Monroe Gallery of Photography
Monroe Gallery of Photography

November 28 - January 25, 2015

Hells Angels, Los Angeles, 1965
Hells Angels, Los Angeles, 1965

Whether he was shooting as a staff photographer for LIFE or freelancing for other major publications — Smithsonian, Fortune, Newsweek — Bill Ray never shied from an assignment, however large or (seemingly) small, during the course of his long career. Global events and quiet moments; armed conflicts and avant-garde artists; the grit and menace of the early Hells Angels and the bracing glamour of the Camelot years, he covered it all.

Bill Ray was born in Shelby, Nebraska in 1936 - a few months before the great American picture magazine, Life, was launched. He started taking pictures at age 11, and when it came time to choose between small town security and striking out for the big time, he took the road out of town at age 16. He photographed for the Lincoln newspaper, The Journal Star, while in college, and then for the United Press in Chicago and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune. In 1957, while attending a University of Missouri workshop, he was offered and accepted a job on the National Geographic staff. While arranging to move to Washington DC, he was recruited for the Life magazine Chicago bureau. He changed his plans and moved to New York and began freelancing for Life magazine. His first pictures appeared in Life magazine in 1958, and he became a staff photographer in 1964. During this time he covered a group of disgruntled Detroit families who drove to Alaska to homestead, known as the 59ers, the national visit of Nikita Kruschev, Elvis Presley leaving for Germany, Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy, and countless celebrities of the times. From the Paris bureaus in 1968 to 1971, he covered everything from Paris fashion to Jackie Kennedy’s wedding to Aristotle Onassis, travel in Turkey, and wildlife in Ethiopia. After Life ceased weekly publication in 1972, Ray photographed many patent models for a book The Art of Invention; and his photographs appeared in numerous major publications, including Smithsonian Magazine, Archeology, and Fortune. Ray has also photographed 46 covers for Newsweek.

Ray went through the Straits of Magellan with historian Samuel Eliot Morison. He traveled the world for eight months with Carl Sagan doing the stills for Cosmos. Ray’s work is included in The Best of Life, Life in the 60’s, The Best of Smithsonian, Great Magazine Covers, Rolling Stone Images of Rock & Roll, and Hollywood Babylon. His photographs have been included in numerous museum exhibitions.

"I threw myself, one hundred percent, into every shoot,” Ray says today. “And I loved it.”

Hells Angels, Blackboard Cafe, 1965

Hells Angels: Ruthie at the jukebox, 1965

Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in sauna on the set of , "Thomas Crown Affair", 1967

Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, London, 1968

Natalie Wood, Malibu, 1963

Natalie Wood on the set of "Sex and the single girl", with hairdressers, 1963

Marilyn Monroe Singing

President John F. Kennedy at his birthday party after Marilyn Monroe Sang

John and Jacqueline Kennedy campaigning,1960

Robert Kennedy, Harlem

Ronald and Nancy Regan after winning gubernatorial election, 1966

Ella Fitzgerald backstage at President John F. Kennedy's Birthday Gala, 1962

Elvis combing his hair, 1958

Private Elvis Presley waves goodbye, 1958

Private Elvis Presley, 1958

Alan Freed

Chubby Checker

Ray Charles

Ray Charles, Standing ovation, Carnegie Hall, 1966

Charlie Mingus, Greenwich Village, NY, 1958

George Harrison and Bob Dylan, Concert for Bangladesh, NY, 1971

The Beatles land in Los Angels, 1964

Ringo Star, Atlanta, 1974

Vladimir Horowitz, New York, 1978

Muhammad Ali fighting Oscar Bonavena in Madison Square Garden, 1970

Muhammad victorious after knocking out Oscar Bonavena in Madison Square Garden, 1970

Rex Harrison on bike going to set of "Mt Fair Lady", 1963

Andy Warhol with Polaroid Camera, NY, 1980

Andy Warhol with Polaroid, 1980

James Rosenquist, 1962

Roy Lichtenstein, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, 1962

Frank Lloyd Wright, Taliesin East, Spring Green, Wisconsin, 1957

Frank Sinatra on the set of "Can Can" 1959

The LIFE Photographers, New York, 1960

Henry Luce, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Margaret Bourke-White, New York, 1960

Lew alcindor at Beverly Hill Tailor, 1966

Children on Watts Street, 1966 (Burn, Baby, Burn)

Watts Window, 1966

Black Panthers, "Simba', Watts, 1966

Alaska, 1959

WBaby Lindy Lou, 9 months old, enjoys her midday soak at Henton't Lodge, Alaska. 1959

Three Santa Clauses leaving Downtown IRT Subway, New York, 1958

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