From serving in the U.S. Signal Corps to extensive work in music, television, and film, photographer Bruce McBroom has had an epic career. You may know him best for his iconic photo of Farrah Fawcett, the best-selling poster of all time and the inspiration for the new Farrah Fawcett Doll. Read on for an exclusive Q & A with the man whose shot was bought round the world!
It’s been 35 years since the Farrah poster debuted. How do you feel about its enduring appeal?
I think the enduring appeal of the poster relates to the simpler time it was - no 24-hour TV, Internet, YouTube, TMZ, tabloids, and paparazzi. Farrah was such a sweet all-American girl, and the photo portrayed that while still being a little "sexy." Women and girls liked it as well as men and boys. People still tell me stories about the poster they had, or their boyfriend had, in their dorm room or garage or police station or the back of the office door. Somehow, it stuck in everyone’s memory.
You were shooting stills at the time for ABC. Had you done poster shoots at that point, or was that a new type of work for you?
Prior to shooting for ABC-TV, I was shooting rock and roll - Monterey Pop Festival, The Mammas and Papas, Frank Zappa, etc., for music and teen magazines. I have always shot posters. It's what I do best.
What other photos of yours would we immediately recognize?
In 1969 I photographed The Beatles in London, in one of their last photo sessions, which resulted in several well-known Beatles posters. The photos were also used in last year's billboards and promotions announcing the addition of the Beatles catalog to Apple's iTunes.
Was the shoot a collaborative process? Specifically, how much of it was a function of you telling her to pose in certain ways, versus her having ideas about how to present herself, or the two of you talking it through and inspiring each other?
She did her own hair and makeup, I picked out the backgrounds and lighting and suggested poses.
Out of 36 shots you took of her in that swimsuit, you’ve said that she marked two as her favorites, and one of them was “the one.” Did you agree with her choices, or were there ones in the set you thought were better?
When I processed the film and delivered it to Farrah for her approval, we both agreed that the Red Suit session was the best, but she later picked out her first and second favorites.
How did the success of the poster affect your own professional career?
The success of the poster did nothing for my career, because the publisher refused to put my credit on it. But I had to get an unlisted phone number because of the number of calls I got from fans.
Did you do other poster shoots with Farrah over the years?
Although, I continued to shoot Farrah on [the set of] the first season of Charlie’s Angels, we never did another poster shoot, much to my regret.
You gave a great “As told to” recounting of the shoot for Time Magazine in 2009. Is there any more to the story that you haven't yet revealed?
The Time story pretty much sums it up.
Though you're perhaps best known for the Farrah poster, you've also been a photographer for dozens (if not hundreds) of movies and television shows. What are some other memorable shoots you've done?
Bo Derek running on the beach for the poster for the movie "10," Clint Eastwood's poster for “In The Line of Fire,” Harrison Ford’s poster for “Clear and Present Danger,” and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the “Commando” poster are my favorites.
What was your first reaction when you found out Barbie® Collector would be recreating Farrah’s poster pose in doll form?
I was amazed, but just recently at a dinner party of 30- and 40-somethings, I mentioned the doll project, and one woman said she would buy a dozen.
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