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September 25, 2011

Ingmar Bergman and the shark from the movie Jaws, by John Bryson, 1975

Bukowskis: A photograph taken by John Bryson depicting Ingmar Bergman and the shark from “Jaws”, Hollywood 1975. Dedication: “To Ingmar from his admirer John Bryson”. 31,5 x 47,5 cm. © 2011 Bryson Photo.

The photo was not taken on the set of Jaws during its production period, as it is often claimed, but on the movie back lot months after the film was released. I gather this information from the Bryson Photo Facebook page and from the caption accompanying the very same photo in an NPR article about the legacy of “Bruce”, as Spielberg’s shark was called:

Ingmar Bergman, the late director, examines one of the three original Bruces. This is the last known published photo of any of the original Bruce; it was taken in 1975, several months after the film’s release. (NPR: “Hunting Bruce, Or, On The Trail Of The ‘Jaws’ Shark” by Cory Turner, June 2, 2010; Flash is required for the slide-show).

The physical photograph depicted above, as dedicated by celebrity photojournalist John Bryson who also shot the portrait, was sold at an auction in Stockholm on September 28, 2009. Among John Bryson’s most famous picture is the one depicting a 60 years old Ernest Hemingway kicking a can of beer (see below for more information about him). The Bergman-meet-Bruce-from-Jaws photo was sold alongside other items, all part of the contents of Bergman’s house on the island of Fårö:

The pieces were among 339 items owned by the Swedish director which were sold at auction in Stockholm on Monday. The collection, including awards, notes written by Bergman and one of his desks, raised around 18m crowns. “This exceeds all expectations,” Carl Barkman, head curator at Bukowski’s auctioneers, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. (BBC: “Bergman items sold off at auction”, September 29, 2009).

There’s a connection between Bergman and Spielberg: they both respect and admire each others work. Spielberg is often quoted saying:

“I have always admired him, and I wish I could be an equally good filmmaker as he is, but it will never happen.

“His love for the cinema almost gives me a guilty conscience.” (BBC, referenced above)

Similarly, in 2002 Ingmar Bergman told film critic Jan Aghed:

Among today’s directors I’m of course impressed by Steven Spielberg and Scorsese, and Coppola, even if he seems to have ceased making films, and Steven Soderbergh — they all have something to say, they’re passionate, they have an idealistic attitude to the filmmaking process. (Sydsvenskan: “När Bergman går på bio” by jan Aghed, originally published on May 12, 2002).

For more about the connexion between the two filmmakers, one can also read an article by Nigel Morris published at Vertigo Magazine, “Focus: Tributaries of Surprise” (vol.3 no.8, winter / spring 2008, PDF):

Few filmgoers would acknowledge similarities between Steven Spielberg’s blockbusters and Ingmar Bergman’s brooding art films. What could be further from the Swedish master’s obsession with death and longing than the southern Californian suburban consciousness underlying Spielberg’s parables of light, hope and adventure? How can one compare the self-lacerating honesty of an artist who admitted to former Nazi sympathies with the superficiality and incurable sentimentality of a Jewish Hollywood showman? What possible connection is there between a director who eschewed America’s fixation on box-office success and made several dozen films with minuscule financing, and one who has worked at the limits of budget inflation and garnered almost inconceivable revenues?

As for John Bryson (who took the photograph of Bergman and “Bruce”, as the shark was called) he was a renowned freelance photojournalist:

For more than 30 years, Mr. Bryson took pictures of historic events and the people who made them happen, from President John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev to Armand Hammer, the multinational industrialist.

He established his reputation working for Life magazine as a correspondent, bureau chief and picture editor. In 1955 he became a freelance photojournalist whose work appeared in Life and other national publications. His pictures, including portraits, were shown in exhibitions and won awards from photography associations, including the American Society of Magazine Photographers. (The New York Times: “John Bryson, Photojournalist Who Portrayed World Leaders, Dies at 81” by Wolfgang Saxon, August 13, 2005).

As of today, the best place to discover John Bryson’s work and browse his photos is his official Facebook page created and curated by his son Scott Bryson. The page is updated from time to time.

Aside from that, one can check his official website and blog. The Los Angeles Time has a rich obituary article: “John Bryson, 81; Photographer Earned the Confidence of Icons From Hepburn to Hammer” (by Claudia Luther, August 12, 2005). His work is represented by Corbis Images and Getty Images (via Time & Life Pictures).

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