanity Fair photographer for many years, dominates the exhibition — perhaps to the detriment of a wider, more eclectic, balanced range of creative perspectives. Some of her most iconic works on display are: Whoopi Goldberg in a milk bath, Jack Nicholson golfing, and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon in drag as they recreated their roles in the 1959 hit Some Like it Hot.
Attendees to the exhibition can, if they are so inspired, partake in a special installation created by Mark Seliger. Each year, he furnishes a photo-op room at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, and Seliger has replicated this year’s room for the exhibition so that the rest of us common folk can take selfies or set up our own shots — just like those who were actually invited.
Vanity Fair: Hollywood Calling runs through July 26 at the Annenberg Space for Photography, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City; annenbergphotospace.org.