In 2014, renowned photographer, Sandro Miller, decided to do a project paying homage to his favorite photographers and their famous photos. Miller recruited famed actor John Malkovich as his muse and used him to recreate 35 iconic photos that people today still talk about.
When Miller approached Malkovich with the idea for Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters, he was more than happy to help his friend out. “John is the most brilliant, prolific person I know,” Miller said. “His genius is unparalleled. I can suggest a mood or an idea and within moments, he literally morphs into the character right in front of my eyes. He is so trusting of my work and our process. I’m truly blessed to have him as my friend and collaborator.”
We all know Malkovich is capable of transforming himself into any character. With over 12 nominations, including Academy Awards, he’s one of the great actors of our time and the project emphasized his ability to transform.
The duo recreated the famous photo, “Identical Twins” by Diane Arbus. In a 2005 article from The Washington Post, the twins, Cathleen Mulcahy, left, and Colleen York, admitted that they were still recognized in public. The pair were snapped at a Christmas party by Arbus when they were seven. The two said they didn’t remember anything of the day their photo was taken but they still have the dresses they wore. “We still have them,” York said. “Our mother made them,” Mulcahy added. “They look black in the photograph but they’re actually green.”
A photograph that attracts negative attention to this day is “Piss Christ” by Andres Serrano. The photo was of a statue of Jesus submerged in a tank of Serrano’s urine. In 2014, he gave an interview to Huffington Post, where he described the meaning behind the photograph. “The only message is that I’m a Christian artist making a religious work of art based on my relationship with Christ and The Church. The crucifix is a symbol that has lost its true meaning; the horror of what occurred. It represents the crucifixion of a man who was tortured, humiliated and left to die on a cross for several hours,” he said. He added that Christ would more than likely have secreted bodily fluids on himself. “So if ‘Piss Christ’ upsets people, maybe this is so because it is bringing the symbol closer to its original meaning,” he said.
When Arthur Sasse nabbed this photo of Albert Einstein in 1951, several other photographers missed his iconic expression. “Albert Einstein Sticking Out His Tongue” gained fame from its first publication through until today. Einstein was heading home on his 72nd birthday at the time and when he was in the car with his friends, photographers swarmed the car to grab a photo. Einstein had some fun and stuck his tongue out at the cameras. Though Sasse was nervous about publishing the photos at first, Einstein had no issues with them and even asked for several copies. He signed one and it sold for over $100,000 USD earlier this year.
Photographer Jim Marshall captured a famous photo that he once called “probably the most ripped off photograph in the history of the world,” in an interview with the San Francisco Art Exchange in 2011. Though, he provided some insight into the photo as well. While Cash was performing at San Quentin State Prison in 1969, Miller said to Cash, “John, let’s do a shot for the warden’,” and Cash gave Miller the finger.
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