Direttore creativo, regista, fotografo, Landis Smithers è oggi uno dei nomi più importanti della Creative America: noi l'abbiamo intervistato in esclusiva per voi per capire come si diventa grandi oggi!
Q. Let's speak about your art: why did you start photographing and what do you like to photograph to?
A. I began photography when I was a commercial director and beauty clients started to ask me to shoot their print as well as their television commercials. My husband had nearly ten years earlier purchased an expensive camera and lessons for me as a birthday gift, telling me “you have always wanted to take beautiful images, why don’t you go and learn about that passion.”. He is both prescient and an annoyingly perfect gift giver.
Q. Your shots seems to celebrate nudes and male beauty: what do you want to tell us?
A. From the start it was always easier to get male models than female models. The expectations of hair/makeup/wardrobe didn’t exist as heavily with men, so it was faster, more conducive to experimentation . . . and I wasn’t complaining about the material. My sensibility is heavily influenced by the light of John Singer Sargent and Herb Ritts, and men’s bodies are highly sculptural in a very different way from women’s bodies. Not that I don’t love shooting women . . . I would love to do it more often. But as my friend Luke Nero said, “Landis, you don’t make men look handsome, you make them beautiful. Unearthly. Why don’t you just embrace that.” I think it took that to help clarify my approach.
Q. Do you put a bit of eroticism in your art: what's the "perfect erotic thing" in your mind?
A. The erotic doesn’t sneak into my art. It stampedes. I have been lucky to work with a team of talent on both sides of the lens that sets us all at ease and lets both the model and myself elevate sexuality into something comfortable and beautiful. It isn’t always nudity, which is what people assume. For me, the most devastatingly erotic thing in the world is the unexpected moment that shows you someone’s hunger. That is a gift you have to respect.
Q. Who's your "perfect" model/body you have photograhped? What's your fav cover?
A. I don’t like to play favorites. We all have muses that move in and out of our lives, and if we start choosing a type we lose so much. Although I do love to photograph dancers. They are simultaneously in rigid control and wildly free. So, I guess if Roberto Bolle ever reads this, please contact me. That would be a gift of a shoot.
My favorite editorial has never been published. No one wanted it, so it is sitting in a special place. Waiting, I suppose.
Q. Do you travel a lot for your work? Where do you live? Do you like your country? Is ok for your work?
A. I am also a creative director, and have worked with quite a diverse roster of multi-national brands helping them with their marketing. I try to remove my photography completely from this task, as it muddies the water, and what I do with my art is really not related to helping a company find their way out of the woods that is today’s marketing landscape.
So yes, I get to travel a great deal. Last year I put together a Futbol campaign for a global client and it took me from Rio to London to Barcelona and back. Even Chile. Lots of New York City.
I currently live in Los Angeles, which has become a hotbed of American creativity recently. There is a wonderful attitude of collaboration here that I don’t find many places. If you want to do it, from a shoot to a film, there are people always willing to help realize your vision . . . and it isn’t about compensation if the work is strong enough.
As for my country, I love it. I may skate on the edge of things for certain elements of the American public . . . but I kind of think that is the point of learning and growing.
Q. Nowadays what's the role and significance of photography? What's the point of shoting to the present day?
A. When I first started shooting I was of course intimidated because these days everyone is a photographer. But now I think that is a beautiful thing. I shoot as much from my phone as anyone else (ok, maybe a bit more) and I shoot with ridiculously expensive equiptment. I learned to balance light and shadow from a great photographer, but had to find my own way into taking images that mattered.
The fact that anyone can take it up and try it does not diminish your voice. Life is far too large to assume that you are the chosen lens.
Although I will admit there are times I feel a little untouchable when I’m shooting. Maybe that is why we all do it.
Q. Do you work for fashion? What do you think about fashion?
A. I love fashion. To an extreme. My closet alone is one of the largest rooms in our home. And I am lucky enough to shoot with younger designers and smaller magazines. Fashion is so rich and so driven by extremes these days that if you can’t find the joy in it, you aren’t paying attention.
Walk the streets in a major city. Get online. Watch how clothes change YOU. There isn’t much that is as powerful a transformer of the self as fashion.
And a good attitude. Healthy ego trumps everything in the end.
Q. Let's speak about art in general: do you have fav artists? Do you have inspiring people in your mind while working?
A. I love the work of Sam Haskins, particularly his “Cowboy Kate” series from the sixties. I love the subversive eroticism of John Singer Sargent. I can’t wait to see what Dr. Woo and Scott Campbell do next in the world of skin art. And let’s be honest. If you don’t feel the presence of God in a Peter Zumthor building, you must be deaf to the universe.
Oh. And I am dying to see Matthieu Blaszy emerge either at Celine or elsewhere. In fashion, his work is just starting to rumble and growl with something we haven’t seen yet.
Q. And what about technology: are we all photographer today?
A. We are all capable of being many things. But you have to be willing to commit and work for it. You never know WHEN you become your next self. But you should definitely know how you got there.