Going into the interview knowing the man had been interviewed numerous times before. I wanted to set my interview apart from the others. The man is Lloyd Liebes, a world-renowned fashion photographer. He greeted us at the door of his home. He is an older man, grey hair with a charismatic charm about him. Starting the interview I wanted to get the story on how he started with photography in the first place. A logical place to start, but very telling in Lloyd’s case.
Lloyd left home to the hustle and bustle of New York City without much of a way to provide for himself once there he found an opportunity with Saks 5th ave. Here he was able to work, get meals in the cafeteria, housing, and ultimately unlimited access to the in-house studio where he taught himself the craft of photography. From that point Lloyd, as a photographer-landing job after job built career momentum that took hold of him immediately. His fashion photography soon became his calling card getting work at numerous magazines, Vogue being one of them. Being so sought after he was able to travel to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Europe, Italy, and a whole list of other places.
With the strength of his photography skills Lloyd saw the difference in pro models and amateurs in that a pro model knows the steps to pose for the camera and the amateur needs to be taught. These observations eventually lead Lloyd to open a modeling school. Here he used the teachers as subjects to teach students modeling skills. Many of the skills taught revolved around self-confidence and self-awareness. Lloyd went on to explain that his love of fashion photography grew out of his love of people. This love lead to the ability to read people and take a shy and reserved model and make her comfortable and relate and learn her communication style. He did this by observing body language and speech pattern, which helped him connect and bring the best out of each model.
I went on to ask Lloyd what it takes to be a great photographer and of course a wealth of info sprung forth from him, and these were the points that stood out most. Lloyd says, you must know your subject and know your camera. In a sense this tip leads back to interaction with people is essential, but at the same time knowing your camera and its limitations is a must to capturing the perfect shot. Lloyd went on to say that at a certain point in his career he trained himself to only need to take the one perfect shot per subject out of a 24 to 12 frame roll of film. This feat could have only come about with the imagination of Lloyd. His favorite quote is from Albert Einstein, which says Imagination is more important than knowledge. It is this same imagination that is key to getting that perfect shot. Seeing it in your head and capturing it by pressing the trigger when you see it through the viewfinder.
As the interview continued Lloyd went on to tell me how imagination went on to become innovation, as he helped Macy’s create better imagery for their print ads and catalogs. He told me that in this particular instance meeting with the Macy’s creative staff they would give him distinct directions on how to shoot the models using stick figure drawings. These poses were used to highlight what they were wearing and bring out the accessories. Lloyd found these diagrams to be very stiff and didn’t capture the underling magnificence that could be captured. Lloyd then directed the models to move their bodies walk, run, and jump creating a sense of movement in the final images. These images
turned out to be very intriguing and imaginative. Macy’s was upset at first as they saw that he directly went against what they wanted. Yet when they say that customers gravitated to the innovative take Lloyd brought Macy’s praised him and gave him permission on future shoots to do as he saw fit.
Lloyd Liebes is now retired from commercial photography, but not from photography in all as his main focus now are exotic flowers. In all my time with Lloyd was incredible for it’s life lessons and his insight into people and photography. As we wrapped the interview I still felt there was more I could ask and gather from such a well-lived man that I thought this piece wouldn’t be able to tell. Yet like Lloyd’s life it’s about taking what you have and imagining what more it can be and making it reality. To find more of Lloyd Liebes work make sure to stop by his page here liebesphoto.com or Lloyd Liebes Facebook.
And make sure to join this blog and check out these great links from Able Abe Studios Able Abe fan page , Able Abe Z store , and Able Abe Photography.