BERLIN – With a portfolio that resembles a Hollywood who’s who, Los Angeles-based photographer Tony Duran generally doesn’t get starstruck.
“Granted if Meryl Streep walked by I’d piss in my pants,” he joked. And he was “scared to death” when it came time to shoot Kevin Spacey. “He asked me why and I said, ‘Because you have talent and make me believe it,’” Duran related.
But for the most part, Duran and his famous subjects just get down to it, as when he blurted out -“You, actor boy, lie down” – when working with Brad Pitt for the first time.
At that meeting, Duran just shot Pitt’s face. “I told him you never see a picture of your face and he answered no, you don’t. But I said, ‘You’re letting me do it!’” Duran recalled.
Jennifer Lopez, his first celebrity job, has been behind Duran’s lens more than 30 times since he shot her first cover 10 years ago. Once, when they were just supposed to be taking pictures of her in a T-shirt and jeans, Lopez decided she wanted to be a naked angel instead.
No problem for Duran, whose methodology might be described as no-frills improvisation. The backdrop was quickly foraged out of the garbage, the wings bought on Hollywood Boulevard. Another time, when Duran got tired of the star’s typical coif, he simply threw a glass of water in her face.
The results of both encounters are on display in Duran’s first show in Europe, which runs through Nov. 27 at Berlin’s Contributed Studio for the Arts. And there’s a story behind all of the other 38 works: how Sandra Bullock couldn’t figure out how to put on the Gucci top; how Sharon Stone ended up in an Adrian Brody portrait; or how Beyonce (another Duran regular) literally hit a brick wall while lying on an old, skanky mattress.
There are many anonymous subjects, too, such as one “super nervous introverted guy” whose nude body appears dwarfed in the urban landscape. “I told him get naked, we stopped the car on Bel Air and shot – directly across from Ronald Reagan’s house,” he said with a laugh. .
“I connect with the people I’m shooting,” he explained. Most often, Duran works out of his L.A. home, which seems to inspire an atmosphere of privacy and trust.
But wherever he finds himself, “Once the process starts, they just let go” he said. This was especially true of the French rugby stars he shot in the buff for this year’s Dieux de Stade calendar. “It was great,” he said. “They had no preconceptions of what they had to do.”
An erotic charge and a lot of skin are two Duran trademarks. And this from a man who calls himself “the biggest prude on the planet. I’m Irish Catholic from Minnesota. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody in my family naked,” he said. “My mother definitely has issues with my work. But once people (I’m photographing) have 10 minutes with me, they change. They allow themselves to be themselves.”
And what if he himself could choose his next project? “I would definitely love to do a book of women over 40 in Hollywood. They’re the most inspiring women I’ve ever shot,” he said. “But my first book will probably be of my house. It covers everything I do. I live there and shoot there: celebrities, nudes, fashion, architecture. People want to label me as one thing or another, but it’s all me. It’s my own little niche.”