At 72, photographer and Renaissance man Lawrence Schiller maintains a schedule that would burn out a man half his age. The sparkly eyed, non-stop talker and perpetual observer has made a career out of documenting and sharing our worldly obsession with cultural icons and the poignant events that touch our communal lives.
In the 1960s, Schiller’s work as a photojournalist for magazines such as LIFE, Paris Match, Time and Newsweek garnered him a time-capsule photo archive that includes a ponderous John F. Kennedy, a nabbed Lee Harvey Oswald, a ranting Timothy Leary on a couch, a wild Tuesday Weld hanging her head from a car window, and a sweet Barbara Streisand surrounded by paintings she was considering for her New York residence. Seemingly intimate moments in the lives of public figures became a special forte of Schiller.
In 2007, Schiller culled this collection into the exhibition Marilyn Monroe and America in the 1960s, which opened in New York City and has enjoyed a worldwide run with no signs of fizzling. His iconic photos of a nude and playful Marilyn Monroe rollicking in a pool—a timeless and beloved series that denotes the last photographic documentation of the angelic bombshell before she passed—have found warm reception globally.
Maybe it’s the tumultuous economic and political times we live in that make Schiller’s documentation of a bygone era—one that some hang on to with a sense of bittersweet nostalgia—so touching. For Schiller, however, they aren’t meant to be a glorification of the time, but merely “one photographer’s look at the world.”
Over the course of his career, Schiller’s fascination with and curiosity about the source of our cultural hunger has not stopped when he steps from behind the camera’s lens. He has written eleven books, including Perfect Murder, Perfect Town about the Jon Benet murder case, and was handed the role of executive director of his good friend Norman Mailer’s Writer’s Colony upon the prolific writer’s passing.
When asked how photography has changed over the course of his career, Schiller raises the subject of technology. “Today’s photographers do not have to conquer the technical aspects of photography anymore to take a great picture,” he says. “They can come in with a great concept and find the results they want with the tools and resources that are available to all of us. We live in an age where newspaper photojournalism has risen to the same quality as fine works of art.”
Lawrence Schiller’s work is currently being shown at Rohrer Fine Art in Laguna Beach, among other galleries around the world.