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Steve Schapiro: access all areas
How did photographer Steve Schapiro go from documenting the lives of drug addicts and immigrants to spending months trailing Hollywood’s biggest stars? ‘I was quiet and polite,’ he tells Lucy Davies
While working on the lots he heard that Marlon Brando was going to be in Paramount’s forthcoming production of The Godfather. “At the time Brando was the top actor, so I went to Life and I got them to guarantee a cover, which they never do – they wouldn’t even do it for Frank Sinatra. I went back to Paramount and, of course, they agreed. I ended up working on the entire film.” Schapiro’s shots of Brando, Pacino et al are now classics of still photography. Everybody saw them, and everybody wanted Schapiro to photograph them. At the time it wasn’t unusual for him to spend four days, even six months, with a personality, one-to-one. “It often seemed we were the best of friends,” he says.
The only person he found difficult was Charles Bronson: “very brash”. Generally, though, his shoots were amiable collaborations. “For me there’s no difference between photographing a celebrity and a migrant worker. You’re always looking for a picture with emotion, design and information. I leave a lot of room for self-expression. I want my subjects to be themselves, and then I quietly pounce.”
Now 78, Schapiro lives in Chicago with his wife and youngest son. He continues to photograph and recently worked with his son on a photo story about the ageing hippie generation. “I don’t think I’ve yet taken my most important photograph,” he says. “I’m happy with many of the images. But I always look to the future.”
‘Steve Schapiro: Then and Now’ (Hatje Cantz, RRP £55) is available to order from Telegraph Books at £50 plus £1.35 p&p. Call 0844 871 1516 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk
This article also appeared in SEVEN magazine, free with the Sunday Telegraph. Follow us on Twitter @TelegraphSeven