Collection: John R. Hamilton

John R. Hamilton started out as a magazine photojournalist, but he achieved fame as a special photographer on films. The first movie Hamilton worked on was the cinematic classic The Searchers in 1956, and throughout his career he worked on some 77 films, many of them epic westerns. Hamilton was often linked with director John Ford and actor John Wayne, and the three shared a passion for the American West. In the many films they worked on together, Ford set the scene (Monument Valley was his favorite location), Wayne was the hero, and Hamilton’s camera applied the painterly touches. Over the years he photographed action scenes of stampeding horses and captured the quiet beauty of a morning mist on the prairie with equal reverence. 150 of Hamilton’s elegiac photos were published in the book Thunder in the Dust in 1957. So encompassing was Hamilton’s depiction of life in the Old West, that he became known as `Remington with a camera.’ Though noted for his iconic western photography, Hamilton’s work covered all genres. He did hundreds of commercials and TV shows and photographed many of our legendary stars. He shot Elvis in Vegas, the Beatles in America, and Elizabeth Taylor dressed as a bat girl at a charity baseball game. The list of leading men Hamilton photographed reads as a Who’s Who of America’s top stars. Gregory Peck, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Stewart, Sydney Poitier and Paul Newman were all photographed by Hamilton. As a special photographer on films, Hamilton got to capture actors in their intimate, off-screen moments. He shot Steve McQueen playing Frisbee and a young Clint Eastwood washing his car and eating breakfast in bed. In 2003 photographer Bruce Weber published a book of Hamilton’s photos titled Thank Your Lucky Stars. In speaking of Hamilton’s achievements, Weber says “his photographs were intimate and sexy and no one captured our heroes in American cinema like he did. He gave us an insider’s view of incredibly private people caught in a special world somewhere between a movie set and home.”

John R. Hamilton