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Chronicling Cecil Beaton’s Creative Obsession(s)

"His creative drive dominated him and ultimately he sacrificed everything just for that."

“Cecil Beaton has been in my visual orbit for as long as I can remember,” recalls Love, Cecil director Lisa Immordino Vreeland. “As a child, I loved My Fair Lady and have been passionate about photography for many years. My experience as a filmmaker has allowed me to delve in depth into the lives of visionaries who I have long admired. Beaton was someone who intrigued me. His driving ambition was paramount in his life. His creative drive dominated him and ultimately he sacrificed everything just for that.”

“The documentary tells the story of Beaton’s life, and it’s a moving and majestic one that spans many of the revolutions in perception that defined the 20th century,” Owen Gleiberman writes. “Yet Love, Cecil is rooted in the mind-bendingly eclectic splendor of Beaton’s images. He was a visionary fashion photographer, a fearless journalist of war, an indelible chronicler of celebrity, and—through every guise—possessed by the desire to create beauty…Love, Cecil is a fine biographical portrait, but a better way to describe it might be as a slideshow from heaven.” To read the full article, click here

Love, Cecil combines archival footage and photographs with voiceovers from Beaton’s famed diaries to capture his legacy as a complex and unique creative force.

“I have often said that my work is dictated by the archives I have access to,” Vreeland says. “In the case of this film, this played an even more fundamental role.”

“I always start with the archives or rights-holders,” Vreeland tells Matthew Vasiliauskas. “For this project, I knew it was going to be difficult because I was asking for clearance on all 38 books Cecil Beaton wrote. This is a big ask, but I knew I needed his words.

“From there, I started to strategize who the interviews would be with. That’s always a work in progress, but it’s a fun part of the process. It’s where the story starts to unfold. This research is exciting because you make unexpected discoveries.” To read the full article, click here.

“In his prolific output, the range of archival material is astonishing: over 150,000 negatives and prints, and that’s just in the recorded figures,” writes Patrick Mullen. “How does one even begin to comb through all this material?”

“Sotheby’s has the biggest archive and I went through it by decades and characters,” Vreeland tells Mullen. “Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve had a sense of what an audience will be attracted to and what names. I always have to be careful to edit myself. For people I absolutely love, love, love, there may be people today who don’t know who they are. I also wanted to be sure when I was going through the photographs that I found a mixture of the iconic and contemporary images.” To read the full interview, click here.

This visual material, Vreeland explains to Matthew Vasiliauskas, “plays a huge role in a project like this. When implemented correctly, a documentary can look very cinematic. That’s something me and my team are good at pulling off. For this, the supplemental elements needed to be as creative as Beaton was. They had to be beautiful.

“We wanted the visuals to be textured and come alive. Now, there are hundreds of black-and-white pieces of Cecil Beaton photography in the film, but at some point, you don’t really notice they’re black and white. You’re just mesmerized by what’s occurring on screen.” To read the full interview, click here.

We have to think about how creative he was in so many different forms,” Vreeland says. “He was not only a photographer, but also a writer, an artist, and a costume designer. I challenge you to find somebody today who is so good at all of that. That’s what always surprises me. When I think about who to compare him to today, I can’t find anybody.” To read the full interview, click here.

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