Frederic Auerbach is one of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers of our times. He was born and raised in Switzerland and after attending art school (HGKZ) in Zürich, Frederic studied under premier photographers in Milan and Paris. For more than 20 years he has lived and worked in Paris and is among the most well known and established fashion photographers in the Parisian fashion world today. His photographs have been published internationally in magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, Elle, InStyle, Numéro and GQ. He has contributed to the success of leading fashion and beauty houses, creating sensual images for brands from Dior, Hermès, Cacharel, Sonja Rykiel, to Mercedes, Comma, Lancaster, Lacoste. Auerbach’s spontaneous, intimate portraits offer the viewer new perspectives on famous faces. His subjects include A-list stars, world class models and actors such as Sharon Stone, Sophie Marceau, Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron, Jude Law, Eva Green, Alicia Vikander, Naomi Campbell, Mélanie Laurent and John Legend, to name a few. Frederic has recently relocated to Los Angeles and we are thrilled to have a chance to talk about his career and impact in the fashion world.
When did you start taking photographs? And do you remember your first camera?
I started when I was about 12 years old. My father gave me some old camera, I can’t remember what brand it was, and I started to take pictures of everything and nothing…
What do you like the most about fashion photography? What was that moment when you said this is what I want to do?
It was always clear to me, from the moment I decided to become a professional photographer, that it would be photography in fashion and advertising. I was from the beginning most impressed by fashion photographers like Bourdin, Newton etc. and I love to be with people. The fact that you work as a team in fashion photography was very important to me. Another fact about it that I love is speed, pictures are taken fast, fashion changes fast, it is a world that changes all the time!
How would you describe your photographic style?
What is important to me when I take pictures of people, models or celebrities, is to make them look beautiful. Very often I try to add some intensity to their expression, without getting vulgar or cheap. I love to shoot in different and changing environments, outside, on location, studio, natural light, added light, at night and at daytime.
Natalie Portman for DIOR, by Frederic Auerbach
You are, without a doubt, very successful and renowned photographer, you have worked with top fashion magazines around the world. What is the key to your success?
I don’t know… there must be several factors I guess. At the beginning it is perseverance, then of course people need to like your pictures… and by nowadays it is important to be efficient and in the same time creative and fast. The above is true for fashion photography, for fashion photography with celebrities the same reasons are valid and on top of those, I am very fast and know exactly what I want, and they know I will make them look beautiful.
What are some of your career highlights?
Collaboration with Dior, French Vogue, Mixte magazine, Numéro magazine are highlights, directing tv commercials are highlights too. I love to work with big teams and this is one of the reasons why I love to direct commercials.
Natalie Portman for DIOR, by Frederic Auerbach
What is the biggest challenge of working in the city like Los Angeles and Paris?
The main cities to be a fashion and celebrity photographer are New York, Paris, London and Los Angeles. The biggest challenge in these cities is the competition. There are many photographers and many good ones…
What do you look for in a subject? What’s the first thing you notice about a subject when you first meet him or her?
I look for the beauty in my subject! The first things I notice when I see them entering a set, is their visual aspect compared to how I want to shoot them. I am trying to immediately answer the following question: Can I shoot them as I intended to?
You’ve worked with Hollywood stars, such as Natalie Portman, Sharon Stone, Lily Collins, and many others. Who was most fun to work with?
That is a tough question, mainly because I am not looking to have fun with the celebrities… Yes, the atmosphere on my shoots is easygoing and we all laugh at times, but we all are here to work and celebrities want to work fast. At the same time, they want to be sure to do nice pictures, so everybody is quite concentrated on the job. Film stars especially are not very fond of still cameras, but they know how important this part of their job has become, so they work hard for it, but they are very happy when it is a wrap!
Sharon Stone, by Frederic Auerbach Madame Figaro Magazine
Are famous people more interesting than “regular” people?
What are regular people? Stars are like all of us, some of them are incredibly strong, creative, lucky, funny, dark, confident, insecure, like we all are. So no, they are not more interesting in general. To shoot them is just a bigger challenge, because you have to be so sure and fast about what you are doing and their team (publicists, agents etc.) put quite a bit of pressure on you…
Who would you like to work with most?
Merryl Streep, Leonardo Di Caprio, Jessica Lange, Selena Gomez, the list could go on and on…
What are your current projects?
I am preparing shoots for Flaunt magazine and Numéro magazine and possibly an advertising shoot with Sharon Stone.
Kate Winslet for Gotham magazine, by Frederic Auerbach
Who were the photographers that influenced you the most?
The ones I admire the most are Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, Mario Sorrenti, Jürgen Teller, David Sims.
Do you miss analog photography?
Not at all, even though the moment of mystery has gone with digital, the advantages of it are incredible. The trick is to manage in a clever way the fact that clients, models, celebrities etc. are in theorie able to see immediately what you are doing.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring fashion photographer trying to make it in the industry?
You need to be very perseverant in today’s market and if you can afford it, keep to your personality in your work. It is still important to assist a good photographer, not at last to make contacts in the industry.
What kind of impact do you hope to make in the fashion world?
I am not sure to want to make an impact in this industry other than doing pictures that I like and am proud of and that my clients, in other words the fashion industry, like too!
Vesna Filipovic for Fashionela