We’ve always been inspired by Brigitte Lacombe’s portraits of her friend Meryl Streep, created over the course of three and a half decades. Following her most recent portrait- sitting in Brigitte’s Lower East Side daylight studio, we asked Meryl to describe her friend with the camera and the important moments that form in collaborations.
Brigitte is patient. Rather, she is an impatient, superior creature who will nonetheless stand and wait for her moment, and then quietly, decisively snatch it. Being photographed by her is the only time I don’t mind being photographed—in other situations I feel like a performing elephant: Here, stand on this little ball! Smile! Wave your trunk! Put on this cute hat! Crush it!—because I feel like I don’t have to do anything. She does all the work.
She is possessed by a shimmering energy. She vibrates. She changes among three pairs of glasses. And then it’s over—in twenty minutes or half an hour! Afterwards? She is a jolly martini martinet: every thing has to be au point!—the frosty glass, the olives. Good God, the olive juice! The way she pronounces “dirty martini” makes you feel dirty: deeeahrrhteee. Kevin Kline says, “She’s been in New York 40 years and still cannot make Americans understand her.” Traversing the globe on a weekly basis, she is with out an interior clock; she lives in all time zones at once. Certainly she dances with no sense of circadian rhythm.
But her eye—her eye is infallible. She always sees the elegant line, the dignity of a stooped posture or the aggressive grace of an upright one. She is tirelessly interested in the human face and never stops discovering surprises in every one. The through line of her work is probably the way she seeks out some thing eloquent and previously unsaid in the most familiar of landscapes: eyes, forehead, brow, nose, mouth, chin. She never tires of looking, and, through her lens, neither do we. —Meryl Streep
Portraits by Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Black & White Portrait: Brigitte’s most recent portrait of Meryl Streep, captured at her Lower East Side daylight studio. Spring, 2015.
Color Portrait: Brigitte’s first portrait of Meryl in 1978 on the set of Kramer vs. Kramer