Monday, October 17, 2016

Alexi Lubomirski .. the VULKAN interview



Doing what I do affords me many intangible assets; some of them being self- gratification, access to authors, designers, genuine influencers and some of the greatest books that deal with fashion in its broadest sense. In addition, I gain a readership, a sort of validation, the ability to have a “voice” and lastly the opportunity to contribute to publications such as VULKAN.


As far as access, lets speak of the books that are offered to me for review and in turn the access that is possible when an author takes the time to seek me out and thank me for said review. Furthering the point or possibly increasing my gratification is that these moments offer me the chance of forging a new friendship with any of the aforementioned.
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So, with all this in mind, today speaks to a first with VULKAN and then to honor a new friend whose name is Alexi Lubomirski. Not only is he a celebrated photographer but he is also an accomplished author, father, and husband, humanitarian and now a newly found friend. It is a rare find to meet people who are as gracious and forthcoming as he, let alone one who has achieved notoriety but has not lost sight of being a human being who walks among us; in other words he is humble, self-deprecating and genuinely generous on all levels.

So, it was my great honor that he consented to speak to me on this occasion which serves as a celebration of his oeuvre which now includes his latest book DIVERSE BEAUTY which was just released earlier this month. 
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Jeffrey Felner: Will you share one of most memorable assignments, projects or collaborators and tell us what and why?

Alexi Lubomirski:  I love the challenges of shooting different characters every day. One day you get to shoot a model and you can create any character you want.  The next day you shoot an actress who has more boundaries involved with the shoot, whether it is because they don’t want to be shown in a certain way, or they have insecurities, or they have zero time to give you.  Sometimes though, they give you something that you could not plan for and this is when it gets fun.  Shooting Lupita Nyong’o was one such subject.  We had set the lights and the props.  We had each shot planned out and we had a certain time limit.  Then she comes on set and rather than just “slotting in” to the pre prepared shot, she came on set and blasted all that was planned out of the water with her presence.  She has such a radiance that you almost don’t need anything to “help” her in the shot.  She dances, she has an incredible smile, there is a natural ease to her.  Those are the shoots where it is just 100% pleasure and not work. 
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JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?

AL: Firstly I can’t do a dinner with more than 4 people, so someone would have to drop!  Anymore than 4 people and it becomes a larger group of small talk rather than in smaller group of in depth conversation. In truth, I always prefer a one on one! I am terribly antisocial outside of work hours and always prefer to be with my wife and sons, but if I am forced to go out, then I try to get as in depth as possible in to that new person’s life and what they do and why… I try to learn as much as possible about that person.

So in order to learn something, and be as nosy as possible into each of their lives, my choices would be: 1-My paternal grandfather.  I never met him and he was the last link to the polish part of my ancestry and everything the title stood for.  Every description about him, from various people, always describes him as an elegant, charming, patriotic, gentleman and someone who was the very definition of what a prince should be. 2-An “in the field” representative of the charity Concern Worldwide.  I am an ambassador for Concern and when I have talked to people who have been in the field, you are massively inspired to do more.  It puts your entire existence into perspective. The job we do the life we live, the things we worry about. 3- Dr. Shefali Tsabary who is the author of The Conscious Parent. I am a spiritual self-help junkie, and this plus the impossible task of trying to be a good parent, would make for an interesting chat with her. 4-Nelson Mandela as when I was growing up in Botswana during apartheid and Nelson Mandela was always spoken about.  Having survived such hardship and hatred, and then be able to come out on the other side with love and understanding is something that I would love to delve into.
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JF: With the new book just out how will that affect your future work and do you have another book on the back burner?

AL: I am hoping that this book will be just one more “tap - tap” on people’s head to remember to push the diversity factor in fashion.  I believe that the more people see fashionable and aspirational images of a more diverse range of beauty, that it will just become the norm.  Rather than having to do a “Black Issue” or an “Asian issue”, hopefully we will start to see magazines representing what we see around us, which is a constant, glorious, textured tapestry of differing looks and colors.  So hopefully my future work will reflect this change.

I have about 3 projects going at one time, not necessarily to do with photography.  About 3 years ago, I came to the conclusion that if you are a “creative” then you should allow inspiration to manifest itself in any creative manner that fits.  You shouldn’t handcuff yourself to your “professional title”, be it photographer, writer or painter.  If I, as a photographer am inspired by something that I cannot translate to its full potential via photography, and then I try to allow it to come out in whatever way seems best.  That is how my first written book came about in 2014.  That being said, I have always written poetry and if I ever have the guts to share those poems, maybe that will be my next book!
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JF: Do you have a professional bucket list and will and you share and explain?

AL: People always ask me this question and I always bore them with the same answer.  There is no particular person that I have an aching desire to shoot.  The only thing I hope is that sustainability and responsible manufacturing continue to grow in the industry and that I am able to use my photography to help that grow.
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JF: Would you care to comment on the current state of the media or fashion in general when it comes to appeal; who is the intended audience? Agree or disagree and why?

AL: I think in the last year or two everything has changed. Budgets that were set aside for a campaign of 12 images for a whole season are now being ripped apart and sent into 10 different directions, be it for Instagram videos, YouTube channel, Facebook etc. and then the image tally also goes up 3 fold in order to have constant new content for all media channels.

The public’s appetite for content is insatiable and if you are not present in some manner on practically a daily basis, you are out of sight and out of mind.

 One has to move with the times and get on board with this changing landscape. I was dragged kicking and screaming 4 years ago into the social media world, but quickly realized how important a role it is for any aspect of the industry. I now have a YouTube channel which has tutorials, behind the scenes and other projects on there, along side all the other media channels.  In order to survive and thrive in this industry you have to have more of a brand mentality. 

As to whether I like it or not, I see it as an exciting new challenge, as well as adding more outlets for being creative. So yes J

 
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JF: Do you have any style mentors or mentors in general who influence your work on a daily basis and why them?

AL: When I assisted Testino, he said to me that as a photographer, one had to find one’s “woman”.  What is her style, her personality, her character? Who she is will determine your voice as a fashion photographer.  So in terms of my style mentor, my wife Giada is my “woman”.  She is Cuban Italian, grew up in Rome, speaks Italian, Spanish and English and has a very international outlook.  She has amazing taste and individual style, a fashion lover who is simultaneously an advocate for sustainability in fashion and environmental awareness. She has an understated elegance and grace to her that is effortless plus a romantic side and an easy, luminous smile.  If that wasn’t enough, she is gorgeous inside and out! So she really inspired me in terms of who my “woman” was to be in my work.  Added to this and as cheesy as it sounds, I think that when you marry, you want to be the best version of yourself for that person.  This in turn made me a better person at work and allowed me to find my voice in terms of what I wanted to shoot, how I wanted to shoot it and how I wanted to be perceived on set.

first printing VULKAN Magazine 10/14/2016  http://www.vulkanmagazine.com/alexi-lubomirski-exclusive/