Before becoming a fashion photographer, Randall Slavin was a struggling actor who worked at a gas station across the street from a headshot photography studio. After watching beautiful women go in and out of the studio all day, he wandered over there and struck up a friendship with the owner. He didn't know anything about photography but was promptly hired to shoot actors' headshots. Over time, he built an amazing portfolio, photos of actors in and around LA. Some of these actors have since become Oscar winners. Each of Slavin's shots are full of drama and intensity and they all have a cinematographic feel to them.
Added: Remarkably, we got in touch with Slavin after we wrote this post to ask him a few questions. Read that inspiring interview, below.
Who has been your favorite celebrity to shoot and why?
Hmmm..my fave celebrity…that's a tough one. I'm working on an exhibition right now and I've had the pleasure of shooting some of my favorite people. Sean Penn or Clint Eastwood, probably.
We've called your photography dramatic – are there other words you use to describe your work?
I like dramatic. I would say cinematic. I think most of my work definitely has a loneliness and a sadness to it I think…
Any inside stories you'd like to share?
The best part of my job is the times I get to spend a bit of time with an artist I really respect. Recently, when Dennis Hopper passed away, one of my crew members called me and thanked me for taking him with me to the shoot because he got to spend the day with one of his idols. When I'm shooting Alicia Keys and she's singing as I'm shooting or when Dennis Hopper is telling tales of his wilder times, when I'm rolling around on a hotel room bed with Jessica Biel or, when after being introduced to my beautiful girlfriend during a shoot, Clint Eastwood looked at me out of the corner of his eye and said; “I gotta be a photographer,” it's those special little moments, apart from the images, that I cherish. Making that little connection…however brief.
Who are some of the other photographers you are inspired by?
It changes all the time. The photographers I was inspired by when I first started shooting are completely different than the ones I look at now. Right now, I'm really inspired by Glen Luchford and Javier Vallhonrat but I just love the complete opposite stuff like Mary Ellen Mark. Early Annie Leibovitz stuff I find fucking magnificent. I think Tony Duran is the best celebrity photographer on the planet and I will never tire of Peter Lindbergh and am still get blown away by Avedon. Who knows, it always changes. Ask me again in a year or two and I'm sure I'll give you a completely different answer.
Are there any tips you'd give to aspiring photographers?
I think young photographers have it in some ways so much easier than I did. Digital has taken the cost of learning away. When I was trying and failing miserably, or just shooting a bunch and trying to find my own style, it was costing me a fortune in film and processing! We don't have that anymore. It has also expanded the amount of people who are out there calling themselves photographers, so, the competition is steeper. I would tell young photographers to just shoot shoot shoot. Shoot what gets you off, what excites you. Don't think about the market place…just shoot. Thanks for the interview, Randall! We're huge fans of your work.