The New Crew
Through the Lens
Through The Lens
David Leslie Anthony
December 14, 2009, by Chelsea Coylewww.davidanthonyphotographer.com for fashion and commercial work; and
www.davidanthony.us for gallery images that are available through the galleries that represent my art work worldwide.
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Currently live in Chicago, but work primarily in New York and Europe.
model: Mini Anden (Elite New York), by David Leslie Anthony
You started your career as a fashion hairdresser. What made you switch to
photography when you were at the peak of your career?
I moved up the ranks quite quickly (at a very young age) to become
International Creative Director at the age of 21 with a major hairdressing
company. There, my job was to not only create hair designs for the
but to also oversee the hair fashion photo shoots and advertising. I also
travelled worldwide, performing on stage with the International Show Team
at the major hair shows in London, Paris, New York.
work was in numerous magazines, and eventually I began teaching myself,
moving into photography. This was a natural progression for me and
something I always felt drawn to. 5 years later, I then assumed this same
position with another company and also began photographing all the press
release photos and designing the staging for our shows.
I came to a moment in my life where I felt I had achieved all that I could in the beauty
industry, and wanted to "retire" before I had nothing more to offer.
That, and because I had always loved art, fashion, film, and photography. So in
October of 1989, I embarked on a new career; that of a fashion
How important is a distinctive style in photography?
I teach my assistants that with "accidents" comes a world of knowledge, IF
you are open to it. I always (and still do) kept notebooks of work I
did/do, and I have my assistants do the same. Back in 1990 I was selected
by the fashion company Z. Cavaricci to shoot their fall campaign which ran
in Vogue, GQ, Glamour, Rolling Stone, etc. They selected me based upon a
visual look I came upon by accident and which I "pushed and developed" to
make it my own look. This was the technique called "Cross-Processing."
Back at the time, only a handful were doing this (Javier Vallhonrat and
Knight being two of them).
Since I am self-taught, I went to the film
to buy colour developer. I came home with the wrong stuff and proceeded
develop my E6 film in developer made for C41. I came out with these
strange, wonderful colours. My friends who worked at a colour lab then
me I had developed the film in the wrong developers, BUT I then proceeded to
buy every type of film I could and experimented with various filters,
developing times, etc. That is how I began building my "name."
was to figure out how to take something and adapt it for commercial
assignments. I think back then, with people like Helmut Newton, Guy
Bourdin, Peter Lindbergh, Paolo Roversi, Steven Meisel, and many many
others, having a "look" to your work was very important. Today, I think
what is most and more important is that you have a distinct viewpoint to
your work. How you "see and view" the world, life, loves, fashion, art,
etc. The visual "look" with your work (the physical way a photo looks)
constantly change as the fashion seasons change. For example if you are
only shooting things "dark and moody", then you won't be working much in
spring time where everything is brighter, more colourful.
If you look at
work, look at the kind of models I book, how I have them move, what I get
out of them, the "feeling in the photos". That is MY style, my visual
Would you consider yourself someone who stands on the other side when most
turn to Photoshop and other photo editing software?
I consider myself a "purist" when it comes to photography itself. Though
came from a film background, I shoot BOTH digital and film. I also use
computer and photoshop for editing. BUT I do 95% of the work on-set,
lighting, filtering, metering, light gels, fog machines, multiple
I create my photographs on-set with a vision and direction of where
want to go. I know at the time of shooting what I am going to do in
post-production. I don't shoot a picture THEN sit at a computer to figure
how/what I want to do with the photo. THAT is what I disagree with. My
question then to anyone is, are you a photographer or a "digital
I also won't let anyone retouch my work but me. I'm the one
who shot it. I'm the one with the vision in my head as to how it is to
and "feel." HOW can a person claim the work solely as theirs if they only
pressed the shutter and someone else did the post-production work?
else "applied various plug-ins, etc, etc.? When I see a photo that has
obviously photoshopped to death, my first question is... I want to see their
raw files, because I assure you that the original does not even come close
to the finished product. My thought then goes to "the person who snapped
this photo does NOT know photography".
In the major fashion markets now
they say there are "two schools of thought". There are the Photographers
and a new group they refer to as "digital illustrators". Notice how they
don't even call them photographers?
No I am not against digital nor the use of it. Like I said, I also do shoot digital. I'm against digital
technicians who simply "snap the shutter", then Photoshop the hell of it - those who don't know photography, yet call themselves "photographers."
Still to this day, the REAL Avant garde magazines are Italian Vogue, W
Magazine, French Vogue, Numero and just a few others. They are still
photography-based whether the camera format is digital or film. The work
being created by many of the worlds greats!
In so many of
the magazines now, if you look at the ending credits, you'll see digital
retouchers getting photo credit. So WHO really did that image you are
looking at??? I think that the 80s and 90s were the most creative
in fashion photography because it was coming from a period of knowledge
REAL creativity. The 2000s will go down as "the period of the digital
technician." Digital and computers are wonderful additions to what we do,
IF in the hands of photographers who know their craft. When it was only
film, people HAD to learn photography BEFORE they could call themselves
photographers. They pushed for knowledge and self-experimentation.
ANYONE can buy the same equipment, computers, and programmes we can, and
ANYONE can buy the same "filters and plug-ins" we can, and those same
"filters and plug-ins" work in the same way for EVERYONE!
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Roberto Cavalli, by David Leslie Anthony
What photographers have influenced you and how?
Many of these people I've come to know personally and some I've only met.
Others are photographers whom I love something about their work, because
they are always challenging themselves, and "pushing themselves." They
the one's creating what others copy: Nick Knight, Javier Vallhonrat,
Testino, David Sims, Mario Sorrenti, Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, Albert
Watson, Stan Malinowski, Craig McDean, Paolo Roversi, Tim Walker, David
Bailey, Melvin Sokolsky, Christopher Mcaub, Terry Richardson, Bruce
Lacombe, Ellen von Unwerth, Tom Munro, Pamela Hanson, Greg Lotus, Greg
Kadel, Satoshi, Patrick Demarchelier, Arthur Elgort, and I'm sure there
more, but this is what immediately comes to mind.
What everyone of these
people have in common is, that they ALL came from a film background even
though many are shooting digital now. They all are true photographers.
Influence can come from how their work makes you "feel", what you see in
their work, how and what they get out of the model, location, etc.
Did you have a moment when you realized, within yourself, that you were skilled enough to do this for a living and if so when was that or what was it like?
This past October made it 20 years I've been a photographer. When I was an
assistant, my mentor told me "don't change your style, change your market".
I actually worked in Toronto and Vancouver for a period. I couldn't
get "arrested shooting fashion" there. No one would hire me.
I returned to
the States (I have duel-citizenship), and the SAME work I was doing that
people in Toronto hated, got me booked for shoots and getting offered
contracts with Conde Nast and Hearst publications. Within six months of
returning to the States, I was shooting for the International editions of
Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, German Vogue, and shooting ad campaigns
with people like Britney Spears for Pepsi U.K.!! This past year, I was
to be part of the famous Art Basil in Miami alongside many of the top
photographers in the world! You have to believe in yourself.
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Britney Spears for Pepsi (UK), by David Leslie Anthony
What inspires you to continue shooting and how do you keep motivated
when a certain shot or moment just doesn't happen?
In the 20 years I've been a photographer now, I've NEVER had a shoot occur
without something not "go wrong." You could book a makeup 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". You could have an assistant fail to pack certain equipment, 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.
As a photographer (and sometimes art director!), where do you find
your own artistic inspiration?
I communicate with my International Editors via emails and phone calls, so I
am both Photographer AND Art Director on about 75% of my shoots. 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 "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
camera. "Style 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 both Conde Nast and Hearst Publications, I
have been fortunate to meet photographers like Craig McDean, Mario Testino,
Albert Watson, etc. 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. They don't know a damn
thing about the past! They simply copy what they see already done in
magazines and think themselves "creative". I always tell my assistants
"You MUST know the past, BEFORE you can create the future," because the future
is made up FROM the past.
What is your favourite shoot to date?
I've had many very good shoots where I came away with work I truly felt
happy with, so I can't really name just one.
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Karlie Kloss (Next Worldwide), by David Leslie Anthony
What do you look for when casting?
I look for something unique about them, something different, where you can
see within them that they "just get it". One model that I helped launch
career by booking her for her first two(2) editorial shoots was KARLIE
(with Next Agency, NYC). Karlie "gets it"!! She is wonderful to work
and look at how fast she rose in the industry!
What would you be if you could not be a photographer?
I've thought that question myself, and nothing else comes to mind.
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, and againŠgot paid for it. The ability to then take the money
been paid, pay my bills, THEN shoot whatever I feel like shooting and not
giving a damn whether anyone likes it or not.
What advice would you give to young people 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
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.
visual imagery will change every season just like fashion AND life
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
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.