DAVID WILLS Los Angeles Dec 2011 by Alan MercerAUDREY THE 60s by David Wills coverThis is my interview with David Wills.

What inspired you to start writing? My parents were always very supportive of my interest in books. I used to make my own when I was kid. I would do the illustrations and then staple them together. We had a family friend, Lin Bloomfield, who wrote books about the artist Norman Lindsay and I thought she was the most interesting and glamorous person I had ever met – she still is.

What’s the hardest part of your job? My books are photography books – not novels or biographies – so photo research and clearance becomes incredibly laborious. You spend so much time doing administrative work that it often interferes with the creative process. I often say that I am more a producer of books than an author of them. There are so many different elements to pull together.

What’s the best part of your job? Certainly positive feedback from people, once the book is published. I remember how much certain books meant to me when I was a child, so when you receive a letter or an e-mail from someone saying how much they loved the book it’s amazing. I’ve been contacted by people as far away as Russia and Poland.

What was the best thing about writing this book? Audrey Hepburn is such a fun subject. It was so great to explore certain archives and speak with people who photographed her – like Douglas Kirkland, William Klein and Bert Stern. They were all eager to contribute. I’m also very interested in photo restoration and where possible try to reproduce images from an original negative or transparency. It’s very rewarding to take a 50 year old photograph and give it new life via digital technology.

What was the most interesting thing you discovered when writing this book? Funnily enough, the most interesting thing was that there there were no interesting things – if that makes sense. Often, when you are researching and writing a book you discover alarming information (most of which I don’t put in the books, out of respect for the subject), but with Audrey Hepburn there were no surprises. As one interviewee said, “All the clichés were true – beautiful, generous, elegant. Just a wonderful, wonderful woman.” If there was one thing that surprised me, I guess, is that I never realized how accomplished she was as a photographic subject. She worked with all the great photographers of the twentieth century and seemed to blur the line between model and movie star as no other actress ever has – not even Marilyn Monroe.

What do you love most about Audrey Hepburn? Her smile – there’s such perfection in the imperfection of it. When she smiled or laughed she seemed to light up the room.

Do you have a favourite image in this book? I love the Cecil Beaton photo with the lavender background and the floral Easter bonnet. She looks like a beautiful doe. Only Audrey Hepburn could dominate such a composition.

Do you have a favourite place? Lithgow in New South Wales, Australia.

What is something that most people might be surprised to know about you? I don’t like reading. It’s very sad. I was a ravenous reader my entire life, and then something suddenly went “click”. I guess I read so much for work that when I have time to myself I prefer to be outdoors or with friends. Between computer screens, photographs and the pages of books, life becomes very two-dimensional. I tend crave experiences in 3D when I’m not working, and that doesn’t include reading.

What are you working on next? Two books this year. The first is another book on Marilyn Monroe. This time about her relationship with the press. The second is a book about the films of Frank Sinatra. His children – Nancy, Tina and Frank Jr. – have all written original essays for it. I am also photo editing a book on Fellini for another author. We were fortunate enough to have Anita Ekberg write the book’s foreword just before her passing.

Read my review of ‘Audrey; The 60s’ here.

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