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King of the Pit

A true survivor of the runway trenches, 61-year-old Romanian photographer Dan Lecca has been shooting the catwalks of New York, Milan and Paris since 1988.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Collections issue 04/07/2008

A true survivor of the runway trenches, 61-year-old Romanian photographer Dan Lecca has been shooting the catwalks of New York, Milan and Paris since 1988, along with his 60-year-old American wife, Corina, sometimes shooting side by side.

WWD: What’s your idea of the perfect show?
Dan Lecca: The best shows are when you’re the house photographer, when you have top models who know how to walk, a simple choreography and, of course, very good lighting, including a good backlight that helps focus better. Even good music counts, as [a thumping soundtrack] can destroy the pleasure. All of those elements together make for the impossible dream.
 
WWD: Any gripes?
D.L.: Early shows.
 
WWD: What was your hairiest moment this season?
D.L.: The Marc Jacobs show. We were pretty sure Jacobs was going to be late and I needed to go and get some fried chicken for my crew. When my wife called me to say that Marc Jacobs had gotten on stage to announce he was planning to start on time, I rushed back to the venue and tried to get in through the front door. It was a mob, but with a lot of effort I made it past the three guards, got to my spot, slotted in my card and started shooting. It was a hair-raising experience and my hands were shaking as I operated the camera. But even then, as the lights came on, the moment was suddenly so beautiful. My wife went backstage afterward and said, “We waited two-and-a-half hours for you last season and you couldn’t wait 10 minutes for Dan?”
 
WWD: Tell us about etiquette in the photographers’ pit. Is there any?
D.L.: We all get along well and we all try to give that extra inch to our neighbor when necessary, as we all know how much that extra inch means to someone else’s lens.
 
WWD: Who are the best lighting luminaries?
D.L.: Jan Kroeze, who does the lighting for Marc Jacobs and Christian Lacroix, and Etienne Russo, a Belgian who does Chanel and Dries Van Noten. But even when lighting is challenging, it can sometimes produce better pictures, as it forces one to be more careful about not making a mistake. It keeps you on your toes.
 
WWD: What’s the worst show to photograph?
D.L.: The Jean Paul Gaultier runway is dreadful for a photographer because it’s long and narrow with the lighting concentrated around the last 25 seats, right at the point where models [get congested].
 
WWD: What’s your favorite fashion capital to shoot in?
D.L.: New York. There I have a bit more sway so houses tend to listen to me when I make suggestions on how to improve the lighting or choreography during the practice runs for shows. We also have a house in the suburbs of New York, which means we can sleep in our beds. Our crew always stays with us during the shows and at the end of each day I like to make a simple supper and open a good bottle of wine. Life is almost perfect. We work like hell, sleep little but enjoy the fact that we’re treated properly and the power of our badges. New York is more organized. Italy is not bad, but Paris is quite brutal. Often we’re made to wait for hours in the rain. It can be a little bit unkind.

WWD: What was the best show this season?
D.L.: Alexander McQueen was beautiful, but I think the show that affected me most was Undercover. There’s something very special about that designer that touches me on an artistic level. It’s difficult to put one’s finger on it, but it just looked right.
 
WWD: What do you think about models today?
D.L.: We’re all a little unhappy with the thinness of models. Some who we liked before have lost so much weight that it’s become uncomfortable. We’ve seen many amazing [women] over our career. Iman was just stunning. I remember one Thierry Mugler show at the Cour Carrée du Louvre where the runway was so long that even with a 600mm lens, one still had to wait minutes to get the model in the frame. Out she came, being fanned by a scantily clad man with a palm leaf. She managed to take five minutes to walk the runway in pure voluptuousness. It was amazing and sexual without being undressed. Christy Turlington was also incredible. Naomi Campbell would always arrive late for the shows being all [troublesome] and bitchy and Christy would always calm her down. She was always womanly. She was a lady.
 
WWD: Do photographers in the pit get their due respect?
D.L.: We are intelligent and creative, and people forget how important we are. We should be treated differently.

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