Kubrick’s Columbia

Stanley Kubrick photo
Museum of the City of New York / SK Film Archive, LLC

“By the time I was twenty-one I had four years of seeing how things worked in the world,” filmmaker Stanley Kubrick once told the New York Times. “I think if I had gone to college I would never have become a director.” But Kubrick did go to college, sort of: in 1948, as a young staff photographer for Look magazine, Kubrick was dispatched to Morningside Heights to shoot university life. Kubrick had joined Look in 1945 as a chess-playing, camera-toting seventeen-year old from the West Bronx, and for the next four years he shot vivid, moody images of street life, circuses, boxers, and lovers, with an arresting theatrical style that clearly foreshadowed his film work. Looking at this photo, taken inside a Columbia laboratory (no, that’s not Peter Sellers), it’s hard to miss the aesthetic connection to Kubrick’s 1964 black comedy Dr. Strangelove. An exhibit of Kubrick’s Look photography, featuring more pictures taken on campus, is on view at the Museum of the City of New York until January 6.