You may not know Lorenzo Agius. But you certainly know his fashion and advertising photography.
He shot to fame in the 1990s thanks to his iconic images of the film Trainspotting’s main characters, in animated poses, starkly shot in black-and-white with an orange tint. The posters featuring Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle propelled Lorenzo into the big league. And, as the stars of the film went on to find fame and fortune, so did he.
A year later, and a portrait he took in London of Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, in bed with then-wife Patsy Kensit, defined ‘Cool Britannia’ for Vanity Fair magazine. A 12-month graduation as a fully paid-up celebrity photographer was complete. He was on the map.
And the secret of his success? “I love people,” Lorenzo says, “even the ones who cut me up on this freeway! I’ve always had a fascination with people, and I guess the best photographers are the nosy ones.
“I like to get to know my subjects, mess around with them if they’re in the mood, ham it up, whatever,” he continues. “The best pictures are the ones when they forget that I’m there to photograph them. Even for just a split second. It only takes 1/60sec, after all. It’s about capturing that defining moment.”
But while it’s hard work, he doesn’t deny that it can be fun. “I love what I do. It’s not a nine-to-five job and it’s certainly not ‘work’ in the traditional sense,” he smiles.
That said, the easy nature of his demeanour and the exceptionally high-quality images that result from seemingly “playing about” belie a talent and a devotion that borders on obsession.
And that drive has led him to a glittering career, with his list of portrait subjects reading like a who’s who of the entertainment industry, from Tom Cruise to Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet to Margot Robbie, Beyonce to Madonna.
Lorenzo also has a number of photographs in the permanent collection of London’s National Portrait Gallery, and his images were used to open the 63rd Cannes Film Festival. He is currently working on his first book project and resides between Europe and the US.
All that activity takes a lot of organisation. “From the equipment to the people I photograph – I wake up every day and already I’m planning,” he says. “It’s not like you can give photography up and walk away – in fact, I don’t think it would let me.
“It’s like any creative profession, it gets under your skin,” he continues. “I never went into this business to make money; you get into this profession because it’s a love.”
And above all, he encourages others like him to follow in his footsteps. “Sure, one can accomplish the dizzy heights if you devote yourself to it,” he says. “I mean, a classic example is the fashion photographer Mario Testino. He used to shoot for Ms London, a free magazine you used to get on the Tube in London many years ago. And now he’s one of the most successful and richest photographers in the world. So there’s the proof right there.
“It’s actually really hard work, with a lot of passion and dedication thrown in for good measure,” he summarises. “If you’ve got a passion and a drive, it will consume you – photography has consumed me.”
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