Camerapixo Inside Out with David Leslie Anthony

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DAVID LESLIE ANTHONY ANETTA G. HELLER

EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Welcome to another great issue of INSIDE OUT. This time we have the pleasure to interview inspiring fashion photographer DAVID LESLIE ANTHONY who shoots for numerous magazines and clients worldwide. David Leslie Anthony’s work has been featured in books, gallery shows, numerous interviews, and major magazines worldwide, including British Cosmopolitan; Harper’s Bazaar; Marie Claire; ELLE Canada; ELLE Netherlands; and Conde Nast Publications, naming only a few.

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David Leslie Anthony works in the Chicago, NYC, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and the international markets, with his current base being divided between Chicago, New York, and New Orleans. His advertising clients include Calvin Klein/Bon Ton, Pepsi, U.K., Cino NYC, Blake Standard, Bakers Shoes, Koros, Yumi Eto, Canada, and more. Additional work can be viewed on his personal website: www.davidleslieanthony.com Enjoy!

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Š Copyright Declaration All images and media contained in this communication are protected by International Copyright Law and by the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988. All images are the 'intellectual property' of David Leslie Anthony In this exclusive interview Camerapixo published all materials including photos by written permission from David Leslie Anthony. EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DAVID LESLIE ANTHONY

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CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE ABOUT WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN BECOMING A FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER AND WHAT THE PROGRESSION WAS IN THE EARLY DAYS OF YOUR CAREER. DID YOU GO TO COLLEGE OR HAVE ANY FORMAL TRAINING? I had always loved looking at photographs growing up. I’d sit with my Mother and pore over fashion and lifestyle magazines with her as a child growing up. Later, when I was in college, I was getting my hair cut, and I noticed all these great looking women getting their hair done. So I began attending Beauty School in Los Angeles during the day, and college at night (because I figured it was a great way to get laid). Making a long story short, I ended up quitting college (a few credits short of graduation), finished Beauty School and found I was actually good at the creation of design and imagery. I soon became a sought-after platform artist, creating hair designs for various Hair product companies. This was quickly followed with becoming the International Artistic Director for some of the leading global Advanced Hairdressing Academies in the industry, and performing on stage in major shows around the world. During this time I was creating hair design work for hairdressing magazines, and this opened me to a new world of creativity: Photography. I bought some books on understanding exposure and how a camera works, and began reading them. The first camera I bought and began working with was a Canon AE1. And I started to shoot photographs. I shot all the time, and every chance I got. I kept notebooks (which I still do today), and would record everything I did, along with clips of the contact sheet or transparency.

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I would record my “mistakes” as well, and learned from them. I made friends with the people at the lab I went to, and they would teach me more about “why” certain things happened, and what it created. To me, “mistakes” were simply wonderful opportunities to make better photos. Later, I bought another Canon and would shoot with one camera, and hock the other so I could pay for film and processing. I began photographing my own work for the magazines, and feeling that I had accomplished all I could in the beauty industry, decided I wanted to embark on a whole new career. I would buy magazines and study various photographers work who inspired me, and made me “see new things”. In the fall of 1989, I discovered what happened when you “cross-processed” film, by accident. I had been learning about developing films, and was at the photo store to buy developer for colour chemistry. I was developing E6 film and bought the wrong developer for C41 neg film. I was in the darkroom, and suddenly found myself with weird, wonderful colours! So I went to my friends at the Lab and they told me what I did “wrong”. I was so fascinated by what I was getting, I bought and experimented with every type of film and filters I could get my hands on. From fresh film from every manufacturer, to finding outdated films in stores and Pawn shops. I learned how to control the colours and the skin tones, how to “bend” the look to my way of thinking through understanding and knowledge of light AND the quality of light. At this time, only a handful of photographers were doing this kind of work. Two such people were Javier Vallhonrat, a Spanish fashion photographer who was just doing amazing work in cross-processing, and an english photographer Nick Knight. I studied all the work I could on these people! I studied the black & white work of Peter Lindbergh, the energy of Arthur Elgort, the clean lines of Herb Ritts, etc. By this time I had “retired” from hairdressing and became a “photographer”. Friends who were photographers I had met, began teaching me more things and model agencies gave me people to “test shoot” to build my viewpoint and “style”. In 1990, I got hired to shoot the national Z. Cavaricci campaign shooting it in my “cross-processed style”.

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The ads I shot ran in magazines like Glamour, Madamoiselle, Vanity Fair, etc. All with my name running down the side! This was followed by campaigns for Kad Clothing Company, Khaki & Whites, and a handful of various denim companies shooting their advertising. I traveled to New Orleans where I shot a few jobs down there, and up to Vancouver, Canada shooting some work there. In 1994, I returned to Los Angeles, and sat down and began seriously thinking about all that had happened thus far in my new career. Unlike MANY of the young “photographers” today (who have huge ego’s and “legend in their own mind” attitudes), I realized I had JUST been lucky and that I really didn’t know a damn thing. I realized that IF I really wanted to earn the right to call myself a photographer, for me, I needed to relocate to Europe and train and assist under some of the best photographers I could find. I packed some clothes, packed my two cameras, and took what monies I had saved and moved to Paris. I needed to be in the heart of fashion and photography IF I truly wanted to be where I wanted to be in this profession. I sacrificed a lot at the beginnings of my career. I got a job assisting one of the top photographers in the business, but I had nowhere to stay. I learned another valuable lesson once in Paris. Before you travel somewhere, make sure you know what the true value of your money IS in the country you are going to. I “discovered” that due to the exchange rate, my money was now worth half of what I had brought. So… I lived in a hedge grove in a park, bathed in the park restroom, allowed myself one(1) Franc a day for a meal, and worked until I had enough to get a small cheap room in the 14th Arrondissement in Paris. I lived and worked in Paris and Madrid for just over 5 years. It was the best education I could get, and provided the foundation for where I am today in my career. I learned about technical aspects of photography, the business side and how to work with budgets, how to work with clients, and how to make a photograph “feel”, to say what I wanted to say. FINALLY, I felt I could call myself a photographer. By the way, I STILL keep a one(1) Franc coin in my wallet to forever remind me of the struggles I overcame to get to the point I am now. Trust me, it keeps you humble.

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IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT MAKES FOR A SUCCESSFUL SHOOT? I guess this really depends on what the shoot is for. If it’s for yourself and you achieve what it is YOU want to achieve; then that’s a successful shoot. If it’s a commercial advertising or editorial shoot and the client is happy with the results, then THAT’S a successful shoot. Then IF the client or magazine picks the right photos to run, then THAT shoot is successful. What is really important to achieve a successful shoot is, clearly understanding the client or magazine’s demographics. Who are they marketing to, age group, buying group, etc. You are creating images within THEIR image and demographics…. not yours. In the 23 years I’ve been a photographer now, I’ve NEVER had a shoot occur without something not “go wrong”. You could book a Make-up artist that you have worked with many times before, and on THIS particular shoot she/he “just does not get the concept”. You could be working with a model you have worked with prior, and today she get’s her period and she does not feel “into it”, or you are working with a new model that, is stiff and doesn’t quite “get it”. You could have an assistant fail to pack certain equipment, an extension cord, batteries, etc. and they didn’t tell you, and you suddenly need it… and it’s 1500 miles away from your location. It could be a bright sunny day, and suddenly become overcast. It’s HOW you deal with these situations that makes a true professional, and is part of what I learned by being an assistant.

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ARE YOU EVER 100% SATISFIED WITH WHAT YOU JUST SHOT OR DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE THINGS YOU WOULD DIFFERENTLY “NEXT TIME”? I don’t think an artist and/or photographer is ever truly “satisfied” with their work. For me, I’ll look at my work afterwards and think to myself “what could I have done more? What could I have done better”. That is the “growing process” that true professionals continue to deal with, and what keeps them on top of their own careers. It’s what makes them who they are. Anyone can learn the technical aspects of photography from books. Anyone can buy a digital or film camera. “Style, viewpoint, and feeling” NO one can teach you. You either have it or you don’t. When I read comments from young photographers about how they consider “their own work amazing”, 10 out of 10 times… it’s utter crap! WHEN you become “self-satisfied” with your own work, you have stopped growing! Since I am under contract with Conde Nast, I have been fortunate to have met some of the top photographers and I’ve NEVER heard or read about them saying “how wonderful they think their work is” or “how amazing their shoot was”. These are some of the MOST humble people I’ve ever met. As I’ll always say it’s the “run-of-the-mills” who have the biggest egos.

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WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT THIS CAREER?

The ability to do what I love, and get paid for doing it. The fact that I’ve been to so many countries around the world, met so many wonderful people, stayed in beautiful hotels, and again… got paid for it. The ability to then take the money I’ve been paid, pay my bills, THEN shoot whatever I feel like shooting and not giving a damn whether anyone likes it or not.

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WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE?

The “sameness” and inflated egos the industry seems to be producing today. Back in 89 when I started, you had to KNOW photography before you could ever call yourself a photographer, and before anyone took you seriously as one. Today the photo schools seem to be turning out nothing more than “digital technicians”. I’ve had some of these people contact me wanting to be assistants, and they don’t know how to work a light meter, have never shot film, never been in a darkroom, don’t know any other camera formats other than what they used in school, “or what their friend has”, etc. Today everyone “calls themselves a photographer”. They buy a digital camera, do a 5 minute photo, then make up everything in the computer. That is NOT being a photographer. That is being a technician. Why spend 5-10 hours on a computer doing something that with photographic knowledge, in a few minutes you can do on set? I shoot both digital and film, and I do 90% of my image on set, at the time of shooting. That includes lighting, metering, creating any special effects like gels etc, so all I have to do in post is clean up the skin of the model, boost contrast, and enhance. I think about what I’m going to do in post AT the time of shooting, not after. In the major markets they now have “two schools” of thought. They say there are the Photographers, and there are the “digital illustrators” who ONLY know digital and photoshop. Do these people even realize that the SAME plugins and filters they buy and use are the SAME ones the person down the street can buy? The argument of “oh but I do it different” does NOT hold water.

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Why? Because all the plugins work the same way, giving the same results, at the same angles… for, and to everyone. It’s funny, that now you can look at a photo from so many of these people, and immediately recognize what “plugin or filter” they used, and from what company. The people AT the top of this profession are NOT some 20 somethings, but are photographers who CAME from a film background and are in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and older. THEY are the creators, the innovators, the true avant garde! They are the one’s creating the looks and visual styles that the young are trying to copy. They are the one’s you always see in the major magazines such as French and Italian Vogue, W, and numerous others. These magazines also are (in my opinion) the true avant garde publications. A great Many of the so-called “trendy” online publications are nothing but poor clones of mediocre digital work. Each one looks exactly like the other, with the same mundane, comatose photographs of some model “just standing there looking blank”. In fact you often have to look for the name to see if the “photographer” has even changed from one editorial to the next. Where as, with Photographers such as Paolo Roversi, Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, Mario Sorrenti, David Sims, Steven Klein, and many more... you know their style, their viewpoint. It’s unmistakable. I always tell my assistants “You MUST know the past, BEFORE you can create the future”. Because it is both the past and the present together, that make up the future”.

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BESIDES PHOTOGRAPHY, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE THINGS THAT INSPIRE YOU, THAT FEED YOUR ART AND YOUR EYE? The street, and road trips. Often times I will go out at night and just “watch” what is happening on the street. I’ll see people in situations that might find its way into one of my photographs. Music plays an important part in my photographs and my films. I’ll make special “playlists” for each shoot I am doing to set a mood. Road trips are amazing to my mind, and I find inspiration within them. Finding myself in small pockets of towns, I “see” fashion stories and life stories unfold.

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WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR “HEROES”? I don’t know if you would call them heroes, but I LOVE the work of Mario Testino, Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, Paolo Roversi, Mario Sorrenti, David Sims, Michael Thompson, Satoshi Saikusa, Ruven Afanador, Albert Watson, and many others. Each one of these photographers has a “sense, vision, and style” to their work, that tells a story within a story. They “draw you in” to the world they unfold in front of you.

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IF YOU HAD IT OVER TO DO AGAIN, WOULD YOU HAVE BECOME A FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER?

Absolutely.

WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?

Interviews and the questions they ask. Giving “shit” to people and having them whip it right back. It shows they have a sense of humor and they are not intimidated.

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DOES YOUR LIFE IMITATE YOUR ART OR DOES YOUR ART IMITATE YOUR LIFE? I’m not really sure of this question, so I’ll answer the best I can. I think my “life” imitates my art, or influences my “art”. So much of what is in my photographs, comes from my experiences and people I’ve encountered in my life. Of places I’ve been to, of places I’ve lived. Of women I’ve loved, and the periods of life I’ve lived through. Of what I’ve seen and felt. These emotions are put into and come through in my photographs. To me, a great photograph MUST have emotion and “feel”. And for us to become… we must feel.

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CHOOSE ONE FAVORITE PICTURE YOU’VE TAKEN OVER THE YEARS AND TELL US WHY IT’S YOUR FAVORITE. ( I KNOW, I KNOW, JUST TAKE ONE THAT YOU REALLY LOVE) I actually have a few. Two of them work together and were shot for Harper’s Bazaar. Unfortunately, they did not run because the Editor’s thought they were “too edgy”. It’s the woman in the pig’s mask wearing an Oleg Cassini dress and flashing her breasts (shot in 2001) and the photo of the two girls sitting on the streets of New Orleans spitting beer (1998).

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WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT DIGITAL. AND WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THE EXTRA WORK IN POST-PRODUCTION? As I said prior, to me, there are Photographers, and there are “digital technicians”. I DO shoot digital, and I still shoot film when I have the chance. I came from a film background where you HAD to know photography before you called yourself a photographer. I strive to do 90-95% of my work AT the time of shooting, and use the computer like I did when I was in a darkroom. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against digital nor computer. As I said I work with both, and I do retouch in the computer, and I feel these two things have greatly enhanced and help make possible what we see in our minds. It’s just that whenever I see work that has been SO retouched, my first question is “I want to see the raw files”. THAT will tell you whether someone knows what they are doing or not, and whether they are just another “guy/ girl with digital camera”. There is one duo in the business that have SO much digital work done such as arms, heads, legs exchanged, etc. and so much post work, that I do not regard them as photographers at all…just as digital illustrators. How do I know this? I was privy to seeing their raw files and I was ALSO shown the 100 some layers it took to “make” one photograph. Lastly, I do all my own post work. No one touches my photos but me. IF you have someone else do your post work, and all you did was snap the shutter…who then is the REAL creator of the work? If a retoucher is doing all the colour changes, blurs, layers, etc, etc. can you really say you created a photograph?? To me, absolutely not! In NYC, there are many retouchers demanding the same fees as the “photographer” AND demanding photo credit. What does that tell you? In the hands of real photographers, computers and digital are wonderful additions. In the hands of “technicians”… simply the usual crap.

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HOW DO YOU HANDLE A SHOOT THAT IS RUNNING ASTRAY? We all sit around and hold hands singing “kumbaya” (joking). The photographer is the Director of the shoot. Period. He/she is the one that has to answer to the client or ad agency. When a client hires me, they are hiring me with the knowledge that it is me who books the model(s), the hair and makeup people, and the wardrobe stylist. I work with the look and “feel” of the assignment which I’ve discussed with the client, and I direct my crew to this end. Everything rests on “my shoulders”. If the model is a flop, it’s my fault. If the make-up artist does a bad job, it’s my fault. If it rains that day, it’s my fault. Why? Because I’m the one who hired the crew. It’s MY job to have the best people ready and prepared. I’m the one who should have checked the weather and had “plan B & C” ready. Lastly, there is NO democracy on my shoots. It’s a dictatorship. I tell my crews that WHEN the day comes that they tell me AND the client that “hey, this is what I want to do, and if it does not work, I’ll pay for the cost of an entire reshoot”, THEN it will be a democracy. I often times work with ad campaign production budgets of $75,000 - $500,000 and more. It is ME who is responsible for that shoot budget, so trust me when I say “it is MY way”. I am NOT there to be anyone’s “best friend” on a shoot. I have a job to do.

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You and I could share a meal together the night before, tell jokes, and have a grand old time. The next day, if you are not giving me your best, I’ll be all over your ass. Friends are friends, business is business. Regardless of how long we have worked together. Shoots where the make-up artist does what they want to do, a stylist that shows up “with anything”, a model who “just goes through the motions” and/or “pose A and pose B”, and “photographer” who does not know what they are doing and/or does not know how to direct… well the shoot can be summed up in one word… clusterfuck. I’ve also been asked before, and I never allow people to “watch” a shoot take place. I don’t need a bunch of JAFOS on my shoots. What does JAFO mean?? Just Another Fucking Observer.

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WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE KIDS STARTING OUT IN TODAY’S MARKET? 1ST: Learn the past. Study the photographers who are at the top and WHY they are at the top meaning their work. 2ND: Realize, and I DO mean realize that A LOT was accomplished by many long BEFORE you were born. That you are dealing with numerous people in this business who know MUCH MORE than you, have SEEN much more than you, have EXPERIANCED much more than you, and did so when you were simply “just another sperm cell”. 3RD: Don’t mistake “a photographer’s style” as how a photograph looks. The visual imagery will change every season just like fashion AND life changes. A “photographer’s style” is how they see things, how they view the world, how they view music, life, sex, the people they love and have loved, etc. THIS all goes into creating a “style”. “Style” is a viewpoint. If you look at my work, see the kind of models I book, the strength in how I have them move, what I get out of the shoot. THAT is my “style”. The physical look is simply that. The look I chose for that particular shoot. I often tell my Assistants that “they cannot create what I can create. NOT because they are less talented, but because they have not lived my life. They have not traveled and lived in the same places I have. They have not met the same people I have, nor loved the same women. They have not been through all my ups and downs, nor lived and experienced the same periods in time I have.” ALL of this goes into shaping a Photographer’s point of view, and shaping “their style”.

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If you are wanting to work with certain magazines or ad clients, LEARN, STUDY, and UNDERSTAND that magazine or client’s DEMOGRAPHICS (marketplace). When you are hired by a magazine or company, you are being hired to shoot for THEIR marketplace. That means you bring only as much “art” as fits their demographics. Look at any magazine or ad campaign, both fashion and lifestyle, and you’ll see what I mean.

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THANK YOU ARTUR J. HELLER

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Thank you David for taking the time and giving us "inside" details of your photography :) It's great to have you onboard among other inspiring photographers. David’s photography work for Sony recording artists 54-40 was nominated for a JUNO Award (Canada’s Grammy Awards) in the CD Cover Art catagory. U.S. Ad Review selected David’s Michelob Campaign as one of the best campaigns. David Anthony’s work was also featured prominently in the book “Outdoor Lighting: Fashion and Glamour” published by AVA Publishing, London, England, and his photographs have appeared in both solo and group exhibitions in New York, London, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Orleans.

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