Photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank frames up a series of hotly tipped talent, and shares exclusive images from her new book, Young Hollywood.
“Hollywood is movement,” says photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank. “It’s about going somewhere, becoming someone and arriving.” To underline her point, the Vogue alumna chose an image of a daisy-swim-capped Isabel Lucas—poised to drive off into the credits-rolling sunset in a vintage Corvette—as the cover and opening statement for her new book, Young Hollywood ($75, Assouline).
A collection of saturated portraits of emerging talents snapped in heritage-laden, Los Angeles-area locales (from an ethereal Dakota Johnson amidst the roses of the historic Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills, to a Barbarella-esque Amber Heard dwarfing the city skyline at the iconic Stahl House in the Hollywood Hills), the momentous project took shape soon after Swanson Frank’s relocation to L.A. from New York two years ago.
The photographer already had a hit to her name with 2012’s celebrated title American Beauty, which features personal friends including Marissa Mayer and Jenna Lyons, but amassing a cast of next-big-things proved a different beast entirely. “I had no experience in the industry,” she says. “But fear can be motivating if it propels you instead of paralyzes you. And the actresses I shot were in the same space in their careers—running on hope—so we shared a powerful common ground.”
Fashion designer Michael Kors fell in love with Swanson Frank’s initial concept, and signed on as a sponsor. “All of the images have this realness to them. They don’t feel staged; they feel captured,” says Kors, who wrote the foreword and opened his archive to provide much of the wardrobe. “And yet they are still out of reach—which I think is what we want from Hollywood.” It’s Swanson Frank’s ability to synthesize the Technicolor-tinged fantasy with the naked ambition and vulnerability of her subjects that comes through.
“‘Remember who you are and where you come from’ is my personal mantra. I can’t say what is to come, but I am ready for it. I hope to be successful as a screenwriter, filmmaker, actress, model, and one badass grandma someday.” —Basinger Baldwin in Michael Kors
“Dakota collects vintage dresses so she’s wearing one of her own, and we wrapped this in 20 minutes; she was so raw and poetic, it was easy to capture her.” —Swanson Frank of Johnson in vintage
“This was one of those portraits where I figured out my formula: It’s very Old Hollywood, but also modern, and I love how it rides the edge while honoring the past in a fresh way.” —Swanson Frank of Horn in Michael Kors
“At the end of this journey, I hope I had a hell of a good time. It is important to have big eyeballs to take in as much as possible. You really don’t know how long you’ve got.” —Poots in vintage
“I try to search for roles where the character is not dependent on how she looks…I don’t want to be categorized in any sort of movie archetype. I don’t imagine my work or my life fitting into any kind of standardized path. I’ve always been much more interested in creating my own narrative.” —Heard in vintage
By Melissa Goldstein.
Photographed by Claiborne Swanson Frank.