By Nevena Rousseva
For the last 30+ years renowned photographer Roxanne Lowit has shaped the fashion and nightlife scene with her lens and point of view. As the first photographer to shoot backstage at fashion shows she paved the way for a trend that is now ubiquitous.
I met Roxanne back in October at a lunch announcing the winner of the CFDA and Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge. It was truly an exciting moment for me because her book ‘Backstage Dior‘ has become one of my favorites. Flipping through the book I would loose myself in the magic that Galliano created for Dior…the elaborate designs, the intricate hair and make-up, and the beautiful models. I would feel like I was at the Dior show.
I had the chance to ask Roxanne a few questions about her beginnings, memorable moments, her current exhibit, and the next ‘Backstage’ book.
1. How did you get started?
I was a textile designer, I would go to fashion shows to photograph my textiles transformed into clothes. Annie Flanders, of the SoHo News, saw my photos and said ‘If you get a real camera and go to Paris to cover the shows I will put your photos in the paper’. I did and she did. I got the cover and the circulation doubled.
2. In the photographs of Backstage Dior the models seem open to you. Did you find that to be the case or did they have to warm up to your presence?
I am an observer, I am not pushy, an almost silent presence. I don’t blend in so much as I become one with my environment. People are comfortable in my presence so it makes it easier for people to open up to me.
3. What inspired you to put your images into a book?
My daughter used to edit my film from the shows. She was very quick and edited many in one day. But whenever I shot Galliano it would take almost the whole day. For most shows the average was about 120 slides per show. For Dior the edited count was usually between 360-400 slides per show. So one day she looks at me and asks ‘What are you planning on doing with all these images? Make a book?’
Yes, yes I am.
4. Do you have a favorite memory of photographing?
I have been fortunate to have many memorable moments photographing. I have photographed some of the greatest in our culture; Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Audrey Hepburn and so many more. It is hard to pick one. Though one of the earliest ‘memorable moments’ was that first time I went to Paris to cover the shows. I magically ended up on the top of the Eifel Tower with Yves Saint Laurent, Pat Cleveland and Andy Warhol. I was star struck and blissed out. That could have been the moment when I said to myself ‘I want to do this all the time!’ And decided to make it my career, my metier.
5. What fashion personalities or celebrities have you enjoyed photographing the most?
I loved to photograph Any Warhol. He was not a handsome man but he was so interesting, and he loved the camera. SO did Dali, and he had GREAT style.
6. You were the first to take interest in photographing the backstage scene. How did that interest come about and what was the initial reaction to your work?
When I started photographing I had no credentials, no invitations nothing. So the models, whom I knew, would sneak me in backstage with them. Once I was there I realized it was much more interesting then on the runway. Not only could I see and record the metamorphosis, but I could interact with the models. I could gather a group together, I had more freedom to capture my vision, a vision that was unique to me as I was the only one backstage. It’s a bit different nowadays. There are so many photographers backstage all clamoring for the same shot from the same model.
7. What’s your favorite part about being a photographer?
Capturing moments. Once I capture a moment it is there for all to see again and again. And the great photos to me do not loose impact over time. They are still just as great as the first time you saw it.
8. You currently have an exhibit called “Be Fabulous” at the Steven Kasher Gallery in Chelsea, NY. Can you tell me about it?
‘Be Fabulous’ is like a mini retrospective. It is a mix of all my work: backstage fashion, celebrities, and my latest obsession club kids. The thread that ties it all together? They are all Fabulous!
The show is up until January 18th so if you are in NY please check it out.
9. You showed me some images of your upcoming ‘Backstage YSL’ book. When will it come out and why did you decide to do a follow up to Backstage Dior?
The book will be out in Fall of 2014.
I don’t see it as a follow up from ‘Backstage Dior’ It is its own book separate from ‘Backstage Dior’. I have been inspired by many designers in my day, but Yves Saint Laurent was the first designer who really wowed me. Not only as a designer, but as a man. He was a bit of an enigma, mysterious, a bit aloof, but always polite courteous and friendly. He had a very unique vision, his lines were unlike any other.
After ‘Backstage YSL’ I hope for there to be many other ‘Backstage’ books to follow.♥