Becoming Barbra by Bill Eppridge, Rizzoli, US $39.95, Pp 144, April 2018, ISBN 978-0847861545
Barbra Streisand started her career in 1963 and achieved full stardom in 1966. Her career beginnings were very humble. Life magazine photographer Bill Eppridge had the luck to meet her as early as February 1963 and has had full access to the singer ever since. In Becoming Barbra, Bill Eppridge has collected more than ninety photographs in Becoming Barbra, giving a rare look at Barbra’s early career. Most of these photographs were never published before. They were taken in New York, Paris and Rome from 1963 to 1966. Bill Eppridge is one of the most accomplished photojournalists of the twentieth century whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Life and National Geographic.
Bill Eppridge met Barbara in February 1963 for the first time. He met her because Life magazine had sent him on an assignment to photograph the young singer and actress. She was only twenty-one then, living in an apartment on Third Avenue in New York City that was decorated with empty picture frames on the walls. She was on the verge of becoming a show business phenomenon with one album with one album already released and the tale of her starring in a Broadway play based on the life of Fanny Brice, ‘Fanny Girl.’ Her public image had not been fully cemented. It was a short assignment – Go photograph Barbra Streisand for a day or two, we have a short piece on her.
Bill Eppridge photographed her in an unlikely situation such as shopping in a thrift shop or trying an outfit in her apartment. He also captured an appearance on ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson’ — then live from New York. He also photographed her when she met with producer David Merrick, who wanted her to star in Broadway’s Funny Girl, which made her a celebrity. In 1966, by the time ‘Funny Girl’ was wrapped, CBS signed her to star in three television specials, five of her albums had gone gold and one platinum, she had received three Grammys and an Emmy. Eppridge photographed Barbra Streisand throughout her CBS rehearsals and recording sessions, and followed her to Paris where he photographed her at fashion shows with Marlene Dietrich and Coco Chanel, and covered her Richard Avedon shoot for French Vogue.
Bill Eppridge writes, “I try to be an objective journalist and shy away from pictures that are ‘set-up’ for me. During my time with Barbra, there was no public relations interference. It was as pure a situation one could hope for – reporter, Barbara, and myself. She took my words to heart, pretended that I was not there, and we proceeded to have a lovely session.” Bill Eppridge says that the photographs didn’t have much of significance at the time. Only one picture from the 1963 assignment was published that year, months after the photo was taken. Now, we realize that in many cases, especially hers, extraordinary people have ordinary beginnings. And, what appears to magic and fairy tales is often accomplished with a lot of pain and effort. Barbra is a perfectionist and it was apparent even then.
Bill Eppridge’s candid photographs give an unprecedented look at the beginning of Barbra Streisand’s career, shining light on her previously unknown life. Becoming Barbra is an intimate photo album of a most talented singer and actress of our time. You learn that Barbra used to shop thrift stores and did her laundry in a bathtub located in her kitchen. This beautifully manufactured book contains more than ninety stunning photographs of Barbra Streisand. It is a real gift for the fans of Barbra Streisand. Becoming Barbra must be on your coffee table.