The Visual Arts: Norman Jean Roy

The fashion photographer on what makes a great picture.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Music issue 09/04/2008
The fashion photographer on what makes a great picture.

Fashion Rocks Magazine relies on some of the top names in the fashion photography world for its glossy, glam look. Annie Leibovitz, Steven Klein, Steven Meisel, Terry Richardson and Craig McDean are just a few of the top shutterbugs who have participated over the past five years. WWD caught up with Norman Jean Roy for his thoughts on shooting for fashion rocks, models and European versus American fashion  photography.

ON SHOOTING USHER IN THE DESERT: “We wanted to do two days of hanging out together....I’d never photographed in the desert and knew I wanted to do something there, so we just spent a couple of days together. We shot in Ray Charles’ recording studio, and then we shot somewhere in the middle of the desert [for] the expanse, the light, the reflection.”

ON WHETHER CELEBRITIES MICROMANAGE SHOOTS: “The vast majority of photographers who are at a certain level in their career are there because they’re able to persuade and balance and modify the flow. Ninety percent of subjects, particularly the pros, know when they’re in the presence of someone who knows what they’re doing. I haven’t been challenged in a long time as to my approach. By the time they get to me, they know who I am, they know how I do things. So why would they challenge me?”

ON CELEBRITIES VS. MODELS: “The only difference is the level of attention they’re going to dedicate to the shoot. With a model you’re a little bit luckier because you can ask a model to stand a certain way for a certain amount of time, and models  can dig from a large pool of references visually to accommodate or facilitate the photograph. With portraiture and photographs, which I tend to be drawn to, it’s a lot more challenging, which I like. Long gone are the days of the personalities of Linda, Christy, Cindy, in the early Nineties and early Seventies. The girls [now] don’t really carry the personality that the other girls did. And I don’t know why.…There’s something missing in the way they’re being portrayed that unfortunately kind of takes away from their personality coming through. That’s the thing that portrait photographers strive to get, a connection that’s human, that reflects the person’s vulnerable side. I think it’s the fault of the magazine, the industry and the model agencies. If you look at it collectively across different mediums, just like a record company would give an artist the chance to prove themselves and develop themselves, nowadays they test them and they don’t even release the album.

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