Legendary photographer Arthur Elgort talks Christy Turlington, Instagram and his son, Ansel Elgort

Arthur Elgort Fashion Photography
Photography courtesy of Izzy Gallery

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For every ten interviews you’ve read online, at least five start with “we were lucky enough to meet..,” right? Well, in this case, hyperbole has nothing to do with hanging out with a living legend. Earlier this fall, legendary fashion photographer Arthur Elgort was in Toronto and, well, we truly were lucky to meet him. Known for his images of Kate Moss, countless Supers and lately his son, movie star Ansel Elgort, his prolific career spans five decades. His work has been published everywhere from Vogue to Rolling Stone, with his work being compiled into a forthcoming tome, Arthur Elgort: The Big Picture. This fall, an exhibit of the same debuted at Yorkville’s Izzy Gallery, where sprightly images of Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Gia Carangi livened up the walls with their mid-nineties beauty.

Before we got to dishing on supermodels, Elgort didn’t hesitate to tell me that he holds the secret to his son, burgeoning megastar Ansel Elgort‘s, success. “He doesn’t get nervous and I think he was meant for it. He’s doing well and we eye an eye on him. And he still comes home for chicken soup”

You’re very active on Instagram. Is that you?
I have an assistant [Marian] who’s very good at that. I don’t know too much about Instagram, but if I see a photo that I like, Marian will post it for me.

How did you go about putting your book together?
We just chose pictures we liked. Sometimes I would like a picture, but Marian would tell me to just keep it for myself because no one else would like it. I’m a photographer so I’m always working and doing new stuff. My work isn’t stuck in one period.

Do you find your appreciation for ballet comes out in your fashion work?
I started with ballet before I was a photographer, but I realized I couldn’t make any money doing that. I knew I loved ballet and something about fashion made me think of ballet, so I decided to become a fashion photographer.

Did you ever learn photography technically?
No, not really. But there was one photographer who helped me and he actually recommended a magazine that I should read to learn technique. I got so excited about photography—I couldn’t stop. I used the girls in my school as the models. I never thought photography was hard and I always enjoyed it.

Do you prefer digital or film?
I use both, but I personally prefer real film. If I’m working and they want digital, I have no problem doing that.

Who is your favourite person to shoot?
Right now, Christy Turlington and I would say my kids, Ansel, Sophie and Warren.

Who are your favourite photographers?
I like Helmut Newton (although I don’t photograph like him) and Irving Penn. If I had to choose someone alive I would pick Steven Meisel.

Sexuality is obviously a part of fashion photography, but your work doesn’t seem to be over-sexualized.
If you’re doing a nude front, you don’t want to scare people.

Is there anyone you haven’t shot who you would like to?
I liked Lauren Bacall when she was younger—I think she was a brilliant model. I photographed her in the ‘70s but she wasn’t that pretty. I didn’t use the photo, but I do still have it.