WEST HOLLYWOOD —Hollywood is filled with people who move here in order to make it and some who have talent, while others lack the real spark to make it. However, every now and then you run into a Hollywood professional in the industry that was born and raised in this town and it’s always fascinating to get their take on what makes certain people successful in this city while many others spend decades waiting tables and doing odd jobs waiting for that big break.
Photographer Robert Landau is one of those unique men in Hollywood who has photographed stars either at a sitting or snapping shots of them shopping or on the beach for the nation’s most popular entertainment magazines. This past weekend before Golden Globe hysteria set in, I caught up with Landau who, despite the rain and winds, has been around the city’s hot spots capturing our favorite celebrities at very personal moments. Robert is a fun guy to talk to. Enjoy the interview.
Q-You were raised in LA, did you always want to be a celebrity photographer?
A-“No. My real passion is for travel and seeing and photographing new and unfamiliar places. I like to be surprised and react spontaneously to capture what is going on around me. Over the years I have compiled a large collection of travel images which are represented online by the Corbis photo agency and at my own Web site.
Q-You have traveled, extensively. Would you like to live some place else, if not LA?
A-“My second favorite city is Istanbul, and I spend a great deal of time there, but LA is home and after awhile on the road I feel the pull back home. I’m also a weekend softball player and would miss the good year round playing weather.”
Q-You have a very calming effect on your subjects, have you any horror stories about photographing stars in the past?
A-“No horror stories but some people are more difficult to connect with. I was photographing Steve Martin for the Writers Guild Magazine cover and he is someone whom I have always admired for his talent in so many areas. I know he is an avid art collector and my father, Felix Landau, had an art gallery for many years on La Cienega Boulevard, so I thought perhaps that would be something to talk about. It became clear after a brief introduction that he wasn’t there for small talk and just wanted to get the work at hand done as economically as possible. I quickly understood and respected that, and wrapped up the session in very short order. The pictures came out very well and have also appeared in magazines and billboards.”
Q-What is your favorite photo you’ve taken and why?
A-“Back in the 1980s I had a book published on the Sunset Strip billboards, called Billboard Art [Chronicle Books]. I was living near Tower records and every week there would be new hand painted pop art masterpieces promoting the latest Rock and Roll and movie stars. I took a photo of a street scene with a woman carrying a grocery bag walking under a billboard depicting an image of Christopher Reeve in Superman costume streaking across the landscape. It epitomized for me the surreal nature of Los Angeles with all its dimensions of overblown Hollywood pretense versus the reality of ordinary daily life.”
Q-If you were not a photographer, what would you be?
A-“A psychologist. I like to try to figure out what makes people tick.”