[FS Spotlight] Photographer Antoine Verglas on Lingerie, Swimsuit, and Fashion Photography
Every guy wants to be Antoine Verglas. The esteemed French-born photographer spends his days shooting the world’s most beautiful and charming women in the planet’s most exquisite locales, often while they’re wearing some of the world’s tiniest clothes. Tough life, right?
His gorgeous portraits go beyond the obvious, however, exhibiting an unsurpassed aesthetic, powerful sexuality, and undeniable sensitivity appealing to both the sexes. You’ve seen his photographs in Maxim, Sports Illustrated, GQ, Elle, Esquire, and Vogue, so now learn about living the good life from Verglas himself!
Fstoppers: Your first pivotal shoot was for Elle magazine, shooting intimate portraits of supermodels Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell. What was that experience like for you?
Antoine Verglas: I was in France living with my girlfriend and she was coming to New York, so I decided to take the trip with her and do a story on all the top models of New York, who were starting to become more popular as “supermodels”. I decided to do an interview of all these girls about their boyfriends, hobbies, where they were from, what they do during the day, their passions. And then I took simple, sexy, intimate portraits of them without too much makeup, just in a natural way. Then I went to Elite, and there was a woman named Monique Pilar, who was handling 80% of the supermodels at the time, and it took me 2-3 months to shoot 12 supermodels and then Elle printed it.
Fstoppers: You’re known for having a very intimate style, and several writers credit your aesthetic with shaping the look of modern lingerie and swimwear photography. How do you describe your style, and what’s your approach behind the camera?
Antoine Verglas: I think I always try to bring out the sensuality and beauty of the person that I’m photographing, in a natural way and in a candid way. I don’t use too much artifice. I was influenced by certain photographers like Lindberg in his early years, in the early 80’s when he used to do Marie Claire. I like true, natural beauty. I try to convey that especially with lingerie companies but also in fashion, beauty, and swimwear. It’s the same with all the celebrity portraits that I do, I’m always trying to bring out their true personality and their own charm through either a smile or an attitude. I’m not somebody who is trying to transform people, I would not say that’s my style. I’m trying to bring out the maximum beauty that they can deliver. Charm and beauty.
Fstoppers: Your work does a great job capturing female sensuality and sexuality. What is it that drew you to shooting women?
Antoine Verglas: I like people and shooting people, whether it’s women or men. I’m more known for women, but I actually love to take portraits of men. I would say that when I shoot men, I try to bring out their masculinity. What attracts me? I love women and the company of women, and I really try to make them look the most attractive and charming I can. That’s my reward, when someone tells me “Oh my God, I love that picture of me. That’s a great smile or expression!” That’s the best compliment. I’m not trying to please myself, I’m trying to please them.
Fstoppers: What inspires you?
Antoine Verglas: A lot of things inspire me. You can be inspired on the street by the beauty of a person or the way people look in the street. I’m mostly inspired by beautiful things: a beautiful apartment, a beautiful setting, a beautiful hotel, a beautiful beach, nice weather. I don’t need opulence or luxury, I need simple beauty. When something is very raw and natural, and naturally beautiful? Then I am inspired.
Fstoppers: What is it that makes the defining shot for you?
Antoine Verglas: For me, it’s the right expression. The eyes, the perfect way they look at you, the charm, the mouth. It’s the combination of an expression and an attitude, which makes you think, “Wow, he looks amazing,” or “Wow, she looks gorgeous!” It’s a combination of attitude, expression, and beauty.
Fstoppers: What was your first camera?
Antoine Verglas: It was a small Nikon. My first Nikon professional camera was an F2 and F3, and then I switched to Canon and Hasselblad and Pentax later on. But at the beginning, I was a Nikon guy.
Fstoppers: So what do you shoot with now?
Antoine Verglas: Now we are at the digital era, you know, so I switch between Canon and Hasselblad.
Fstoppers: How many people are typically on set for a given shoot?
Antoine Verglas: Usually, it’s roughly between 10 to 20 people, between the set designer, the stylist, the assistant stylist, hair stylist, makeup artist, models, digital assistant. I always like a small team when taking an intimate picture, but unfortunately, you can’t always do it like that.
Fstoppers: How do you normally approach lighting? What do you normally look for in your lighting?
Antoine Verglas: I always try to bring flattering lighting to the person I’m photographing. Some people need softer lighting, some people need harder lighting, it all depends on the subject. For men, I have a tendency to use more contrasting lighting, for women I have a tendency to use more soft and back light. It also depends on the age of the subject. A younger model will support strong lighting much easier than somebody older, and somebody with darker skin could handle stronger light better. Skin, age, eyes… sometimes if the light is too strong, the model will have a hard time looking at you. Back lighting may make the person more comfortable, and their eyes will be rested instead of struggling. Lighting is important to make the person feel better. Some celebrities are very particular with the lighting because they know what works for them after doing so many shoots. But change is good, you know?
Fstoppers: How is lingerie different from shooting fashion or shooting swimwear?
Antoine Verglas: Obviously with lingerie the person is more exposed, and it portrays a much different mood from shooting fashion. When I’m shooting fashion, it has a tendency to be much more “lifestyle” and angelic. Obviously, lingerie is lifestyle too, but it has a whole different mood. It’s much more intimate. I shoot lingerie differently than I shoot fashion. I have a tendency to be more active when I’m shooting fashion, and a tendency to be more sensual and intimate when shooting lingerie.
Fstoppers: If you could shoot anyone in the world, who would you shoot?
Antoine Verglas: Today? I think I’d like to reshoot Angelina Jolie. I’ve always loved her. I’ve worked with her, and I’d love to shoot her again.
Fstoppers: What is your favorite part about your job?
Antoine Verglas: I think the best part of our job is meeting all the fabulous people… Successful people in politics, in companies, in singing. It’s incredible to meet all these beautiful women. It’s a treat to be able to those wonderful people; it’s a treat to be have been surrounded by pretty young women for so many years; I think it’s a treat to be surrounded by young people. In fashion there’s a young energy, it’s fun. I think it’s a treat to travel to all those 5-star hotels and incredible beaches all over the world. I think it’s a treat to visit Paris, London, Rome, Tokyo, LA, Bali; traveling the world is a blessing.
Fstoppers: What is your least favorite part?
Antoine Verglas: That it’s hard to say no. You have to travel and then take a plane to LA the next day and then you have to be in London two days later. It can be a little bit exhausting, and it’s hard to say no because if you say no then somebody else is going to do it, and you might miss an incredible picture that you will regret because someone else is going to take it.
Fstoppers: What’s your advice to aspiring photographers?
Antoine Verglas: My advice is to never give up and to always have an idea. It’s hard to break into the industry, but always have an idea for a project or for a book or for an exhibit. If you think of an idea that you’re attached to and feel close to, if it’s something that you’re really excited about, then you will take great pictures and make it something interesting. Whatever it is!