By SnapSquad - June 08, 2020

Looking at celebrities’ pictures and dreaming over them, who hasn’t done that, ever? I for one am happy to confess that my bedroom walls were heavily decorated with posters of iconic singers and musicians, the stars of my teenage years. The photographers behind those shots that immortalize our stage, screen or field idols happen to be cross boarders in the art of photography: they are at once portraitists, photojournalists as well as fashion photographers and major influencers. 

It goes without saying that those who make it as celebrity photographers usually get to enjoy a good share of the prosperous Peoples’ industry but how aware are we, as fans or newsreaders of the influence celebrity shots bear on our opinion, likes and dislikes, our must-haves, sees and dos? I am not sure, yet it is obvious that this category of photography has the power to make or break their famous subjects as it can inflict serious influences upon our collective memory. With all that power of influence weighing on the photographers, managing it has to reside in what, beyond the celebrity status, they want to convey through the portraits they take. Artistic vision is what will secure a lasting success and demand for their work.

Personal Reportage

Personal reportage is how Annie Leibovitz’s style is usually described. Annie started her portrait photography in the seventies, working for no less than the Rolling Stone magazine to become its chief photographer. She did photograph the ‘living’ Rolling Stones in 1971 and 1972 and was the Rolling Stone’s Tour of the Americas’ photographer in 1975. 

 One of her most iconic celebrity photos for the Rolling Stone magazine is, of course, naked John Lennon curled up next to Yoko lying down all dressed in black. What John said to Annie about that photo summarises what “personal reportage” is all about for her and how she can achieve and get her point across while still respecting and delivering what the magazine wants. 

Here is how she recalls what John said after seeing the first Polaroid: “John said, "You've captured our relationship exactly. Promise me it'll be on the cover." I looked him in the eye and we shook on it.” John Lennon was shot dead five hours later on December 8th, 1980. Annie Leibovitz’ amazing accomplishment is that composes portraits of famous people with her own and unique bold ways that break their cover and bring out the more private sensitiveness of their star persona. With that, she reaches both high art and mainstream audiences and remains acceptable to both.

Humorous Hyperrealism

Working with celebrities brings to mind the notion of “exaggeration” and a name to go with it: David LaChapelle. LaChapelle loves colours (outrageously), kitsch drama and pop culture. Michael Jackson as an archangel against the devil himself, Lady Gaga dressed with nothing but bubbles, Paris Hilton and Kim K. have paused for him on luxurious sets. When working on a shoot, he is the one to choose and be picky about everything to do with the final composition, right from the wardrobe: He is dramatic and a perfectionist. 

His pictures are really tableaux. David himself admits that he has always loved glamour, fashion and beauty; his career shooting stars lasted twenty years that took him to the pinnacle of his art, until, that is, pop culture burnt him to the core (“I never wanted to shoot another pop star”) and surprisingly, he had to retire to be a farmer in Hawaii! He has since published new books.

Minimalist Expressionism

Natural look, invisible make up, stars and super models came to Peter Lindbergh without the shine. He loved using black and white to show who the person in front of his lens really was and for the timeless and realistic feel it gives to portraits. Lindbergh left us in the late part of 2019; a tribute posted by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex best tells us about the artist he was and how he saw his role behind the camera: "His work is revered globally for capturing the essence of a subject and promoting healthy ideals of beauty, eschewing photoshopping, and preferring natural beauty with minimal makeup." 

Lindbergh rejected excessive retouching of his work. With his realistic approach to portrait photography, he aimed at “defining the image of the contemporary woman or man in their time, to reflect a certain social or human reality. How surrealistic is today’s commercial agenda to retouch all signs of life and of experience, to retouch the very personal truth of the face itself?" A love for ET and science fiction may seem rather in contradiction to Lindbergh’s heightened sense of realism and yet, his 1990 picture of actress Debbie Lee Carrington dressed as an alien next model Helena Christensen became the first ever narrative story in fashion photography. Even if the fashion industry weighs its heavy expectations on its photographers, it is artistic vision that helps take it to new heights.

Hyper Detailed Close Ups

Definitely a 21st century approach to portrait photography in Martin Schoeller’s hyper realistic close up portraits. Whether he is shooting some unknown street guy or someone as iconic as President Obama, the result is devoid of mannerism, somehow revealing the naked personality of the model. Schoeller’s celebrity faces shock and force us to redefine the iconic treatment we have been giving them for so long. Schoeller worked as an assistant to Annie Liebovitz during the nineties.

I can’t help feeling amazed at how celebrity portraiture has changed, evolved, and how differently stars want to appear to their fans. On the one hand, we see over the top glamour and drama captured by one photographer while another will shoot the same celebrities stripped of any beautifying treatment such as make-up and show them to us “as they really are” and perhaps vulnerable. When we look at a celebrity portrait and we react to the personality that exudes from the image, let’s not forget that it is the visual artistry that shines through them: it takes stars to shoot stars.


David Bergman Bon Jovi Work Coffee table book New York 2014 the release of Bon Jovi WORK a coffe table book that offers rare behind-the-scene look at the touring band.

Dreamed of traveling the world on a big music tour…. Turned into a reality

Knowing when to be in the room and when to stay out of the way.

“David is not only one of the best photographers we’ve ever worked with, but he’s the kind of guy you can be comfortable hanging around with in any environment. At the end of the day, the work speaks for itself. His photos are a work of art” Jon Bon Jovi

Valheria Rocha

Meet the 24-Year-Old Photographer Behind the Images for Taylor Swift's 'Lover' 2019

With a passion for visuals a staple in her family tree, Rocha, who immigrated from her native Colombia to the United States when she was four, has been on an improbable journey since. It's one that recently reached new heights when Taylor Swift recruited the 24-year-old to photograph the campaign for her seventh album Lover, from its buoyant cover to the promotional shots that have appeared everywhere from streaming platforms to Amazon boxes to Times Square.

"I remember going to Times Square when I was in college and seeing all the ads, never imagining that I would ever have one," Rocha explains, who recently revisited the New York landmark see her own work among the bright lights. "I thought I only had one billboard, but my dad was like, 'Turn around. There's four!' To be someone, from where I came from and having lived the life of being a child of immigrants and being an immigrant myself... I don't think anybody in my family saw this coming. I don't think even my mom, with all her faith, saw this one in the stars."

"I've always been told that my work makes people feel good and it makes me feel good too. So, for me, the pictures look like what Lover sounds like”

"I'm very proud of the work and I'm so proud of Taylor," says Rocha of the star who gave her a shout out on her Instagram, calling Rocha an "artistic genius." "She kicks ass and this is an incredible feat for her," she says, no doubt ready to pull out the scissors and paper to see what she could craft next. "I'm just so humbled to be a part of this story with her."

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