SONIA KASHUK & ARTHUR ELGORT

SONIA KASHUK & ARTHUR ELGORT

FADE IN:

INT. ARTHUR ELGORT’S STUDIO, SOHO, NEW YORK CITY — EARLY AFTERNOON

Entering ARTHUR ELGORT’s studio, on the top floor of a building in downtown Manhattan, is like walking into a cloud. Light pours through massive windows, illuminating the practically all-white space. SONIA KASHUK and ARTHUR sit opposite each other in a pair of mid-century chairs in the center of the massive room.

SONIA
I remember my first time ever walking into this studio, and thinking, “Ohhh!”

ARTHUR
I’ve never had another. Before I moved in here 33 years ago, my “studio” was in the middle of my living room.

SONIA
I mean, it’s such a New York story.

ARTHUR
I looked at one space, then saw this and knew I didn’t need to see anything else. That was it. I had to put the windows in, but Soho was so bad back then I didn’t even need permission.

SONIA
Meeting you completely shifted my entire life, without question. I’d been living in the Midwest, assisting the extraordinary makeup artist Linda Mason, and didn’t want to move to New York City until there was a sign. You were [that sign].

ARTHUR
Really?!

SONIA
Being taken in by your team, and someone of your stature, exposed me to so much. You were my endorser and introduced me to everyone, from Grace Coddington to Polly Mellon. [From day one], I tried to be a sponge and absorb everything because I knew I was working with one of the most respected photographers out there. You taught me that makeup should transcend the test of time, something I’ve never forgotten. Looking at any of the photos we did in the ‘80s —

ARTHUR
They still look good —

SONIA
They’re modern and relevant, even today.

ARTHUR
I’ve always felt strongly about choosing the right model at the right time. I remember when Christy [Turlington] first came to this studio. “We should get her,” I said. “Right away.” When I called her booking agent at Ford Models, I was told, “Christy is good, but we have better.” “We’ll take her anyway,” was my reply, because I thought I found something there. And I did!

SONIA
When I think of girls like Cindy [Crawford] and Christy, I think of your pictures. As a lover of photography, one reason I’ve always been so taken by you is because your approach to the medium is so much more than simply capturing an image. You see life through the lens of a camera.

ARTHUR
I love photography. I mean, I really love it.

SONIA
In all the years of being around you, from early morning to late at night, I have never, ever seen you without a camera. Was the transition to digital hard for you?

ARTHUR
Not at all. To me it’s the same. And I still use film, but mostly for myself.

SONIA
I’m a big collector of yours, as you know. The pictures you’ve taken over the years, many of which comprise your incredible books, like Models Manual, are some of the most important images out there. [SONIA grabs one of ARTHUR’s books] Look at this as a document of the time —

ARTHUR
You know how I got that job [pointing to his photo of The Rolling Stones], right? Because of Patti [Hansen] and Jerry [Hall], who I photographed in the early ‘80s. They asked me if I would photograph their boyfriends, who happened to be the Stones. So they all came to my house —

SONIA
At the Eldorado —

ARTHUR
But we couldn’t get them all together for the shot because they kept disappearing. Finally, I said, “Let me explain something. You’re not as famous as Count Basie, and you’re not Duke Ellington, so please help me out a little bit.” Eventually they did and Patti followed me around with a lamp as my assistant. I only shot one or two pictures before I finished, but I ended up getting that.

SONIA
Which today is such a historic photo. And the Stones have had a good career [BOTH laugh].

ARTHUR
They’re still working, right [laughs]?

SONIA
What I love about your books is their breadth; that a photo of The Rolling Stones is next to fashion portraits. And the memories of our journeys [the pictures inspire]. One of my all-time favorite trips was with you to Tanzania.

ARTHUR
That was with Christy, right?

SONIA
Yes. And I remember another shoot, for Vogue, so clearly, because Frédéric Fekkai was with us and you told him, “Don’t worry about the hair, Frédéric — just go get lunch ready.”

ARTHUR
He’s a good chef [laughs]!

SONIA
You’ve been known to be a little sarcastic at times [laughs]. In our years working together you became a dear friend and confidant. I felt protected with you. We’ve spent so much time together that our families have become very interwoven. You used to poke fun at me about when I would meet a guy, and when I finally did, your team had to give its seal of approval before anything moved forward [laughs]. The day my daughter Sadye was born, I was supposed to be in the studio with you. I remember calling at six o’clock that morning to say I couldn’t be at the shoot because I was giving birth.

ARTHUR
And I think I said, “Are you sure of that [laughs]?”

SONIA
And that same afternoon, I remember looking up and seeing you [in my hospital room] with your camera. That’s the kind of intimate relationship we have.

ARTHUR
And you were back at work the next day.

SONIA
I was, and I have great pictures by you of me with my breast pump. I very clearly remember when your children were born, too. One does not often come across friends like you — and with the chicest, coolest style, no less.

ARTHUR
I don’t know about that… I don’t have a Prada campaign like Ansel [laughs]. He was always the one who knew how to dress. Even Grace Coddington thought so.

SONIA
As a kid, Ansel was always singing or dancing, so [his success as an actor] was never a surprise.

ARTHUR
We knew he was going to be an actor ever since he was eight years old. Nothing could stop him.

SONIA
I think it’s hard for any child to have a strong parent. As much as Sadye would say no to going into my business, I think her perspective is evolving. I give your daughter, Sophie, a lot of credit [for taking up photography], what with having a father who’s a legend.

 

ARTHUR
She wanted to be a doctor. One day, she told me she needed to borrow a camera to do a job for a friend. “I can show you quickly how to use it,” I said, “But you have to do it.” And she got it right away. She’s very good, and not shy at all.

SONIA
Watching our children evolve, and being there to support them along the way, has been so exciting. Whenever you come over for dinner or to see my family is a treat. It always has been, and always will be.

CREDITS

Photography byPJ Spaniol III

Conversation moderated byAnthony Rotunno

Sonia Kashuk is a makeup artist and the founder of Sonia Kashuk.
Arthur Elgort is a photographer based in New York City.

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THE END