Tastemaker: Arthur Elgort

According to Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington, fashion photographer Arthur Elgort’s photos “have about them the ease of a personal snap while creating pictures that have become thoroughly iconic. [Arthur] has an inquiring, roving eye that is always on the lookout for sudden unexpected moments to keep the pictures sparkling fresh.”

Sure, we all know big names in fashion photography, from Steven Meisel to Mario Testino, but Elgort is one of those masters of the craft whose work has been influencing the fashion world and our everyday lives for years, whether you’re an industry vet who knows his name or not. Elgort has captured some of the most memorable images of our time of some of the biggest style icons in the world, from Kate Moss to Linda Evangelista, for some of the world’s biggest publications, like Vogue and Vanity Fair. To kick off the first-ever Canadian exhibition of his work at Izzy Gallery (106 Yorkville), Elgort is actually in Toronto today to commemorate the opening of the exhibit, “The Big Picture,” which includes 22 of Elgort’s photographs. Some highlights include a 1981 photo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards taken at the video shoot for “Neighbours”; Kate Moss posing with elephants in Nepal in 1993 for British Vogue; Linda Evangalista in 1989 in NYC for French Vogue, and UK model Jeny Howorth in 1987 perched in fur and feathers on a stone wall against the sky and ocean in Southampton for Pelle. View the Vibe caught up with Elgort before tonight’s opening party to find out more about his fascinating life in photos…

Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture is at Izzy Gallery, 106 Yorkville Ave, Toronto, from Thursday, October 9, 2014 until November 29, 2014.

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Credit: Arthur Elgort

Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
I really love wearing Adidas track pants and Vans slip-ons with funny socks too. I’ll wear a suit if I have to. You know, like three weeks ago when my daughter got married — I wore a suit.

What do your pictures capture and express about your subjects without saying a word?
They show a moment of clarity, that split-second gives the audience a glimpse of the real person — the person who they, the audience, really want to know. People usually let their guard down around me.

Which photographers did you find the most ground-breaking and inspiring before you got your start in the industry?
Helmut Newton, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon. They were all visionaries.

In your opinion, what is the first photo shoot or photo you took that really started to define you and your style?
One of the first things that I shot for (American) Vogue — when Alexander Liberman was the editor — was with Lisa Taylor on the George Washington Bridge. He told me that he didn’t want her just sitting still. So she drove one car, and I was in the passenger seat of another. We had two chances to get the shot — once, while driving towards New Jersey from New York, and then on the way back. I think that defined my style as a photographer who favours movement rather than shots that are reminiscent of a still life.

Who do you think have been some of the most prolific photographers — fashion, life, culture, or otherwise — shaping the art over the past two or three decades?
Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, Cindy Sherman, myself, Steve Hiett, and Paolo Roversi.

How have technological advances, industry changes, and pop culture shifts affected your career, in both exciting and sometimes challenging ways?
Well, it’s harder now to be a professional photographer — everyone is a photographer now. All you have to have is an iPhone, which everyone has. No one has to learn analog photography, but everyone should. It can only help your digital images.

Who have been some of the most interesting subjects — places, people, and/or things — that you have photographed over the years?
Sister Parish was great to shoot. She was funny and gave me great pictures. Leonard Bernstein — he was brilliant. His face was always camera ready. Also, George Balanchine — I love ballet. When I was with him, I gained access to places I probably wouldn’t have been allowed into. Dancers trusted him and, since I was with him, I was okay too.

Who have been some of the most interesting minds and/or inspiring minds you have had the chance to collaborate with and why?
Azzedine Alaïa — his brilliance for making women look amazing is, well, in short, amazing. Karl Lagerfeld — he is good at everything he does. I mean, look at Chanel. Also, Karl can draw extremely well. I have always admired people that can draw well. Grace Coddington — she has a great imagination, and she is so smart and funny. We worked so well together for many years. Our creativity blended nicely.

How do we stay up-to-date with you?
ArthurElgort.com and Instagram.

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