Grace Kelly & Howell Conant: Part One

If you haven’t read Remembering Grace 25 Years Later with Photographs by Howell Conant (published by LIFE), we highly recommend that you do! It’s a beautiful book that recounts Grace’s friendship with Howell Conant, her favourite photographer.

Howell followed his father, a portrait photographer, into the family business and over a period of 27 years he took most, if not all, of the iconic photographs of Grace Kelly. Basically, if you can think of any photographs of Grace Kelly from 1955 on, chances are he took it.

It all started when Grace was 25 and Howell was assigned to photograph her for the cover of what was then a very popular movie magazine called Photoplay. At this point Grace was a star but she hadn’t yet won her Oscar. Suffice to say this first shoot didn’t go all that well; basically Howell was intimidated by Grace’s stardom and beauty, so she ended up getting rather fed up and gave him direction for the shoot (“This is my good side. Now light it as you know how, and we’ll be done with it”). Afterwards, Grace had an interview booked with Earl Wilson who was THE gossip columnist of his day. As the story goes, she asked Howell if she could borrow a headband for the interview and he agreed if she came back to return it herself. This turned out to be a real turning point because when she did, she noticed some of the photographs that he had out and realized how talented he was.

Shortly after that, Howell landed another job with Grace. This time he was hired to shoot her for the weekly magazine Colliers. For this shoot, she suggested that he come along for part of the vacation she had planned in Jamaica with her sister Peggy. Evidently she was tired and figured this would kill two birds with one stone.

This idea ended up working out extremely well; the picture of Grace emerging from the water  (the one at the very top of this post) was taken during that holiday. Originally, Grace was all decked out in scuba gear but thankfully they got rid of that and the results are flawless. It is our favourite photo of Grace of all time (confession: we’ve tried to recreate it numerous times but….it’s a tall order, what can we say?!).  The photo was chosen for the cover of Colliers and became one of the most iconic photos of Grace. If you aren’t familiar with the picture yet, take a good, long look at it. There’s even a small drop of water about to fall off her ear just like an earring. Perfection. Here it is in black and white:

Here are some more shots that were taken in Jamaica:

Grace sure knew how to pose for the camera:

Another favourite:

You can see how relaxed Grace has gotten with Howell here. She’s so playful and animated.

Of these photos also taken on the trip Howell said, “When Grace began playing with the pillow I started shooting. Grace was so myopic she couldn’t see ten feet in front of her, so she followed the sound of my voice as I directed her. ‘Beautiful,’ I said over and over again.”

After this trip to Jamaica, Conant became a close friend and confidant of Grace’s. Once again, no doubt at Grace’s suggestion, he was hired by Colliers to capture her while filming The Swan.

More fun behind the scenes:

Howell described his experience watching Grace on the set by saying “She remained remote on the set; quiet, pensive. Wrapped in a camel’s hair overcoat, she stood next to this incongruous stage light and I snapped away. For me, this was a new side of Grace, a hardworking actress.”

Howell also took these beautiful photographs of Grace. They were taken at a home in Hollywood she was renting during the filming of The Swan. They certainly show the “ice queen” side of Grace, so different from the playful holiday photos.

The above photo of Grace in a black dress peaking through the white curtains was taken the same day as the red dress photo. As you can see, this photograph was used as a Vanity Fair cover AND a slightly different one was used the cover of the LIFE book (above). No wonder; it still looks totally au currant.

Here is a nice, clean version of it:

Until next time, we’ll leave you with this delightful and somewhat whistful shot from the Jamaica shoot:


In Part Two, we’ll take a look at the photographs Howell took when Prince Rainier came on the scene. Hope to see you then. Ciao!

4 Replies to “Grace Kelly & Howell Conant: Part One”

  1. Love the photos, especially the non-posed ones – Howell Conant really captures so much of Grace’s vitality and joie de vivre!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *