Art Basel: Photographer Greg Lotus’ Show at NiBa
Rising from the fertile terrain of Miami’s 1990s fashion scene, photographer Greg Lotus is now one of publishing’s most in-demand talents, with his work appearing regularly in the pages of Italian Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, L’Uomo Vogue and W. His advertising clients include Escada, L’Oréal, Swarovski, Cartier, Levi’s, Neiman Marcus and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Lotus’ celebrity portfolio is equally extensive, with subjects ranging from Penélope Cruz, Katy Perry, Kate Beckinsale and Megan Fox to Channing Tatum, Liam Hemsworth, Rose Byrne and Lisa Marie Presley, among a veritable galaxy of others.
Often drawing inspiration from classical paintings, Lotus enjoys the interplay of light and shadow, using the geometries they create to provide a graphic quality to his images.
Nature is another recurring theme in his work, which regularly juxtaposes high fashion with rural surroundings or exotic animals, combing a transcendent glamour with the organic beauty of the natural world.
Now, after a successful 2011 show of his photographs in New York, he is presenting the retrospective exhibition “Images” at the Design District boutique NiBa during Art Basel Miami Beach.
GLENN ALBIN: Congratulations on your upcoming show at NiBa. What pieces are being exhibited?
GREG LOTUS: The show consists of 41 pieces representing highlights from my career, mostly for Vogue and other international publications.
You like working with animals, big ones like giraffes and elephants. What inspired that interest? And how complicated and rewarding is it?
I love working with animals—big, small, more or less exotic. It takes special care and patience, but they can be more cooperative and perceptive than human subjects. And sometimes they can reward you with unexpected gestures, like a kiss from a giraffe once on-set in the Everglades. It kept me smiling throughout the whole shoot.
“I always want to take a picture that can be a piece of art. Why bother otherwise?”
You have a great talent for shooting natural Florida settings that absolutely transport us. Talk about your relationship to nature, and some of its challenges.
I grew up immersed in nature, so mixing high fashion with wild elements is a huge passion of mine. From the Everglades to the ocean, Florida offers amazing locations and natural backdrops for my work. However, dealing with nature is always challenging because it’s much more unpredictable than a studio, of course, where one can perfectly control lighting and every single detail. Aside from last-minute changes in the weather, one has to worry about mosquitoes in the air, jellyfish in the water, leeches in the canals, alligators in the swamps. But natural settings are always rewarding and make still images come alive.
What are some of your favorite Florida locations?
The Everglades, the sand mines, the beaches, the gardens, the canals. Actually, you can pretty much evoke any place in the world right here in Florida. We once had camels on the beach and it looked like Egypt. And I know from experience that a giraffe can make the Everglades suddenly look like the heart of Africa. Florida is a magical place.
I can flip through pages of photography, and when I come to your work I know instantly it’s a Greg Lotus shot. Talk about what gives your work that signature look.
Over time, most artists develop their own palette and look. Using colors and light in a very personal way, I express my own aesthetic sense, which is what makes my work recognizable, regardless of subject or setting. It’s the common thread that runs through my photographs, a piece of my essence that goes into every image, sometimes without even realizing it.
When did you realize that photography was your passion? And whose photography inspired you?
In my early 20s, I was living in Seattle, sharing living quarters with some models. I started taking pictures of my roommates for their portfolios. Pretty soon agents started noticing and appreciating my work and sending me more models to shoot for their portfolios, and here I am today. I knew how to see light and utilize it to enhance beauty. It was a real rush to realize how you could make different elements come together to create the right image. In terms of inspiration, many artists have influenced me and keep inspiring me to this day, like Bruce Weber and Richard Avedon.
“Right now, I’m in my graphic phase again.”
How much planning goes into a typical shoot, and what comprises your usual cast and crew?
Depending on the project, it could take days or weeks to produce a photo shoot. Starting with a concept and a storyboard, then finding the right location, casting the proper talent and putting together the right team are all crucial steps. In the end, a photographer on set is no different from a movie director. Most of the public ignores the intricate process that goes into each single shot and all the people behind it, such as makeup artists, lighting experts, retouchers, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, fashion editors, creative directors, fashion designers, prop assistants, digital assistants, location scouters, producers—and finally a photographer.
How has your work developed over the past few years?
Experience has taught me so much, and now it all seems to be more organized, working with more talented team players, having everyone on set creating together. Practice makes perfect.
Since your fashion photography is now being collected in the art world, the size of your prints has become massive. When you shoot, are you thinking magazine pages or living-room walls?
I always want to take a picture that can be a piece of art. Why bother otherwise? That would be unbearably boring for me. I do this because it’s a passion, and I hope people see that in my work.
Which of the photographs in this show at NiBa has the most personal meaning to Greg Lotus? And which photograph do you think points toward your future direction?
It’s hard to pinpoint one because it always changes for me. Right now, I’m in my graphic phase again, playing with high contrast and, at least temporarily, I’m off the overly desaturated works I did last year. I think next I’ll move into an even heavier graphic period. I’m on my way to the volcanoes in Hawaii to shoot for ItalianVogue, where I’m sure the images will be dark and moody, with all that black lava.