Behind the Cover: David Vintiner on shooting Louis Theroux for The Guardian Weekend

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Rocking a brown natural leather Gucci suit, it would seem that Theroux stole the hearts of every demographic in the country. David Vintiner unpacks the process behind the shoot

Donald Vintiner has been following Louis Theroux’s career since the late-90s, when he first started producing TV documentaries. “His subject matter has probably experienced quite an influence upon my photography actually – stories on the fringes associated with society, ”  Vintiner reflects “He’s a bit more extreme compared to I am, but the basic component is the same. It’s these gaps in society which are interesting to me. ”

Most recently, Vintiner has been working on the long-term project about the transhumanist movement , which believes that technology can and should be used to augment our bodies and our minds. Alongside personal tasks, Vintiner is an editorial photographer, and having worked with the likes of Nick Cave, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Willem Dafoe, Olivia Colman, and Buzz Aldrin, he is no stranger to photographing people he admires. “There is a moment when they walk in the room, and you’re in awe, ” he says, “but then it’s back to work. Most of the time, I’m thinking about the photography, and what sort of images I wish to make; that’s my focus”.  

Last weekend, whenever The Guardian Weekend unveiled its cover story , the internet blew up. Rocking a brown leather Gucci suit, it seems Louis Theroux stole the particular hearts of almost every demographic in the nation. “Everybody appears to absolutely idolise him, ” says Vintiner. “I can not think of many other people that have that will draw across such an age range. He’s a journalist – he’s not a pop star or film star or even anything. It’s quite amazing. ”

© David Vintiner for The Guardian Weekend.

Because the publication is weekly, deadlines can be tight. Vintiner was entrusted a week before the shoot, which is normal for a weekly, he explains. In the lead up, Vintiner tried to research whenever possible. “I wanted to play with the particular ideas of shadows, and him coming in and out of the shadows as a metaphor for the way he operates, ” he says. “I did have these loose ideas, however I also try to leave stuff free on set; some room to play and permit things unfold naturally. ” 

Unlike Quil Lemons , who was provided an entire day to shoot Billie Eilish for Counter Fair, Vintiner was only allocated three hours to shoot. And on the day, the time was reduce to just one hour. “You need to have 360 vision, ” he admits that, emphasising the importance of working to time. “I have to be aware of the way they look, the lighting, regardless of whether it’s looking on screen like the ideas in my mind. The studio time may be up in an hour, or even my sitter might have an additional meeting or a TV look to get to. ”

“Putting those clothes on really transformed him. As soon as he got that suit on he stopped with all the Louis Theroux-isms. It gave your pet an excuse to try other movements”

For someone who, as the accompanying article surprisingly reveals, cares a great deal about what other people think, Theroux was comfortable in front of the lens. “There were times when he or she was giving me really studied poses – proven Louis Theroux poses, ” says Vintiner. Peering over the top of the glasses, or hands on chin, with a moderate bemused expression. “When you are shooting a portrait, you’re trying to steer people away from that, and get those in-between moments. ” 

The turning point was down to the Gucci suit. Initially, the team thought it may be “too much”, says Vintiner, but Theroux was up for it. Vintiner caught a glance associated with him taking selfies to deliver to his wife, just who (spoiler alert) later revealed that she hated it. “Putting those clothes on really transformed him… As soon as he got that match on he stopped with all the current Louis Theroux-isms… It offered him an excuse to try some other movements, ” says Vintiner. “It was interesting to try out with that, and see how the clothes changed his behavior. ”

© Donald Vintiner for The Guardian Weekend break.

Those familiar with Vintiner’s work will notice commonalities to portraits from their personal projects , which he views as “closely aligned” in order to his editorial work. “Obviously, there’s a client’s short to answer when you’re shooting an editorial. But I’m always trying to solution my brief on it too, and shoot in a personal way, ” he says.  

After shooting editorial commission for 20 years, for books like GQ, New York Occasions Magazine and Esquire, it may be surprising to learn that the work hasn’t gotten any easier for Vintiner. “I put more pressure on myself personally now than I did after i was younger, ” he admits that. “It’s easy to just hold producing the same work, or going back to tried-and-tested techniques… You want to move forwards and move things on. ”

Above all, it is the stories which have kept Vintiner so involved with his work. “Whether it is a celebrity, or a scientist who is undertaking incredible research, when shooting editorially, you’re normally sent out to uncover a story of some description, ” he says. Editorial photography is also not as prescribed as a commercial advertising campaign. “For editorial, you can prepare, but you still don’t understand what’s going to happen, ” says Vintiner. “You walk into a studio and you have to consider on your feet. And that’s endlessly exciting. ”

Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined up with the British Journal Picture taking in April 2018, plus currently holds the position associated with Online Editor. She analyzed English Literature and Good Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MOTHER in Magazine Journalism through City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.

No Newer Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *