Celebrity Click; Tamara Lackey Talks Photographing the Famous

Author: Alan Appel
Published: September 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Don’t think of it as celebrity chic, but rather celebrity click.

When you sit down with Tamara Lackey and talk about photographing the famous, you get the expertise of a globally renowned pro, the passion of an educator, and some fairly impressive celebrity recollections.

It’s one thing to shoot the likes of Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Katie Brown (Katie Brown Workshop) and Christa Miller  (Cougar Town) at a summer charity event in the Hamptons, where time isn’t especially precious and their kids are less interested in sitting still long enough for a pose than giggling, munching on potato chips or running around amid the circus-like activities. “With a reluctant child, I can wait them out and still get what I’m seeking.” Tamara says. “When I’m granted 15 minutes with a high-profile individual who cannot veer two minutes off their schedule, then I need to make it work in that time period.”

How HIGH a high-profile subject? Try Barack and Michelle Obama, as well as Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain, on the 2008 campaign trail. “What remains the same is that you’re simply approaching people, and it’s really as plain as that. I will definitely feel the sensation of ‘I want to get this right’, but I rarely feel intimidated photographing the famous because I have yet to meet one person who doesn’t feel the all of it – the hype of their branded name is there, sure, but the other side of what makes them human doesn’t show up in the glossy press---the discouragement, the embarrassment, the disappointment, the loneliness. We all share that lower range of our emotions, and it is the great leveler between us. Since I see so much more of the emotional body of an individual rather than anything formally written up about them … well, I just shoot what I see.”

That prompts me to ask her how exactly she adapts her shooting style in a fast-paced, fluid atmosphere.

That’s where improvising comes in, she says. “When I photographed Ty Pennington on the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition set, it was between takes, I couldn't grab any additional lighting, and we had to make do with shooting as cleanly as possible. When I photographed Maya Angelou and Michelle Obama together, I had a grand total of 10 minutes to get the shot, as handlers waited behind me impatiently to move them onto the stage. You get used to working in a quick, focused manner and learn to hone in on your subject with the equipment at your disposal.

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Article Author: Alan Appel

Alan Appel is a veteran entertainment journalist, having been for many years the New York Bureau Chief (and occasional book reviewer) for TV Guide Magazine. That experience, not surprisingly, has given him a deep knowledge of --and strong opinions about--the worlds of television and movies. …

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