I’ll make images as long as I have something to say – Steven Lyon
Hailing from Los Angeles, photographer, writer and director, Lyon has been considered an enigma within his industry of the art world and a bona-fide renaissance visionary. He has engineered a creative legacy both in front and behind the camera for over three decades. . It was in the early 80’s that he was first discovered by Andy Warhol’s lens as a model for his new Interview magazine. One of the top male models in the world throughout the 80s and 90s, he is still considered one of the internationally recognized, fashion models of this era. For the past 25 years Lyon immersed himself into the fashion world of Paris – only this time, on the other side of the lens, as a fine art, fashion and celebrity photographer. Lyon drew inspiration from the cinema especially film noir and German Expressionist cinematography. In the city of lights, he established himself as a creative impresario, sometimes irreverent, a borderline rebel, walking his own path in the global, fashion photography, arena. Lyon’s work has been exhibited throughout the galleries of Europe, and published in numerous magazines including, Vogue, Vanity Fair and GQ plus many more leading art house magazines.For the past 4 years, Lyon has been filming a feature documentary in Africa called, “Something that Matters”. This poignant documentary takes a raw, first-hand look at the escalating crisis of poaching and corruption, which threatens extinction of the entire Rhino species. Lyon has logged over 1,000 km, on foot, on an exceptional trek in the African Bush in search of the real story behind this crisis. In 2013 Steven Lyon founded a nonprofit organization called, Lyonheartlove. The documentary, is the inaugural project under the auspices of the organization. Steven’s directorial work has come to the attention and acknowledged by a variety of international film festivals. His music video, “Fire”, for the band “The Winery Dogs”, was the official selection for both “New York Film Week” and “Los Angeles International Film Festival”. The video garnered top prize in “Hollywood International Motion Picture Film Festival” and “The Prague International Film Festival”. He was also slated as the “director to watch”. His sultry, sexy short film “Remember Cuba” was recently selected and won top prize at the “Los Angeles Sin Festival.” After a three-decade stint abroad and in NYC, Steven Lyon has finally returned to hishometown, Los Angeles where he founded and is acting editor in chief and creative director of a new art publication named “INDULGE”. Its an art and image based bi-annual publication. Lyon continues his tireless work on the plight of the Rhinos and will be debuting his documentary, “Something That Matters”, in Spring 2021. In the meantime Lyon enjoys his California days with his 14 year old American Staff Rudy and continuing his imaginative journey and creative legacy.
Before being an amazing photographer, you started your career as a Model. What made you decide to go to the other side of the camera? How did this happen?
Well yes that’s true. I had a great career based out of Paris for over 10 years. The 80’s was a great time to be a model . Sex ,drugs, rock and roll pretty much sums it up. It wasn’t till 5-6 years after I retired modeling that I started shooting pics. Mostly out in the desert and at a horse ranch with models I knew. I loved the old guess campaign images with a sexy girl and cool guys . They just seemed so natural and real. Not like the posed over retouched shit you see today
Who were your biggest influences if any when you started?
That’s easy. Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, Herb Ritz, Sante D’Orazio and Paolo Roversi. And Ive always loved Peter Beards work. Tragic loss , such a cool and interesting man.
What is the gear you have used in the past and present?
Haha its no secret Im a film shooter. I have and use many different cameras. I shoot a Hasselblad 503cw at least till it was stolen. A Mamiya RZ67, Pentax 67, Linhof Master Technika 4×5 and a Sinar P2 8×10 . I love the Canon EOS 1V 35mm as well. Of course you have to shoot digital sometimes especially for advertising. I love the Leica S system… Also I use my Canon 5D as a Polaroid.
Its well Know You still shoot mostly on film. Why is that?
Film adds another layer to the image. I like my work to be cinematic and film is just that. I love the colors of film and nothing beats B/W film for B/W images. You can try and photoshop a digital file and get it close but never really like film. So fuck! Just shoot film. Fix it in post is never an option. Light it and shoot it right and post work is just a little burning and dodging. I spend maybe 20 min on any given image in post… Yes I do my own post. Also my work is shown and sold in galleries and only offered in silver gelatin and Platinum prints. I Never offer digital prints.
You’ve done some quite powerful portraits. What’s your working process like? How do you make the moment happen where they seem honest and real?
I think it’s all about trust. I like to spend time with the model and get to know each other. I was a model for many years and this process of taking pictures should all be fun. Taking pictures should be fun! I also let them know the images we are about to take are our images. We will do this together. When I’m shooting I’m very fast and know what I want. This gives confidence to your team and the model. For sure collaboration is so important. And working with talented people only ups your game… But its my finger on the camera and my eye looking through the lens. I’m not a fan of back seat photographers while im shooting. HAHA that’s why when I do shoot digital I shoot to card. Not tethered to a laptop and 5 people crowded around with different opinions. Thats a great way to bore and loose the model. That’s also a great thing about shooting film. Nobody knows you got the shot… except you! HAHA Many art directors and stylist cant or won’t deal with that.
Has there been someone who has really surprised you? Who was totally different from what you expected?
I’d say the Williams sisters. I was told they were very closed and just not to get in there space. My assistant did a little research and found out they love and have pitfalls. Well at that time so did I. So when we all met I broke the ice with pitfall pictures and stories and that was my way in. It turned out to be a very easy and fun day and they were both a pleasure to work with. We had lots of laughs. Let’s just say when Serena Williams twerks during your shoot… It was hysterical! It also wasn’t easy to get there phones out of there hands… we managed.
What’s been the biggest highlight in your career so far?
Has to be taking on a 1000k journey on foot across Africa making the documentary “Something that Matters” Nothing else I’ve done comes close to that feeling of accomplishment. Im so blessed that now five years after the 1000k I’ve met an executive producer helping me to finish the film. Making this film has been a very long journey. To see it to fruition will be amazing.
I’ve heard You are selling some of your photography to help support Corona Virus. Can you tell me something about it?
Its called ArtPrints4Help and initially I was. But now Im reworking the initiative and will offer art from many photographers and give the 50% gallery fee to charity. The artist will receive the same as if his works were sold in a gallery. The buyer will know that 50% of the image price will go to charity so he can also write that percentage off. Its a win win I think. www.artprints4help.org
You’re an incredible wildlife photographer. Far from your edgy fashion and nudes your are known for. Was it difficult to jump between styles and genre?
No. Im a photographer. I shoot anything that interests me equally. I’m very passionate about anything I take on. So it doesn’t matter what im shooting. I’m shooting… that’s all that matters. I have to say when I step off the plane in Africa and head out to shoot wildlife… I get a special rush. Much cooler to shoot a charging elephant then a super model any day.
Can you tell me about your documentary “SOMETHING THAT MATTERS”? What pushed you to a project so far from your usual photographic style?
Well for many years Ive been traveling to Africa to photograph its people and wildlife. I love it. It was on my last trip to S.Africa I was invited by my guide to come along on a 1000k trek on foot to raise awareness to the rhino poaching crisis through out Africa. It took me about 20 seconds to accept. I went back to NY put a crew together and two months later started a journey that would change my life.
What kind of impact do you feel this documentary can make when the world sees it?
Something that Matters will educate people about what is really going on with rhinos and the poaching crisis in South Africa. The horrific way these animals are killed often means they take days to die in anguish. I joined a 1000k trek on foot across Africa and brought a film crew. It took almost 4 months of sleeping in the dirt , I want though a few pair of shoes. Really opened my eyes to what is happening and the cruelty of people. Heart breaking. To find out more on the film go to my non-profit web site www.lyonheartlove.org
I know you are gettin ready to launch your unique bi-annual book “Indulge”. Can You tell me something about? What do we have to expect?
INDULGE is a Bi – Annual Image based publication focusing the Arts and the world we live in. It’s not driven by fashion nor the seasons, it will be collectable, timeless and can remain on the shelfs indefinitely. I haven’t decided yet if im going to launch it during this pandemic. I may wait. Issue one is finished and so is the web site. Im dying to launch and start on issue two. Since there is no fashion nor advertising I can launch when ever I want. For the moment im focusing on finishing my documentary. www.theindulgemagazine.com
You have such a broad and huge body of work. Why don’t you release a book?
How about three! I’ve spent the last year organizing three books. First one to be released is called Artist of Light. Im deciding on a publisher for all three books now.
So what does life look like for you now and where do you see yourself in the future?
Today its all about finishing the documentary. Im hoping to launch it at Sundance in 2021. Thats the goal at least. After Im hoping to direct a film I just finished writing called “The Love we Deserve” . Ha! We will see. I’m also writing a second screenplay along the way. Films are my future. But don’t get me wrong I love photographing images. And always will. When there is an interesting project Im in! Today’s Instagram models and photographers don’t interest me. I really don’t want to fit in that world. So I’ve moved on. Let me just say this…
“When its safe and other countries open there borders to Americans. Im gone… For a while at least.”