Following the death of actor and comedian Robin Williams on August 11 (see “Comedy Legend Robin Williams Battled Disney, Depression, and Picasso“), the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, DC, has hung a 1979 photograph of Williams shot by Michael Dressler for Time Magazine. The image, which appeared on the cover of Time‘s March 12, 1979 issue, shows the then-27 year old actor as the character Mork on the TV show “Mork & Mindy.” It accompanied a feature titled “Chaos in Television.”
“It was just as he made his breakthrough from stand-up to TV and then movies,” David Ward, the NPG’s senior historian, told Smithsonian Magazine.
Getting the 35-year-old photo on the gallery wall just one day after Williams’s death was no easy feat. “When I got in this morning I saw the sad news that Robin Williams had passed away,” Ward said. The photo, which was gifted to the NPG by Time in 1982, was being held at an off-site storage facility, and while it was being retrieved museum staff speedily prepared a space on the museum’s “In Memoriam” wall, wrote up wall text, and installed labeling.
“Michael Dressler was very good at being a fly on the wall,” Michael Meister, who in 1979 was a photography student and went with Dressler to shoot Williams, told Smithsonian Magazine. “In a very short time we became good friends and he invited me to a cover shoot he had for Time magazine on Robin Williams,” Meister wrote on AZ Central. “I tagged along with Michael during his shoot with Robin over a period of days. One day we just followed him just being ‘Robin.'”
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