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Matthew Rolston at Fahey/Klein Gallery

by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp

Hunter Drohojowska-Philp says Oscar week is an ideal time to appreciate celebrity portraiture of Rolston’s Hollywood Royale

It is a cliché that L.A. does indeed have seasons: fires, floods, earthquakes and the Academy Awards. We are in that last season this week and one art gallery in particular has made note.

Fahey/Klein Gallery in Hollywood, known for its long-term support of photographers associated with glamour, beauty and celebrity, is showing a survey of pictures by Matthew Rolston.

The show reveals an artist inspired initially by George Hurrell who, in the 1920s and 1930s, used strategic lighting to emphasize the lustrous skin and high cheekbones of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio's biggest stars.


Rolston, however, carefully honed a contemporary edge in his pictures, borrowing from the past to enliven the present. For instance, he posed Madonna in clothing and set design based on Josef von Sternberg's earlier portrait of Marlene Dietrich from the Paramount film Morocco. By playing with the history of glamour photography, Rolston knowingly operates in our post-modern realm, quoting from familiar or obscure sources to build an image that operates on multiple layers.

An L.A. native, Rolston came of age at a time when glamour photography was on the wane. He remembers Hollywood hotspots like Chasen’s and Perino’s but coming of age in the 1970s, after graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Rolston looked for work in New York. Andy Warhol gave him his first assignment. He photographed young director Stephen Spielberg for Interview in 1977, which turned out to be a launching pad. One of his most supportive early subjects was Michael Jackson, who commissioned a regal portrait of himself as the King of Pop.


Gender fluidity is a buzzy term these days but there is little doubt that Rolston was playing with sexual identity from the outset. Though known for enhancing beauty and sexuality — Cybill Shepherd lounging in a white bathing suit, Anna Nicole Smith in a white fur with a white kitten, Sly Stallone outfitted for the polo field — Rolston staged exacting pictures of Madonna and Drew Barrymore in men’s garb, Prince as a long- haired psychedelic deity in lipstick and eyeliner.


That portrait of Prince is the cover of Rolston’s lavish new monograph, Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles, a compendium of his greatest hits from the 1980's published by teNeues. The book examines Rolston’s sophisticated but not slavish appreciation of celebrity photography in the distant and recent past. It also provides an opportunity to spend more time with the pictures, which anyone would relish.

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Rare Portraits of Christy Turlington, George Michael, Sade & More Appear in This New Book

By Harpers Bazaar Editorial


Matthew Rolston's iconic Hollywood photography is cemented in a must-have coffee table book.

Legendary photographer Matthew Rolston has spent decades capturing some of the industry’s greatest icons. From Madonna as Marlene Dietrich to a moving portrait of the late George Michael, some of the photographer’s greatest works are now being cemented in a colorful new coffee table book, Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles.

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Andy Warhol Protégé Matthew Rolston Taps Eighties Archive for ‘Hollywood Royale’

By Alexa Tietjen

The photographer reflects on his 40-year career, during which he lensed the likes of Prince, Michael Jackson and Madonna.

“My earliest clients were Michael Jackson and Madonna,” says Matthew Rolston. And the list of clients only grew from there.

Hired by Andy Warhol in the late Seventies to shoot for Interview Magazine, Rolston has photographed the likes of George Michael, Sade, Bono, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Joan Didion and Prince — who appears on the cover of his new book, Hollywood Royale.

Featuring more than 100 portraits taken from 1977 to 1993, the book celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. “In the Seventies, glamour was debased,” Rolston says. “Along came Interview Magazine, Andy Warhol commissioning photographers like Herb Ritts, Greg Gorman and myself in Los Angeles and a new style was born, an ironic take on old Hollywood. It was modern for that time, the Eighties. That set in motion a domino effect that led to the revival of glamour, which we’re in now.”

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Rolston developed a close rapport with Jackson, and in 2007, he shot the pop star in what would become the last photo session before his death. Rolston is also the man behind the following image of Jackson as a king.

“He called me up one day and said, ‘I want to be photographed as a king,’” recalls Rolston. “This was before anybody called him the King of Pop. That happened almost 10 years later — Elizabeth Taylor called him the King of Pop. At his request and his commission, I photographed him as a king. Full regalia, crown, jewels, on a throne. It seems that I was there at the birth of iconography of Michael Jackson as the King of Pop.”

Rolston styled Jackson using pieces from his own closet and personal collection of brooches. “I had a whole thing where I would pin a bunch of brooches on one side of my shirt,” he says. “At one of the shoots, before [Jackson] wanted to be a king, he wanted to wear them. He took them literally off my shirt and put them on him.”

Hollywood Royale, out on Oct. 15, includes essays by Colin Westerbeck, Charles Churchward and Warhol collaborator Pat Hackett. 

It will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1.

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Cindy Crawford and Matthew Rolston on fame, fashion and what it takes to make an iconic photograph

By Lindzi Scharf

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Discovered by Andy Warhol in 1977, prolific photographer Matthew Rolston is known for creating images that visually informed a generation of portrait photographers in the 1980s. The early work of Rolston, who collaborated with Prince, Jodie Foster, Drew Barrymore and others, is currently on full display in a new exhibition, “Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles,” which is open now through April 21 at the Fahey/Klein Gallery on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.

This week, The Times caught up with the Beverly Hills-based lensman and his longtime friend and frequent subject, supermodel and entrepreneur Cindy Crawford, who was the co-host of the retrospective’s opening night event on Thursday.

The duo discussed Rolston’s new exhibit, how Los Angeles became a fashion photography mecca, in what way Kim Kardashian West has changed celebrity portraiture, and how the fashion business has shifted now that Crawford’s 16-year-old daughter, Kaia Gerber, is a budding model herself.

How does it feel to be unveiling “Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles”?

Matthew Rolston: It’s really one of those full-circle moments. I’m going to be able to relive some moments from the first decade of my career and see a lot of old friends — which, of course, includes Cindy. [We’ll] celebrate that cultural moment, the rebirth of glamour that happened in the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s, which I got to be part of.

Cindy Crawford: What Matthew said is really true. It really is full circle in so many ways being at David Fahey’s gallery. Besides Matthew, who I started working with probably, like, 30 years ago — which is insane — there are going to be so many other old friends from that time there. I’m super excited to go to support Matthew and the work because it’s such a great recognition of L.A. as a real school of photography. I was fortunate because it happened right when I was emerging as a model. So I was lucky. Before my generation, magazines didn’t fly models to L.A. to work with photographers. They would, maybe, fly the whole team to L.A. to work, but they didn’t really see that L.A. photographers were fashion photographers and, especially, the kind of celebrity photography that Matthew and Herb Ritts and some of the others started doing at around that same time. It was exciting for me to be able to work both in L.A. and New York, and eventually I settled in L.A. So it was convenient that L.A. became a photography fashion capital at that time.

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What did it mean to you to be a part of that movement and transition?

Rolston: It was revolutionary. Cindy said it so well. They didn’t believe any photography or any crews had any validity in Los Angeles. Los Angeles was very much looked down on by the New York school, by New York publishing, until the generation I’m part of. I think Herb Ritts and I began working first for Interview magazine with Andy Warhol and later for Rolling Stone. Then I branched off and started to work for Harper’s Bazaar, and Herb started to work for Vogue. We both did a lot of covers. This was completely unprecedented. This had not happened before. I think one of the funny comments that I remember is what Woody Allen said in the script of “Annie Hall” about Los Angeles. This is in the same period. He said, “I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.” It’s very funny. So Cindy is right in saying that this was a moment where the rise of L.A. began culturally for fashion and celebrity and publishing, and we’re living with that today. L.A. has gone through enormous change. We’ve seen it happen. And Cindy and I have been right there.

What does Matthew bring to the table as a photographer?

Crawford: As a model, I think the most important thing is lighting, and Matthew is a master of lighting. [Photographer George] Hurrell had that beautiful, ultra-idealizing-of-the-subject kind of lighting. I feel like Matthew had a modern take on that. [Hurrell] had beautiful lighting — and [it is] also the thing that I appreciate about working with Matthew. Other photographers who also had this — they know. They have a clear vision. It’s not like it just happens on the set. The styling, everything is thought out before, and the work of the day is getting it to come together the way that Matthew sees it in his mind. Sometimes there’s happy accidents, and it’s even better or something wacky happens. But for the most part, I felt like Matthew had a clear vision of what he wanted, to be able to communicate that to your team and know how to get it. And also, it’s storytelling. Fashion photography is storytelling. When everyone is telling the same story, when we all get the vision, it makes for a much more fluid day.  

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What does Cindy bring to the table as a subject?

Rolston: A lot. Besides, Cindy’s obvious physical gifts, strength, talent, beauty, a tremendous amount of intelligence and thoughtfulness, the ability to transcend the moment, and to communicate visually through a photograph. Her persona is something that you can’t really define, but it’s there. And you know it when you see it, and clearly, Cindy has always possessed that, and she still does richly.

A portrait of Cindy is featured in the exhibit. It’s titled “Paparazzi Portrait.” What makes this image particularly special to you?

Rolston: That picture … What Cindy was saying about preparation and having a concept and telling a story, that story is a comment on Cindy’s fame, on that time. In 1989, when that picture was made, Cindy was at a high point in her career. I think that was the year when she started doing “House of Style” [on MTV]. Is that right?

Crawford: It might not have been the year it started, but it was, like, when people started watching it.

Rolston: There was a peak of interest. Cindy’s had many peaks of interest in her career, but that was one — a very big one. Cindy was probably the most famous model in the world, and I wanted to make a commentary on that visually. My photographs from that time always drew from some element of the past. It was always a visual quotation. And the visual quotation there, which most people wouldn’t get, but, of course, I could tell Cindy — and she understood it perfectly — was a series of pictures done in the ’60s by Richard Avedon for American Vogue of Mike Nichols and Suzy Parker [that mimicked] the style of tabloid paparazzi photography. In Avedon’s time, he was making a comment about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s relationship. I wasn’t telling a story of scandal, but I was trying to tell a story about beauty, glamour and fame, which were very much attached to Cindy’s persona — and still are. So that’s why that picture looks like it does. Even though I often employ elaborate lighting schemes, that’s literally a flash on camera. It predates a lot of fashion photography that we’ve seen in the last 10 or 15 years of paparazzi-style, flash-on-camera lighting.

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What do you remember about shooting on-set that day? Is there a moment that stands out for either of you?

Rolston: Ladies first!

Crawford: Thank you, but hopefully your memory is better than mine, Matthew, because for me, like so many shoots, unless something unusual happened … I was shooting with Matthew a lot at that time because we would do Revlon together, and we were doing Bazaar. We were together a lot. But for me, what I remember is the actual picture and being in the moment of taking it and understanding what the moment was that I was trying to re-create.

Rolston: Although most people wouldn’t notice these details, but that wasn’t a random choice of location. That was shot in front of the awning of Chasen’s restaurant, which used to be on Beverly [Boulevard]. It was the only one left of the grand Hollywood, glamour restaurants. It’s gone now. That’s where Bristol Farms market is now. So we trekked on down so that I could have that totem of Chasen’s, that green and white awning — it was just so iconic as an emblem of celebrity and fame and Hollywood — in the picture. Another detail about that is that I’m almost 100% positive Peter Savic was the hairdresser that day.Crawford: I’m sure it was.

Rolston: As always, we’re looking to entertain our audience by shocking. Not shock and awe, but shock and amuse. I think the shock was that Cindy has often been portrayed and is well known for her copious mane of gorgeous brown hair flowing. So this short haircut with short bangs is actually a wig, but it was going to be a surprise for the audience to see Cindy in some way that is different. And, of course, the hairdresser — the minute he sees gorgeous hair — all he can think about is, “Let’s chop it off. Let me make my mark.” So we let him make his mark; not on her actual hair — but with a hairpiece.

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What do you remember about the first time you met?

Crawford: I don’t remember the first time, Matthew. Do you?

Rolston: I don’t. I really don’t.

Crawford: [We’ve worked together] dozens and dozens of times. One of the most memorable experiences that I had — one of the shoots that I loved — was the one that’s also in his book [which is also titled “Hollywood Royale” and is currently available]. With the polo pony. We shot in Florida, right?

Rolston: Yes. We went to Florida to shoot a story based on the glamour of Palm Beach. I think it might have been called “The Palm Beach Story.” It was a ... fashion story for Bazaar.

Crawford: Matthew’s studio lighting is amazing, which is why he did so much cosmetic work for Revlon and different companies, but, to me, that story, that glamorous, idealized version of life is a very Matthew story to me. And to actually be on location, that always helps tell the story. We were totally into the character of it. It was very easy to be the woman — I think I was wearing Armani or something suit-like — walking the polo pony. You become that person the more you’re in the environment. But like I said, Matthew carefully would choose the location. He knew the story, so it was easy for all of us to slip right into it.

Rolston: A funny detail I remember about that shoot, Cindy, is that the crew was Freddie Leiba. He was the editor. The hairdresser was Sally Hershberger. And the makeup artist was Kevyn Aucoin. We were all staying at the ultra-conservative hotel the Breakers. The Breakers was this super stuffy, old school Palm Beach institution. So we’re traipsing through the lobby. Freddy Leiba was an out, gay, black man. Sally Hershberger was an out and gay woman. Kevyn Aucoin was wearing black lipstick and cutoff jeans.

Crawford: He didn’t fit in. You noticed him.

Rolston: Yeah. Because he was 6-foot-4 or something. With his handycam — which predates iPhone. He was shooting everybody and their reactions as we walked through the lobby. An entourage led by the glorious Cindy Crawford. Trailing were a group of people that would really not fit into the stodgy, all-white profile of Palm Beach back then.

Crawford: They made you and I look like wallflowers. [laughs]

Rolston: I think so. And I forgot to add Jewish. So, Jewish, black and gay. That’s our group. It was fantastic.

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Let’s backtrack slightly. Matthew, you were discovered by Andy Warhol during your days at Interview. How much do you credit Andy Warhol for where you are today and what did you learn from him during your time working with Interview?

Rolston: It was the first chance for me to be published. My very first published photograph of any significance was a portrait of Steven Spielberg in 1977 that was an Interview magazine while I was still a student at at the [ArtCenter College of Design] in Pasadena. I was actually working when I was a student, which is a long story that I won’t bore you with. But that lit the fire. That led to another assignment, then another and many covers, and then other people recognized me like Jann Wenner [from Rolling Stone] and Harper’s Bazaar and advertising and on and on. That was really a turning point. And what did I learn from Andy? Warhol, at that period, was actually very successful. This is not the Warhol of the Edie Sedgwick, aluminum foil walls, Factory years. His life was surrounded by the most famous, glorious people in the world, and the magazine was the celebration of that. What I learned from Andy was just by watching him. ... When anybody met him or spoke to him, he would compliment you. He would say, “Gee, I love your work” in a very quiet voice. And you believed him because you understood that he knew what you did. And then he said very little. He was really an observer. He was a person who absorbed everything around him and then turned it into art. So I think I had instruction on the art of just being quiet and observing from watching him.

Of the many images featured in the exhibit, which is your favorite and why?

Crawford: Oh, gosh. I don’t think I could answer that. Probably when I go to [the opening] and I see everything [I’ll be reminded]. It’s very different looking in a book, which is beautiful, but it’s a different pace that you look at a book. I’m excited about seeing everything hung on the walls because there’s always one or two that grab you. And it’s usually not the ones of myself.

Rolston: I would say it’s the cover image of the book, which is Prince. Many people ask me why I chose that image. I think that image is so emblematic of the cultural movement of that time. It’s a very simple image. It’s a head on a background, a couple lights. It’s very dramatic. What’s interesting about it is that it questions gender presentation and it questions race. You’re not sure if that’s a black person or a white person because the skin is white and the eyes are blue due to the color manipulation. You’re not sure if it’s a man or a woman. And that is so emblematic of the freedom we were experiencing in the ’80s, before AIDS and the plague took over, and that thread has been picked up today in many ways. So now we have a young generation that feels very comfortable with gender fluidity. In fashion, Gucci is a great example. Boys are wearing the girls’ clothes. Girls are wearing boy clothes. Black and white is mixed together. Younger girls are dressed like old ladies. Old ladies dress like young girls. Just that whole freedom of expression is so caught up in that picture. When you look at Prince’s lyrics during that time, “I don’t know if I’m black or white, boy or girl,” those are all questions in his art. That picture encapsulates that whole era. And I do want to say, just as an aside, that there’s a famous song by Prince called “Cindy C.” from “The Black Album.” It’s a very sexy song. That’s why I say it’s full circle. All these things are intertwined — Cindy and Prince and my career in the ’80s and Andy Warhol and fashion and Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and the rise of Los Angeles. They’re all intertwined.

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In both of your experiences, how have the modeling and photography industries changed over the years? What’s your take on the industry today?

Crawford: Modeling is not any different. To me, the modeling happens when you get in front of a camera. … Yes, now it’s a digital camera or they’re shooting more behind-the-scenes, but the actual experience of being a model and modeling is the same. But the business is very different and a lot of that is because of social media. There’s a lot more pressure to feed that machine as well as just do your job as a model. I see it through, you know, I have a 16-year-old daughter who is emerging into the scene as a young model, and she’s doing shows right now in Paris. It’s the same. It’s literally exactly the same. With the addition of now social media, which, in some ways, I think it ramps up. It’s like you go from 0 to 60 much faster. Because there’s daily exposure to you, to your fans; where back in the day if I had fans and I was on the cover of Vogue one month, they had to wait another month to see, “Oh, is she going to be in Vogue or is she going to be in Bazaar? Where is she?” But now it’s daily exposure, which, in some ways, is a good thing because if you’re on a trajectory of a rising star, it happens very fast, but I think it also makes it possibly [difficult] … . We’ll see if the shelf life is shorter because of that. Because everyone’s always [looking for what’s] new, more, what’s next, and I feel like the use-up rate is faster now, possibly. That would be my comment. Matthew, what do you want to say? 

Rolston: I don’t really come from the fashion world, to be honest. I come from the celebrity world. Even the fashion series that I did for Harper’s Bazaar, their magazines, always involved either an extremely famous model like Cindy, who was a personality in her own right or an actual celebrity modeling clothing. That was the beginning of the celebrity takeover of magazine covers, and I was a part of that movement. You rarely, since that time, have seen models unless they’re very, very well known models on the cover of any magazine. So I’ll comment more from the standpoint of celebrity photography, which has undergone a tremendous change. I would say that photographers of my generation or my type interpreting celebrity through our photography is possibly over. Really, it feels very outdated to me. When Kim Kardashian is in the third printing of her book at Rizzoli called “Selfies,” we have to recognize that that’s a significant development. Twenty-five or 30 years ago, there might have been a third printing of a book of portraits by a great photographer like Richard Avedon, but now they’re in the third printing of “Selfies” by Kim Kardashian. I think that the interpretation of celebrity has fallen to the celebrities themselves. They have taken it over and they control their image. They make the images of themselves. It hasn’t quite happened in fashion yet. We haven’t yet had a model do a selfie story. Although it must have happened, but it hasn’t taken over fashion. But in celebrity, to feed that machine that Cindy is talking about, which isn’t really even daily, it’s minute by minute or hourly, these people are employing some of the same photographic techniques. There is not a single picture of Kim Kardashian or most celebrities that goes out that isn’t retouched immediately before it gets tweeted out or put on Instagram. So the idealization of glamour goes on. It’s just in other people’s hands other than the photographer. 

Crawford: I would say that I also think, because of social media, that what the audiences are looking for is [different]. They want to see the more not-perfect retouched [look]. Even though, as Matthew said, a lot of people do retouch their own selfies or whatever, but people want to feel like they’re getting the real person, not these idealized images. 

Rolston: That’s so true. The “making of” is more important than “the of.” 

Crawford: I always say the photo shoots now are an excuse for a behind-the-scene. [laughs] 

Rolston: That’s very true. 

Crawford: But I prefer and still like the finished images. I’m old school.

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Matthew, who would you love to shoot that you haven’t yet?

Rolston: There are so many [people]. People always say, “You’ve shot everybody.” Hardly. I mean, Tilda Swinton comes to mind. I’ve never worked with her, and I’m a huge fan. That’s my idea of modern glamour. 

Crawford: Helmut Newton used to say he either had to love his subjects or hate his subject. He couldn’t be ambivalent. He would be into shooting someone if he really didn’t like them but he had to have some kind of strong emotion — good or bad — which I thought I was interesting. I was, like, “Well, I hope you love me.” I think he did based on the way he shot me. 

Rolston: I’m glad you brought up Helmut Newton’s name because he is really an important part of the story of the glamour revival. I’m not responsible for the glamour revival. I’m a result of it. The people who are really, in my mind, responsible for reviving glamour and putting it back in play are two people — Helmut Newton and Andy Warhol. And both of them gravitated to George Hurrell, who was the original greatest Hollywood photographer who was still alive in the late ’70s, and it was those interactions that I saw that influenced me, Herb Ritts, and many others.

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Matthew, you also have a second exhibit on display through March at the Ralph Pucci showroom. It’s titled "Art People: The Pageant Portraits." What can you tell me about that?

Rolston: As it relates to this, to “Hollywood Royale,” it’s an interesting position. It happened accidentally, but “Hollywood Royale” is the first 10 years of my career and it includes my very first important published photograph in 1977. So that’s as O.G. as it can get for me. The show at Ralph Pucci called “Art People” is a fine-art project. It is so recent that I was still printing and framing them the week before this show went up. So I’m in the unique position in my hometown, at the same time, of having two shows up — very different ones. My earliest work and my literally most recent work. At the same time, on opposite sides of Hollywood. That’s a personal best for me to [have it] happen accidentally. 

Beyond these exhibits, what are you working on next? What do you like to shoot these days?

Rolston: I am not that active in magazine work anymore. I do advertising from time to time. And as far as photography, I’m creating fine art and I’m onto my forth project right now. That’s the one I’m working on now. The third one is the one for Ralph Pucci. Professionally, I’m working as a creative director in the hospitality area. My clients right now are in hospitality — meaning hoteliers and restaurant owners and big hotel corporations. I’m about to have my sixth hotel project open at the end of this year in San Francisco, which I did for Richard Branson for Virgin Hotels. 

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Cindy, what are you working on that you’re personally passionate about?

Crawford: I’ve had a skin-care line called Meaningful Beauty that I launched over 10 years ago. Probably 50% of my work energy goes toward that. And then I’m still Omega watches [which I’ve done] for 25 years, which is probably the longest contract in the history of celebrity relationships and ambassadorships. And I have a furniture line that I do. I like being busy. And then the new stuff is really helping my kids navigate this world. Because of that, I’ve re-entered into fashion in a way. In September, I went to fashion week to accompany my kids. It’s back to that full circle thing. It’s reconnecting with [people] like seeing Karl Lagerfeld at the Chanel show and then sitting in the front row watching my daughter. It’s kind of surreal, but it’s been fun to reconnect with a lot of people. Because when I moved to L.A. and we moved to Malibu — so we’re really kind of isolated — I wasn’t fully emerged in the fashion scene. Once I had kids and we moved out here, I’d go to Met Ball once in a while or something, but in the last year, I’ve been in it a lot more through my children. Because of that, I’ve ended up doing some things that I probably [wouldn’t have otherwise]. I just shot for POP magazine and have been doing some fun things just because I think I’m back in people’s minds again a little bit because I’ve been out there a little bit more. I still have fun. Modeling is really a skill. Just because you’re [older] — you know, I’m 52 now — doesn’t mean that I’m still not good at it. I certainly look differently than I used to, but I still love — especially when you have a great rapport with the photographer — getting in front of that camera and creating these [images]. To me, it’s about storytelling, so it’s, like, “How do we tell this story and what is my role?” The one thing I do like about digital is that usually now there’s a monitor, so I can look at the monitor whereas before we had to wait for Polaroids or whatever. So I can look at that and go, “Oh wait. How can I help this picture?” You get feedback more quickly. When the right project comes up, I’m still happy to [do it]. I like working with young photographers. And Matthew and I did a project together last year for Umami Burger because they do a charity [project] where a celebrity designs a burger and the money goes to charity, and that was the last time Matthew and I got to work together. I’m still open to things that sound interesting and fun, but my core is my skincare and Omega and my furniture line. And my family, of course.     


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SO GLAM! "Hollywood Royale" by Matthew Rolston

by Vogue Editorial


Isabella Rossellini, Drew Barrymore, a young, fresh-faced Brigitte Nielsen - seen through Matthew Rolston's camera, the stars of Hollywood’s dream factory become goddesses of nearly sublime beauty…

Enjoy these images now in the new photo book Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles, from teNeues!


"Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles” by Matthew Rolston, teNeues, 278 pages, 98 euro. 

The photographs from the book are on view from October 21 to December 2, at Camera Work Photogalerie in Berlin. 

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Rifarsi gli occhi con le 5 foto d'autore che hanno riscritto le regole del ritratto contemporaneo

By ELLE Editorial

Hollywood Royale: le celebs dietro l'obiettivo straordinario di Matthew Rolston


Si fa presto a dire fotografo. Matthew Rolston è molto di più. Scoperto da Andy Warhol nel 1977, in poco tempo è riuscito a emergere nel creativissimo (e molto affollato) mondo dei magazine patinati americani come il leggendario Interview. Siamo in pieno edonismo anni '80, e l'uso di luce e colore tipico delle sue foto diventa subito riconoscibile al grande pubblico. Che lo ama anche grazie alla nouvelle vague dei videoclip musicali (firma la regia di clip per Salt n Pepa e Bowie, tra gli altri). Il suo timbro è altamente contaminato dalle influenze dell'arte e della sperimentazione. E Rolston ovviamente se lo porta anche a Los Angeles, dove ritrae una lunga serie di star ridefinendo il concetto di ritratto contemporaneo. 

Il volume Hollywood Royale: Out of the school of Los Angeles (edito da teNeues) raccoglie 100 scatti in cui figurano i personaggi icona del decennio '80/'90. Ve ne mostriamo qualcuno in esclusiva.

Pubblicato da teNeues, ha 278 pagine, testo in inglese. Costo 98 euro. Matthew Rolston è stato scoperto da Andy Warhol nella seconda metà degli anni '70. A lui sono state dedicate diverse retrospettivi in musei importanti come il Lacma e la National Portrait Gallery di Washington.

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See Classic Rolling Stone Portraits From Matthew Rolston's 'Hollywood Royale' Book

By Rolling Stone Editorial

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Photographer Matthew Rolston enjoyed a long history with Rolling Stone, shooting more than 100 covers for the magazine. Selections from Rolston's Eighties and Nineties RS work, along with other images from his extensive archive, are featured in a new book, Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles. Below, view a sampling of Rolston's Rolling Stone portraits from the book, including striking images of Bono, Brian Wilson and Terence Trent D'Arby.  

Rolston looked back on each image to provide commentary on how it came about. "David Byrne was so much more than a pop star," he says of the Talking Heads frontman, the subject of a 1992 Rolling Stone shoot. "He was really a conceptual artist who happened to hit it big in pop music. Best known as the frontman of the legendary band Talking Heads, here I played off that heritage in a rather obvious way. Once again using the 8x10 camera (because I was enamored of its level of detail), I decided to simply show his head – talking (and listening). We played with the idea of call and response, listening and creating. After all, that's what music's all about." 

Scroll down for more images and commentary, and go here to learn more about the book, and a Rolston exhibit currently on view at L.A.'s Fahey/Klein Gallery. 

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Bono, "Light Trails"; Dublin, 1987

U2 was in the midst of a European tour when I flew out to Dublin, the band's hometown, to photograph Bono for his first solo Rolling Stone cover, a significant moment in his career. Back in those days, there was no such thing as a "rental photo studio." The only way you could work in a studio in a foreign city was to contact a local photographer and borrow theirs. This shoot took place in a tiny attic studio in Dublin. No idea how I found it, probably through friends of friends ... of friends. Bono's voice was tired from constant touring, so to protect his voice, he spoke in mostly whispers, and, as David Breskin wrote in the corresponding article, he gave the impression of "a young man who quite honestly has not found what he's looking for." The light trails are an in-camera effect accomplished by moving a small light around his face in total darkness with the lens open for a time exposure.   

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Don Henley, "Eyes Open, Eyes Closed"; New York, 1992

At the time of this portrait, Don Henley was a full-blown solo artist known for modern, moody ballads with evocative, poetic lyrics. One of my favorites from a few years before was a song called "Drivin' with Your Eyes Closed," from Building the Perfect Beast, Henley's second solo studio album: "I met a Frenchman in a field last night/He was out there with an easel, painting carnival light." I loved those lyrics, and they served as inspiration for this simple (but hopefully elegant) diptych, shot with the 8x10 camera. 

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Terence Trent D'Arby, "Portrait II"; Los Angeles, 1988

This was one of the wildest shoots I've experienced, and I guess that's to be expected with someone as spirited as Terence Trent D'Arby. At one point during the shoot, D'Arby turned his back to me and the crew, dropped his pants, and relieved himself, right there on the set. I've got a good shot of it somewhere in my files (although never published). We were all stunned. I don't think anyone said a word. He also refused to look directly into the camera, and this was a cover shoot! Here, another image, equally unpublished, from that shoot, in which I had Terence channel Brando's outlaw biker in The Wild One. An appropriate guise. 

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George Michael, "Hand"; London, 1988

This is a photo I made for George Michael's first cover shoot for Rolling Stone. This photo appeared in the inside spread; the 1988 shoot marked George's debut as a significant solo artist after his separation from Wham! George was just coming off a monster hit, "Faith," and the hand gesture I conjured up for this image was meant to indicate a sense of faith – sort of reaching for something "beyond." It's a real, in-camera double exposure, not a darkroom or retouching trick. That means I had to run the same roll of film through the camera twice, one with his face and hand in silhouette against white, and then a second time, his face straight-on shot against pure black. Naturally, this is all pre-digital photography, so aligning these images was just a guess. Lucky guess!

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Brian Wilson, "Portrait"; Los Angeles, 1992

By the early 1990s, beloved pop star Brian Wilson had been through a lot. Substance abuse, mental illness, issues that simply weren't talked about much at that time, least of all in regard to cultural "heroes." In 1990, a purported memoir called Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story appeared. Controversial and possibly authored by someone else, nonetheless, the public was fascinated. I was fascinated, too, with this man's face. The face of a survivor. Pop stardom can mean different things to different people. It can elevate. It can also destroy. Dangerous territory. I could see all of this writ large on the face of this amazing artist, and that's what I wanted to show. I decided on lighting that would enhance the effects of time and trouble, rather than erase them with some kind of "cosmetic" effect. I shot Wilson with the 8x10 camera against a black backdrop wearing a black sweater with the collar pulled up to isolate the face, giving him what I hoped was a sculptural and epic moment. Unforgiving? Poetic? There is beauty in decay. 

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Mikhail Baryshnikov, "Double Exposure"; New York, 1987

Mikhail Baryshnikov was indeed a rare figure in 1980s pop culture – a serious artist, classical dancer, choreographer, Academy Award–nominated actor and all-around star, and one of the most significant cultural figures to defect from what was then the Soviet Union, citing issues of artistic freedom. Baryshnikov was unusually well-known to people outside of the dance world, a hero, especially to artists and pop stars, hence his appearance in the ultimate pop-culture “Bible” of all time, Rolling Stone. In 1986, Baryshnikov became a naturalized citizen of the United States, and I chose the double-exposure concept to communicate the many dualities of this fascinating man. East/West. Artist/pop-culture figure. Hero to some, but perhaps not those in Russia. This was a true in-camera double exposure that I accomplished using two exposures on the same sheet of 8x10 film; it's not a darkroom trick. 

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Wendy and Lisa, "Top Hat and Tails"; Los Angeles, 1985

This photo actually came at a slightly controversial time for Wendy and Lisa, the most talked-about members of Prince's original band, the Revolution. Rumors were flying that Wendy and Lisa might be a couple, not just bandmates. It's important to realize how different that time was in regard to celebrities' sexual or gender orientation. I decided to portray them in a style reminiscent of Josef von Sternberg's movie Morocco, which starred Marlene Dietrich as a cross-dressing nightclub chanteuse. And of course, the real trailblazer in playing with gender identity would be the great man himself, Prince, known for wearing women's lingerie onstage. Celebrity, cross-dressing, questioning gender display, all part of life now. But risky business back then. 

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Andie MacDowell, "I"; New York, 1989

Actress Andie MacDowell, then and now one of America's most beautiful and talented women, had just recently given birth, so when we met for this shoot, she was a bit nervous about exposing her changing body. We decided to take inspiration from one of my favorite artists of the Belle Epoch, Alphonse Mucha, and one of his early 20th century panels, "The Seasons." I've always looked to the past for a comment on the present, and still do. We used the colors, the feminine body pose, and the idea of rebirth from Mucha's work to guide our shoot. Although it looks like body painting, Andie's wardrobe consisted of nothing more than a Chanel scarf and some warm water to make it stick to her skin. Courageous Andie!

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Sherilyn Fenn, "Portrait with Maraschino Cherry"; Los Angeles, 1990

I've always tried to give a conceptual angle to my portraiture, even if it wasn't immediately obvious to the viewer. If I could, I wanted one of my magazine portraits to be a moment of entertainment in and of itself. This shoot took place during the heyday of Twin Peaks and took direct inspiration from Sherilyn Fenn's femme fatale character, Audrey Horne. Audrey was a sex symbol for a massive audience in the Nineties, and the scene where she knots a cherry stem with her tongue instantly became iconic. Perhaps obvious, but we had to give fans another taste of that unforgettable moment.  


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The Day The Stars Stood Still

by Carsten Heidböhmer

For this man, the most beautiful and sought-after stars of entertainment once came to rest - Hollywood celebrity photographer Matthew Rolston has worked with the biggest names in music, film and television since the 1980’s. A new volume of photographs, Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles, and a concurrent exhibition, presents a retrospective of the artist’s finest portraits from that decade.  

Artist Andy Warhol “discovered” Rolston in 1977 and gave him his first assignment - for Warhol’s celebrity magazine, Interview. In the decade that followed Rolston also worked for magazines such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar. The American artist rose to become one of the great magazine photographers of his generation alongside contemporaries Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, and Annie Leibovitz.

Rolston photographed many of the biggest stars of the period. Hollywood Royale presents more than 100 impressive portraits from the late 1970s through the early 1990s - among them, a young Brigitte Nielsen. Drew Barrymore, Cyndi Lauper and many others all sat for him at the height of their fame.

"Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles" by Matthew Rolston has been  published by teNeues. Celebrating that publication, more than 50 of Rolston’s  photographs are on view in a exhibition from 21 October to 2 December at Camera Work Photogalerie in Berlin.

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Actress Cybill Shepherd started her career as a model at age 16. In 1971, at the age 21, director Peter Bogdanovich gave her her start in movies, casting Shepherd as Jacy Farrow, the leading role in his landmark film, The Last Picture Show - he even left his wife for the young blonde. Shepherd acted in many more Hollywood productions, including Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), but soon after, her career began to falter. Alongside Bruce Willis, she enjoyed a significant comeback in 1985 with the television series Moonlighting. Rolston photographed the actress in 1986 at the height of the second phase of her long career. 

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Hearing the name “Brigitte Nielsen” today, most people conjure an image of cosmetic surgery done in front of a camera, or of a television reality show that accompanied Nielsen through alcohol rehab and survival camp. But in 1986 when this photo was made, the actress was one of the most talked about women in the entertainment universe. Shortly before Rolston’s portrait, Nielsen starred alongside Sylvester Stallone in the hit film Rocky 4: The Fight of The Century - and soon married him. Here Nielsen looks with a wary optimism into the camera, not knowing at that time how far she might fall from grace.

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When Matthew Rolston pressed the “trigger” on this portrait, the facial features of Isabella Rossellini were quite soft, almost peaceful. Nothing indicated that the then 36-year-old had had a turbulent childhood as the daughter of the Swedish film actress and Hollywood great Ingrid Bergman and the Italian director Roberto Rossellini. The parents soon separated, and Rossellini grew up with a succession of nannies. Her marriages with famed American director Martin Scorsese, and later the model Jonathan Wiedemann, were largely unsuccessful. At the time this portrait was made, Rossellini was at the height of her beauty and fame - she had just finished shooting the film Blue Velvet with the director David Lynch and was privately, happily involved with him. This photograph captures that mood perfectly.

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In 1986, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun singer Cyndi Lauper was 33 and at the height of her fame. She had just released her second album, True Colors, and the unforgettable single of the same name stood at the top at the US charts - a success that was hard to beat - although the enduring star would go on to author an original score for the Broadway smash-hit Kinky Boots in 2013, handily winning Broadway’s top honor, a Tony Award, along the way. 

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It was unclear at the moment this photo was created in 1991 where exactly Drew Barrymore’s career might lead. Her time as a child star was coming to an end - amongst other roles, she had famously acted in Steven Spielberg’s ET.  Her professional transition from girl to young woman was just beginning to take place. Ever the contrarian, Matthew Rolston here toys with this professional uncertainty, presenting the young star in male drag as a boy.

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Tom Waits was and always will be one cool cat. In 1986 Rolston staged this desert-setting portrait of Waits as if a wandering tinker / troubadour - complete with pots and pans strapped to a donkey - playing off the image the singer, poet and musician cultivated at this time. In Rolston’s staging, a bird is perched on Waits’ worn bowler hat. The perfect Hollywood moment. 

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Today he is one of the most successful Hollywood directors of all time, his wealth estimated at nearly 3.6 billion dollars. But when Matthew Rolston got him in front of his camera Steven Spielberg was a comparative unknown: despite a huge success with Jaws, Spielberg was still considered a movie brat - one of a generation of young film nerds who were on their way to conquer cinema. At the time this photograph was created, Spielberg was just about to release Close Encounters of the Third Kind - clearly referenced by Rolston’s lighting plan - it appears as if the ‘mothership’ is hovering just above the frame. 

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Christy Turlington was one of the original 1990’s ‘Supermodels’, helping to define a new era of beauty, along with glamour girls Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista.

But when Matthew Rolston photographed the 18-year-old Turlington in 1987 she was perhaps best known to pop music fans, having prominently appeared the year before in a video for “Notorious”, the hit single from British pop band Duran Duran.  

Here Rolston presents Turlington as if an exotic sea creature, modeling an unusual headpiece created for New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology’s groundbreaking 1987 exhibition Fashion and Surrealism.

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Rolston’s 1987 portrait of the model Anitta is heavily influenced by surrealist artists such as Salvator Dali and filmmaker Luis Buñuel. This photograph, clearly referencing Dali’s 1931 masterpiece The Persistence of Memory, is a part of the series The Surreal Thing, created for FIT’s exhibition Fashion and Surrealism

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An impressive volume of photographs "Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles" by photographer Matthew Rolston has been published by teNeues, Germany.

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The LA Photographer Who Redefined Glamour for the 1980s

By Miss Rosen

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The magical grandeur of Hollywood glamour first came into vogue when Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich fled their native Germany in the 1930s and brought the aesthetics of the Weimar Republic stateside. Together they made six films at Paramount Studios, and introduced an innovative look using the spotlight on the face to create a luminous mask that stood in sharp contrast to the dark shadows it cast, emulating the aesthetic of 1920s Berlin. 

By the early 1960s, the look had run its course and faded away, until Andy Warhol and Helmut Newton resurrected it in the late 1970s. Los Angeles native Matthew Rolston got his start at this time, shooting for Interview before rising to the heights of celebrity photography as a new Golden Age of Hollywood photography took shape. Working for Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Esquire, Rolston embraced the aesthetics of George Hurrell and Irving Penn, creating timeless portraits of the era’s greatest icons from Prince, Michael Jackson, and Madonna to Christian Lacroix, Yohji Yamamoto, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

In celebration, Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles opens tomorrow at Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, in conjunction with the recent publication of a magnificent monograph by the same name from teNeues featuring works made between 1977 and 1993. Here, Rolston speaks with us about the timeless allure of the glamour photo.

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On the revival of Hollywood glamour photography…

“Fashion is reactionary. People need novelty and they need different-ness. It’s hard to predict what the cycle will bring but it will be in marked contrast. In the 70s, pop culture photography reflected the disco era. Disco was chrome, metal, and shiny black plastic with an Afrocentric feeling; it couldn’t be more different than the Hollywood glamour look. 

“Andy Warhol and Helmut Newton were the architects of the postmodern revival of Hollywood glamour. Both brought George Hurrell back into play. That led to the reanimation of glamour in the late-70s and the next wave of photographers including myself, Herb Ritts, Greg Gorman, Annie Leibovitz, and Bruce Weber.”


On the influence of gender fluidity…

“There were a host of new pop stars who had a very different point of view and a big part of that was the display of gender fluidity – just like the cross-dressing of the Weimar Republic. We had artists like Annie Lennox wearing a man’s suit; Boy George wearing full women’s make-up with male and female clothes; Madonna with her ever-changing persona; Prince on stage wearing women’s lingerie and singing about sexuality in a new way. The supposed decadence couldn’t have been more appropriate for time.”

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On the power of large-format photography...

“These are very considered, set up photographs. It’s hard to be extremely spontaneous when you’re shooting with an 8x10 view camera or a 4x5, which a lot of these images were made with. Even though my shots have a lot of visual richness, the progression of each sitting is a reductive process where I honed in on the relationship between the subject, the environment, and my impulses.”

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On the relationship between the subject and the self…

“For me, every portrait is a self-portrait. I am identifying something in the subject that is part of me. Whether they are a man or a woman, a different racial type, or a different age didn’t matter. There is something in that person’s essence and that’s the guiding principle between not only the shoot but the editing process afterwards where you say, ‘That’s the one.’ And you know it’s the one because it resonates inside.”

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Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles is at Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, until April 21, 2018.

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Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles

By Patricia Lanza

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Hollywood photographer Matthew Rolston has published several books of his work over the last few years. Now comes his latest production, Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles. This beautifully-produced 270-page coffee table book, from teNeues of Germany, is a retrospective of this influential artist’s work and centers on his editorial photography from the 1980s.

Rolston is a member of an elite group of American photographers that emerged from the 1980s magazine scene, a group that includes such well-known photographers as Greg Gorman, Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel, Herb Ritts, and Bruce Weber, among others.

One of the common traits between these diverse artists was a profound desire to idealize their celebrity subjects, and to use, in a postmodern sense, imagery and iconography of the past in order to comment on the present, the “present” being, of course, the celebrity-obsessed culture of the 1980s. It is, in fact, this very obsession which has led to the celebrity and glamour-drenched culture with which we live today.

Hollywood Royale includes Rolston’s portraits of some of the era’s most prominent pop stars, models, and icons, including Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington – the list goes on. One of the hallmarks of Rolston’s work in this period was a desire to break the norms of gender presentation and to represent, sometimes with a tongue-in - cheek approach, the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood. The images are redolent with a perfume of the glamorous past.

There are three fascinating essays that open the book that go a long way towards placing Rolston’s contributions to photography in an art historical context. The first essay is by Pat Hackett, Andy Warhol’s longtime collaborator and the editor of The Andy Warhol Diaries. The second was written by noted photographic historian, and expert on the works of legendary American photographer Irving Penn, Colin Westerbeck. The third essay was written by Charles Churchward, the former design director of both American Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines and a man who is more than familiar with Matthew Rolston and the other photographers mentioned above, having commissioned and worked closely with every one of them for both of those magazines for quite a number of years.

The final affect of these essays is nothing less than to explain the origin story of Hollywood Glamour, how it became debased and discarded by the mid-1970s, only to be revived, again with postmodern style, at the hands of Andy Warhol, Helmut Newton, and the great 1930s Hollywood glamour photographer, George Hurrell, who was remarkably able to launch a kind of career “comeback” in the 1980s, thanks to the re-discovery and support of his work by Helmut Newton. The creative gauntlet thrown down by these three men was picked up by the next generation of photographers, notably among them Matthew Rolston.

More than a retrospective book, Hollywood Royale is also a significantly-sized exhibition with more than 50 large-scale prints, digitally remastered from their original negatives. The exhibition of Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles made its worldwide debut at Berlin’s Camera Work Photogalerie on Saturday, October 21st, and will make its U.S. debut in Los Angeles at the Fahey/Klein gallery on Friday, March 2nd, which, appropriately enough (given the book and exhibition’s title) is just two days before the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony.

The Eye of Photography spoke with Mr. Rolston.

How did the Hollywood Royale project come about?

As a photographer, I’ve always been focused on the “now” and perhaps secondarily on the future. I’ve had very little interest in my photographic past. Once it’s done, it’s done, and I move on. I never set out to be an artist, although perhaps I have become one. I set out to be a commercial photographer. I’ve always been very careful to maintain my archive, but it was far from a focus, given what was on my plate on a daily basis.

But there comes a time in everyone’s life to reflect and to look back on one’s achievements, and that time had come for me. That meant that we had to return to the physical archive, really dig through the materials, and organize it in a whole new way.

For the last twenty years or so, I’ve been working in a digital format. All of that work is a click away in our digital archive. But the work from the 1980s, all of it analog, was another story entirely.

This was an exercise in personal archeology. I don’t know what else to call it. And as we went through the materials, including the actual original prints used for the magazines, I began to realize that I had a whole other project in front of me. It was no longer just about maintaining the archive. I now understood that I could create a book, maybe even an exhibition.

I had the opportunity to show some of the images to the director of Camera Work Photogallery in Berlin, Ute Hartjen, while that gallery was exhibiting my very first dedicated fine art project – a series of monumental color portraits of ventriloquist dummies, called Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits – and she expressed interest in mounting a show of the ‘80s work after only seeing a few of the images.

Following that, I met briefly with publisher Hendrik teNeues during Paris Photo in 2016, and he committed on the spot to publishing a monograph of the work.

Now, not even a year later, we have a beautiful publication and two exhibitions opening in the next few months, one of them at CAMERA WORK in Berlin opening October 21st, and the other at Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles in March of 2018.

How did you choose the images for the project?

The process of selecting the images for the project was rather lengthy and consisted of several iterative stages. First, we had to know what images there were to choose from. So we scanned a selection of the original final publication prints. That was the first step. This gave us a body of work to choose from, so we would know which negatives to digitize. We ended up selecting about twice the number of images that made it into the book. The final count for the publication was 137 images, but we digitized and retouched probably close to 300.

We also returned to the original job files and looked at all of the proof sheets and negatives, checking for outtakes that might have been overlooked, or just trying to find a fresh perspective on the assets.

How long did it take to develop the book and exhibition project, from inception to completion?

It’s been a long and winding road, and it has taken over three years to realize this project.

When and where is the book available to purchase?

Although the book’s European publication date is September 2017, it made its European debut during the exhibition at Camera Work on October 21st. The U.S. publication date is October 15, 2017. It is available through teNeues’s own website and through book-sellers and online retailers around the world.

Are there any special events planned around the book publication and the exhibition?

There will be a number of talks, book signings, interviews, and personal appearances to promote the book, above and beyond the exhibitions already mentioned. These will take place from October 2017 through March 2018.

Knowing that Hollywood Royale is a retrospective centering on your work from the 1980s, what can you tell us about your latest projects?

My latest fine art project is called Art People: The Pageant Portraits. It is a series of enormous high-resolution color prints that are portraits of the volunteer actors in an unusual tableau vivant art pageant that has taken place every summer for the last 85 years at an arts festival in Laguna Beach, California, in which famous works of art are enacted on a stage by live costumed performers. As fate would have it, this exhibition of my very latest work will open in Los Angeles at Ralph Pucci International exactly one week after the retrospective of my earliest work in Berlin, which puts me in the very curious position of presenting an exhibition that includes what is basically my earliest published work (a portrait of a very young Steven Spielberg from 1977) and my very latest work within a one-week span. Talk about a career bookend! But I will say this: the story’s not over, at least not yet...

Interview by Patrizia Lanza

Patricia Lanza is a digital editor for The Annenberg Space for Photography, in Los Angeles, a photo researcher, photo editor and an author in photography. She lives and works in Los Angeles, USA.

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Borrowed Time

By Charlotte Steinway

Legendary photographer and Andy Warhol protégé Matthew Rolston’s new book bridges old-world glamour and modern celebrity 

There is no such thing as a lone genius. All creatives plunder past golden ages and draw on personal heroes who may be long dead but continue to exert influence over their work. This is never truer than in the work of legendary photographer Matthew Rolston, who taps into the glory days of the silver screen in his powerful portraits. 

Part of an influential group of photographers born out of the 1980s magazine world, including Annie Leibowitz and Steven Meisel, Los Angeles native and Soho House West Hollywood member Rolston is known for his dazzling portraits of contemporary celebrities that evoke the fantasy attached to classic Hollywood glamour. 

Despite falling into the world of celebrity somewhat accidentally, Rolston was fascinated by the dreamlike allure of Hollywood from a young age. His first exposure to this came from visits to his grandfather’s private medical practice, where the walls were hung with ‘stunning photographs from the MGM portrait gallery, gratefully signed to him by his star patients [from the 1930s and 1940s studio system].’ 

Rolston’s fourth book, Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles, takes a closer look at his portraits from a decade marked by its obsession with fame — the 1980s. See the artist’s exhibition of the same name on view this month at Los Angeles’s Fahey/Klein Gallery through April 21st, and come March 13th, Rolston joins us for a discussion at Soho House West Hollywood, following his talks in New York, Miami and Berlin. 

Here, he remembers some of his most iconic celebrity portraits of the late 80s:

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‘Warhol’s tongue-in-cheek appropriation of celebrity always appealed to me, especially in the colorful “Marilyns” from the late 1960s,’ says Rolston. ‘But a later Warhol that was a direct influence was his silkscreen series of Greta Garbo in a jeweled headdress, based on a publicity still from the 1931 film Mata Hari. It’s called The Star and was created by Warhol in 1981. My portrait of Cyndi Lauper in a jeweled headdress, which became a cover of Interview in 1986, was my own tongue-in-cheek quotation.’

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Rolston met Michael Jackson when he shot the singer’s first cover story for Interview. Impressed by Rolston’s work, Jackson later called him with an unusual request. ‘Several years before Michael Jackson called himself the “King of Pop” he called me up and said, “Matthew I want you to photograph me as a king on a throne.” It was total self-creation.’ 


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‘I was the first person to cross-dress Madonna,’ says Rolston. ‘I was playing with the idea of gender display and the so-called “gender bending” movement of the 1980s; trying to identify who Madonna actually was, given her ever-changing persona.’ Rolston was careful to ensure that his portraits of stars such as Madonna put them in a context that more widely explained the individual’s character in that moment.

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Perpetually fascinated by the dark side of glamour, Rolston played with traditional notions of beauty in his work, often swapping them for the surreal or the strange. ‘Essentially, glamour is a yearning for that which does not exist; it’s a beckoning to our imaginations,’ Rolston said. Here, supermodel Christy Turlington is pictured wearing a headdress fashioned out of a manta ray, as part of Rolston’s The Surreal Thing series. 

Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles is out now and available for purchase via 


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Behind the Exhibit: Matthew Rolston’s Hollywood Royale

By Samuel Anderson

Hollywood could be considered a kind of real-life Neverland in which half the population suffers from arrested development and wrinkles don’t exist. Celebrity photographer Matthew Rolston spent the first part of his 40-year career capturing that Neverland’s most famous inhabitants—even befriending ultimate Neverland-ian Michael Jackson—and heightening them in stylized, high-gloss portraits.

But to look at the photos of Rolston’s new exhibit, “Hollywood Royale: Out of the School of Los Angeles,” comprised of portraits taken between the late ’70s and early ’90s for magazines like Interview and Harper’s Bazaar, is to realize that even in tinsel town, time slowly but surely crawls on. While many ran in major fashion magazines, his Old Hollywood-inspired snapshots have the look of forgotten negatives, casting everyone from Jackson to Drew Barrymore in the glow-y, whimsical light of youth.

In explaining his unique style—defined by dramatic chiaroscuro and humorous set-ups—Rolston cites the work of Golden Age studio portraitists like George Hurell and Laszlo Willinger, whom he discovered under rather humorless circumstances: the doctors office run by his grandfather, an internist who catered to the stars. “He was a well-known doctor here in L.A. whose private patients were all Metro Goldwyn Mayer stars in the ’30s, ‘40s and ‘50s,” Rolston explains. “In those days if you had a client like that, they would gift you an elaborate, framed print of themselves. I was fascinated by all these photos of famous people on his walls. You could say my first real introduction to the entertainment world.”

As a student at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, Rolston was gimlet-eyed and precocious, juggling schoolwork and professional assignments. His big break came while visiting his brother Dean, the late gallerist behind 56 Bleecker Gallery, in New York. Frequenting spots like Studio 54, Rolston rubbed shoulders with editors of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, who asked if he would shoot a young Steven Spielberg last minute upon returning to L.A. “I think I turned that in as an assignment for one of my classes,” recalls Rolston. Shortly after, Rolston quit school to pursue photography full time, fomenting the ‘80s portraiture revival along with then-emerging photogs Annie Liebowitz, Bruce Weber and Steven Meisel.

Distinguishing Rolston’s career are several “firsts.” In 1986, he became the first photographer to cross-dress Madonna, and to compare her to proto-drag king Marlene Dietrich. “It was a sort of groundbreaking photo. And I think she picked up on that when she made the Vogue video with David Fincher,” he says, referring to the singer’s ode to Old Hollywood four years later.

He was also the first to anoint the King of Pop. After the pair became friends at Jackson’s first Interview cover shoot, Jackson asked Rolston to photograph him in full regalia. “This was many years before Elizabeth Taylor called him ‘the King,’” says Rolston. “He just called me up and said, ‘Matthew. I want you to dress me up like a king.’”

As the industry evolved, Rolston pivoted from celebrity subjects to less mainstream actors—namely, the tableaux vivant or “living picture” performers of Laguna Beach’s  Pageant of the Masters, the subject of Rolston’s other current solo exhibition at L.A.’s Ralph Pucci gallery. And while his celebrity photos may evoke nostalgia, Rolston doesn’t wax poetic on his early career. “I came up in the time before Hollywood stylists and publicists,” he says. “[These] moments are small but significant moments and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”