You have to be careful when using superlatives such as “legendary” or “unique”. However, when talking about Yul Brynner these terms are perfectly acceptable. The Leica Gallery in Los Angeles, USA, is hosting the exhibition Yul Brynner’s Photography: An Extraordinary Vision. The vernissage took place on Saturday, July 8; and was followed by a meeting with Brynner’s daughter, Victoria. We spoke about the actor and his photographs with Paris Chong, Gallery Manager and Curator of the Leica Gallery LA.

How would you define Brynner’s photographs?
Influenced by the work of renowned Magnum photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and André Kertész, Brynner and his Leicas captured moments which tell the story of old Hollywood from an insider perspective.

So, it was to Brynner’s advantage that those portrayed knew and appreciated him, and very obviously trusted him – right?
In this case, Brynner was not only the photographer, but also a confidant for those he portrayed with such sensitivity. He travelled from western Europe to southern California, where his work offered insight into his personal experience with friends who just happened to also be the stars of his generation – such as Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Loren.

What might visitors to the exhibition in Los Angeles expect to see?
The exhibition presents 25 images from Brynner’s unique photographic collection. Prints of some of his most important pictures will complement the exhibition and be available as limited editions. In addition, a selection of Brynner’s Leica MP cameras will be on display; and one of them will be up for auction at the coming Leitz Photographica on November 24 and 25, in Vienna.

What makes Brynner’s oeuvre so unique?
The essence of Brynner’s photographs arises from his empathic intelligence, which allowed him to do such a wonderful job of capturing both the intimate and artistic aspects of his themes. This exhibition aims to honour Brynner’s talent and contribution to photography.

Will Brynner’s work be shown outside the USA?
It will also be on display on the occasion of the auction in Vienna.

Yul Brynner was an Oscar and Tony award-winning actor, famous for his roles in The King and I, The Ten Commandments, and The Magnificent Seven. He was also a renowned photographer of considerable skill, whose body of work was defined by his strong behind-the-scenes imagery of mid-century Hollywood. Influenced by the work of his friends, the renowned Magnum photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and André Kertész, he used Leica cameras to create images that survive today to tell the proud story of old Hollywood. Brynner’s photographic journey brings his viewers across western Europe and southern California, to share the personal experiences he had with his friends who were – one and the same – the stars of that generation. His great empathetic intelligence made him a wonderful portraitist, with that rare gift of being able to capture his company – including Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Loren – in a way that was both intimate and artistic. Gallery attendees will find a series of limited edition prints of some of Brynner’s most important images, which have been made available to accompany this exhibition.

The exhibition Yul Brynner: An Extraordinary Vision will also be on view at Leica Galerie Tokyo (2 November 2023 – 3 March 2024), Leica Galerie Kyoto (3 November 2023 – 3 March 2024) and Leica Galerie Vienna (22 September 2023 – 28 October 2023).