When the coronavirus pandemic began, the Elgorts – photographer Arthur; his wife, Grethe Barrett Holby; their daughter Sophie with her husband and their 3 year old daughter; and their sons, Warren and Ansel, reunited at their 40-year-old family home on Long Island.
To pass the time, Sophie, 35 and also a photographer, began interviewing her father, who is 81 years old and made a name for himself taking fashion photography from the studio to the streets, about the stories behind some of her. most famous images.
He told her about Kate Moss dancing on a table at Lipp Brewery, Stella Tennant fully clothed in a swimming pool and the Rolling stones blowing smoke while doing “Tattoo You”. It all became part of what quickly turned into an Instagram TV series, âBehind the Lens with Arthur Elgortâ.
Part family, part study of relationships and part photographic story, the conversation continues, even if the Elgorts are no longer in quarantine under one roof. In honor of Father’s Day, Sophie and Arthur have agreed to reveal what happens when a duo of photographers turn the lens on themselves.
Sophie It started in early fall. Things were really, really stopped and we weren’t seeing anyone, so having this project was something to look forward to. For a month or two, we did it every Sunday, but now it’s more like every two weeks. We just got a little tripod to be able to plug in the iPhone.
Arthur We had never worked together before, but now we’re stuck with each other. It turns out that she is a very good interviewer. I told her she should have her own show on TV.
Sophie I can get these stories out of him. My dad had a stroke about 10 years ago and had to completely relearn how to speak.
Arthur It took two years. Some people liked the calm. They thought I was talking too much. But I never forgot photography.
When she was at school, I thought Sophie would be a doctor, and I told her, âIt’s hard work to do, they can call you at night, you should think about photography. I was hoping one of you would.
Sophie He named my brother Ansel after Ansel Adams because he said, “I have one more, maybe he will become a photographer.”
Arthur Instead, he’s crazy: he’s an actor. You and Warren have both become something to do with a camera – he’s a director. But I gave you your first camera. I gave you more than one.
Sophie I learned by watching.
Arthur I’ve always bought three of everything: for me, Sophie and Warren. You have a Rolleiflex. And then a Leica.
Sophie When we went to camp in the summer, Dad would give us little points-and-shoots with a movie. He always said put the strap on. We knew how to load the movie. Then we would give him the movie, and he would have it develop and do a series of duplicates and say, “Give the person one and keep one for yourself.” Anything you don’t like, tear it up. This is his favorite thing: if he takes a group photo and there’s someone on the edge and he doesn’t think he’s good looking, rip him off!
Arthur People get angry: “You just snatched me away from the photo!” But really, I’m doing them a favor.
Sophie Once I was walking down the street with my school – we had to go to the school chapel – and dad was around the neighborhood photographing me and my friends, and the teachers were like, âEXCUSE ME! You cannot photograph these young girls. I was like, “He’s my dad.” I’ve never been bothered by it. I grew up with a camera in my face all the time. At breakfast in pajamas. He actually has a book about photographing your children.
Arthur I have 11 books, but this one is called How To Shoot Your Kids, which is kinda funny.
Sophie One of your favorite hobbies in general is taking photos. He still has a camera. My hobby has always been dressing people, including my brothers. I used to dress Warren with my clothes.
Arthur Warren was very pretty.
Sophie I used to go to his studio a lot. I loved being a part of the shoots when I was a kid. I got dropped off after school. He still has the same studio in SoHo, and there was a lot of music. He always encouraged us to play music. I grew up playing classical piano. A few years ago he encouraged me to play the guitar. Now I take a lesson every week.
Arthur I learned the sax when I was 20 years old. I was a bailiff at Carnegie Hall. I saw Leonard Bernstein. He had just returned from Russia and was playing a symphony by Shostakovich. I was in school at Hunter College because it was free. About three years ago, they gave me an honorary doctorate and gave me my transcript, and I got all C’s and D’s except art. It was then that I knew what I was going to be. I started out as a painter, but I was a bad copy of Franz Kline. I did not know how to draw. But I was like, âIf I had a camera, I could capture something. So I became a photographer.
Sophie I became a photographer because soon after I graduated from Brown, friends of mine were running a custom vintage e-commerce business and they needed photos. As I always took pictures for fun, they told me, “We will give you clothes for free if you do our pictures for our first lookbook.” “
Arthur Then she called me and said, âI have this job, but I don’t know anything about photography. And I said, “I’ll teach you in three easy lessons.”
Sophie Then people asked me to do other work, and then I just did it. I wanted to make sure I found my own style and didn’t copy what daddy was doing.
Arthur My first job was with Mademoiselle, which was very cool at the time. Then Alex Liberman said, âYou’re too good. You are better than my Vogue magazine. So I said, “I’d rather do Vogue,” and he said, “That’s a good idea.” It worked. Now the magazines are terrible. If you watch Vogue now, that’s terrible.
Sophie It might just be different.
Arthur No, this is bad. Everything is false. You used to make a lot of money. Now you get $ 100 instead of $ 500,000. There were contracts. I could buy this house. The studio. You no longer make money in writing. Maybe in the advertisements. Sophie has more clients than me. I don’t have clients like you.
Sophie I work with De Beers, and dad is jealous of it. He’s really hooked on it. They sent me to Botswana, and he said, âHow come I couldn’t go? “
A ton of young female photographers were coming in when I started. I don’t know if this correlated directly with the #MeToo movement. But I think it got more people to think that this could be an industry we could step into and be supported in. As for the male gaze versus the female gaze, I think it differs from person to person. But there is a friendship that develops with the person you are photographing. Dad always asks a million questions when he’s behind the lens.
Arthur It relaxes the models. Paulina loves her piano, so I play classical music for her. Jay-Z brings a guy with him. He’s a bodyguard, a driver, everything. BeyoncÃ© brings 50 people. Jay-Z also tells you what time you have: You have an hour, take it, then I have to go. Very nice person. BeyoncÃ© gives you the time you need.
Sophie Dad always took time for us. He always made breakfast for us. If he wasn’t traveling, he was home by 6 p.m. for dinner. He made us packed lunches. On weekends, he would heat baked beans and say, “Lunch is served!”
Arthur Ansel liked baked beans. You, Warren, Ansel weren’t bad subjects. Every year for Mother’s Day, I gave photos to my wife. I’d make a collage – there must be 35. I believe in Mother’s Day, but I don’t believe in Father’s Day. I think it’s a wrong day.
Sophie But he likes fancy socks.
Arthur What I would like now is a Corvette. No one is going to give it to me. But I’m glad you didn’t become a doctor.