Steve Landis with Milo the wonder dog

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Steve Landis with Milo, August 2006

  Interview with Steve Landis

by the Calcutta Times , The Times of India, August 6, 2006

  Questions by Dipannita Ghosh Biswas

"I am posting the entire interview that I had with a feature reporter for the CALCUTTA TIMES. These are my answers to her questions."

-Steve Landis

This is part one of the complete interview. A link to Part two follows at the bottom of this page.


An edited version of the interview below, appeared on the opening page of the Sunday Calcutta Times section, (page 25 overall), of the Times of India newspaper on August 6, 2006.


Part 2 of the interview, click here.


"I worship God, not photographers"

August 6, 2006


Calcutta Times-The Times of India


How did photography happen to you?

I started to get fascinated with it at about the same time that I started noticing girls. I was shy and photography helped me overcome that, it allowed me a reason to speak to people I would not have otherwise approached.

I started out with a Nikkormat Ftn 35mm camera as a young teenager, and started reading photography books and fashion magazines. They seemed to have the best photography in them. Also, I got my parents cooperation to help me build a darkroom in the basement of our house. Developing and printing black and white photos the traditional way, is a big advantage that young photographers in the digital age don’t often bother with. It teaches you lighting and tonal values, which are key elements of your artist’s palette, so to speak. Silver gelatin fiber prints will probably become a lost art in a few years, although I hope not.

The few times that I met a real photographer, I’d pick their brains as much as I could. And I’d take pictures, and make lots of mistakes. Making mistakes, the pain it causes you as an artist, not to mention the money you waste, especially as a young kid, really tests you. Just as in life, I believe we learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.

I had a uncle, Robert Breon, who was a professional photographer, but I only saw very rarely, who was based in Calcutta during W.W.II, spoke fluent Hindustani, while working as an undercover US Navel Intelligence operative. He had a great love of life and showed me a few things in the darkroom one day when I was about 15.

Which was the first shot that you took, with what camera and at which age?

Published nationally and internationally in Newsweek Feb. 9 1976, a photo of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA for the United States Bicentennial Celebration. It was a Nikon camera with a Nikkor 35mm F1.4 lens, I was 18 years young. . . Was this a trick question to figure out my age?

Fashion and celebrity photography seem to be your forte, how do you make a difference here?

As a dear editor of mine at British Vogue, Sheila Whetton once proclaimed, “ We aren’t exactly curing cancer here, we’re just trying to make some beautiful photos.” I wholeheartedly agree with her.
Can we all say team work? I prefer to have a positive loving attitude permeating the set and prefer to work with people who share that.

I try to not take myself too seriously, although as an artist, one does have ways of doing things, and I’m no different. What one hopes for and what one gets are not always the same. If a model or a celebrity, hasn’t worked with me before, the immediate goal for me is to gain their trust, disarm them with my humility, while still bossing them around a little, hey I’m kind of kidding but not really. Ha!

See you really need the subject to be a willing participant. and sometimes they just aren’t in the mood. The good news is that this has been rare, most of the time, everyone is, “hey let’s make some nice pictures.“

Although fashion has a lot of selfish people drawn to it, it then follows that there are also a lot of dysfunctional types. Some are fun some are not. The “nots” are on there own ego trip, so you try and build relationships with people you trust and enjoy working with. As in the movie biz, you work with people you really love on a select project or two and then schedules and job assignments conspire to break apart the teams. If you can reconnect with old friends later on that’s a plus, but often you just loose touch; everyone is so busy climbing the career ladder.

Beautiful women are your subjects mainly. Is it easy to capture their beauty or hard to make your subject and your photography merge?


Why fashion and celebrity photography?

What could be more fun? At age 16, I was told by the editor of Popular Photography magazine that I had a talent for making girls look beautiful. Since I happen to really like women, and enjoy photographing them, that was all the encouragement I needed.

Actors, male and female, are interesting too, because some can portray emotion and give some dramatic tension to the photo. A few are very self conscious in still photos, but that just makes it a challenge, which I enjoy, usually.

You also have made an array into photojournalism. Which do you prefer and why?

I’ve done some photojournalistic type work, but I don’t consider myself a photojournalist. The top photojournalists are a rare breed, going into serious often times dangerous situations, photographing sorrow, hardship, death. I prefer to show a more beautiful side of life. I hope that doesn’t sound shallow.

Have you learnt photography?

Mistakes and life were my teacher.

Who were your idol photographers?

Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Arthur Elgort were some whose work I’d admired, and eventually I met all three. There are many more whom I enjoy also. By the way, I don’t like the word idol, I worship God, not photographers.

Photographing politicians?

Its interesting that when you get up close you sense a charisma that many of these men have, that you don’t get from seeing them on television. Even those I previously didn’t like, once I’d met them I noticed it was difficult not to be drawn in by their personal magnetism.

You started working for Vogue (U.K.) at a tender age. How was the experience?

Wonderful, it was really a dream come true for me. It was my favorite magazine before I worked for them and still is. The group of editors that worked with me there were all wonderful. A real career highlight for me.

You were the first to use as a model the famous Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista. What was the shoot for? You were all young, so how did you go about with it? (Continued)

Click here to go to part two of the Calcutta Times interview with photographer Steve Landis, where Steve reminisces about Supermodels, and photojournalism, and looks at the future of photography, and his relationship with Yeshua.





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