For Woolrich’s 180th anniversary, the brand hired renowned photographer Douglas Kirkland who shot a double series of 18 portraits of celebrities wearing the iconic Woolrich Arctic Parka. SI talked to Douglas Kirkland who explains how the two series of portraits resemble the essence of the Woolrich brand. By Maria Cristina Pavarini

When you take portraits, how do you manage capturing the personality of your object?
I actually work similarly to a journalist. I first read a lot about the person I will photograph. I need to know as much as I can about them: if they are married, if they have kids and things like these. This makes a great difference. Then I spend time talking to them and getting to know them. When I take the picture it’s simply part of a process and I can put some light on one aspect of their personality – at least that is what I’m trying to do. Every picture is the result of a conversation. Also taking a picture is a result from a slow process – as I did with the 18 black & white pictures of this exihibition taken with an old camera, very similar to those used at the beginning of photography when the object couldn’t move and had to wait before the camera film got impressed. The other 18 pics were shot with the ultimate modern technology of a digital camera.

Why did you chose to portrait people both in black and white and in four colors?
The idea was to celebrate Woolrich’s 180th anniversary. Thus, 18 portraits were taken like they did at the beginning of the history of photography, which was more or less at the same time when also Woolrich was born. The other 18 pics, instead, should express the idea of fastness, movement and the shooting of single moments. The two groups of photos resemble the essence of this brand whose roots belong to a distant past, though also lives the fastness and trendyness of present times. In fact, this brand is a mix between past and present.

Which was the hardest image to shoot?
It was the black & white, showing dancer Erika Lemay upside down. I had to be fast in shooting that because she had to pose in a very uncomfortable position (and at the same time you wanted to convey a sense of surprise).

And the one you liked most?
That was Ashley Victoria-Greathead. She gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted to. For this I asked her if we could have done a nude shot. And I liked the result since she is shot while keeping the Woolrich coat flagging almost like a pair of wings.

You took pictures of so many celebrities. Which picture did you like most?
I took so many pictures. People know me most for, is the one of Marylin Monroe. Though I also loved to shoot Jack Nicholson. The same with Marcello Mastroianni. If he had been here in this room with all of these people – men or women – I would have loved him. He had such magnetism.

You also shot Michael Jackson and will soon publish a book with his photos "Michael Jackson - The making of Thriller". What kind of experience was that?
He was truly special. When I first met him, he was so timid that he hardly shook my hand. Then, later when he was on the stage he behaved like a totally different person: a real star. I shot him when he was producing “Thriller”, that revolutionary clip that changed the attitude in music.

Did you ever make any movies or would you like to also make some in the future?
I did a few short ones. Though I consider myself lucky enough with what I did. I’ve been working for a long period of time and I did such beautiful things throughout my career. I was born in a very small place of Canada (Forterie) and would have never expected I would have done such beautiful things. I also felt honored and enjoyed a lot this experience working with Woolrich. We immediately felt comfortable working together. For this reason, I will also shoot their next s/s 2011 ad campaign.