The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
Both Sides Now
Most of us know what it’s like to be the subject of a photograph and to take one, to be seen and to see. But some of us, due to unusual circumstances, know more about that than others. In her 1984 autobiography, Knock Wood, Candice Bergen wrote with insight about the ways photography impacted her life, for better and worse. As one of the 1950s most frequently photographed celebrity offspring, and later as a movie and television star, much of Bergen’s success comes from knowing how to navigate a world defined and shaped by images. That’s why we invited her to be part of click!.
Bergen zeroes in on the period in her life time, starting in the late 1960s, when she decided to position herself on the other side of the camera’s lens, as a photographer. Having grown up in awe of photojournalists like Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke White, and after meeting Mary Ellen Mark in college, Bergen bought her first camera with money from modeling assignments, thinking that photography might provide her with a more direct and authentic way to engage with the world than her work as a model and young movie star did. If, for a few years, Bergen chose to describe herself as a photojournalist on her passport, it was because she felt that the “truth” of photography could help her sort out the “untruth” of filmmaking and celebrity.
Not surprisingly, and given how the media works, as Bergen’s visibility and celebrity rose so did opportunities for her to make and publish photographs. In the 1970s, and during the rise of what was called the “new journalism,” media outlets eagerly engaged contributors like Bergen, to bring their subjective perspectives to the work of recording and responding to the tumultuous cultural change of the time. Bergen was commissioned to write articles for, and publish images in magazines such as LIFE, Esquire, New York, Ladies Home Journal, and Cosmopolitan, and to produce photographic projects for The Today Show and NBC Sports.
With humor and self-deprecating honesty, Bergen describes not only how her interest in photography began, but how and why it ended, once she realized that taking pictures—which had once seemed like the best way for her to see, engage with, and record the world—had become a passionate diversion. To read her story, click here . . .