Randall Slavin On Photography, Honesty And 1990’s Hollywood

From award-winning Hollywood photographer Randall Slavin We All Want Something Beautiful, is a stunning, raw, and timeless collection of celebrity photography captured from the 1990’s. 

Photographer Randall Slavin

With a career that just spans 30 years, Randall Slavin’s early beginnings originated from being a struggling actor in Hollywood with an obsession with photography.  According to his personal website, Slavin worked as a gas attendant whilst trying to find acting gigs. He had wandered into a local photography studio and struck a friendship with the owner. The owner had taught  Slavin the basics but Slavin was subsequently fired a few months later.

Slavin persevered and has not looked back since his gas attendant days having his photography debut in the prestigious New York Times Magazine. Other platforms of his publications since the NY Times have appeared in Vanity Fair, GQ, Esquire, Rolling Stone & many others.

His new book, We All Want Something Beautiful, was recently published by Mascot Books in the beginning of November, 2019, with the  foreword given by Hollywood actors Ben Stiller and Jeremy Renner. Slavin builds up a body of work detailing an inner transparency of 1990’s Hollywood celebrity culture.

The book’s subject matter focuses on Hollywood celebrity culture during the 1990’s. With an emphasis on black and white photography Randall Slavin captures a mode of stillness and nostalgia within this time period. The book illustrates the up and coming celebrities Randall had met  at the time, capturing moments of joy and simplicity within the Los Angeles nightlife.

“Hollywood in the nineties was the last good time,”  Slavin reflects.

And this expression is true to the extent before the advent of tabloid media such as TMZ and social media such as Instagram and Snapchat. Slavin had more accessibility within the circles of Hollywood celebrity than the general paparazzi.

Jennifer Aniston with Counting Crows’ Singer Adam Duritz in 1996. Photo Credit: Randall Slavin

“You went out, and things would happen, and no one would know about it, which fostered an incredible sense of fun and party atmosphere. It was a different era, because people could let go and no one would take their pictures … except for me a bit! Now, everyone has a high-def camera in their pocket. Everyone is paparazzi.” Reiterating his best-of-times sentiment, he adds, “It was the last good time where you could fully let go, and I was fortunate to have a front row ticket to most of it,” Slavin told Instyle Magazine.

Inside Randall Slavin’s Artistic Process As A Photographer

The title We All Want Something Beautiful is a lyric taken from American rock band Counting Crows’ hit song ‘Mr Jones’. Not only is the title a metaphor for the individualism expressed by the celebrity culture of the 90’s, but also a metaphor of his work method.  When asked about the book title’s meaning, Slavin told Vice Magazine:

“Well I was always a fan of that line from the song “Mr. Jones”, I think it has such multi-level meanings. I mean aren’t we all reaching for some sort of beauty in our lives? Something that lifts us higher into the heavens and out of our everyday muck. Also, the song author Adam Duritz is a dear friend of mine and is featured numerous times in the book.”

Slavin’s portfolio composes a vast collection of Hollywood celebrities and legendary renowned musicians. In this book, young versions of Charlize Theron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Paul, Benicio Del Toro, Paul Rudd and others are photographed in their most accessible and innocent moments.

Benicio Del Toro Photo Credit: Randall Slavin

Randall Slavin is searching for clarity and something out of the ordinary. He is a photographer who aims to get his subject out of his or her comfort zone and at their most relaxed moments. When asked about his method on capturing photos and what he wants out of his clients Slavin has said:

“My biggest factor when shooting someone is the willingness to let me lead them somewhere, help them create a scenario and play along with me. It is about being honest. I don’t want the subject to smile if it is not honest. The minute many people get in front of the camera, they immediately put on their “I am-having-my-picture-taken” face. There is nothing spontaneous or authentic about it. I try to get them out of their comfort zone or, at the very least not think about having their picture taken,”  Slavin told GoodTimesPK.

This book offers the reader a time capsule into Slavin’s earlier work but shows a significant shift in time. Slavin admits he misses life in the 90’s and reflects on having to persevere as a photographer. In today’s world of smartphones and social media, Slavin reflects his adaptability as a contemporary photographer:

“When the internet came along and magazines disappeared, that was a huge shakeup, then that settled down and you thought, ‘OK, this is where we’re at.’ Then, Instagram came along. The challenges are not being too cemented in who you are, what you do and how you make a business out of it. You can’t be a photographer today and go, ‘I’m not going to do Instagram. It’s stupid,’ Slavin told Leena Tailor, Los Angeleno.

Honesty Is A Central Moral Ethic In Slavin’s Work

Honesty is significantly incorporated Slavin’s book and so powerfully well executed. The dynamic of black and white photography captures the limelight of these celebrities, showcasing an array of different humanistic expressions.

Charlize Theron celebrating her 22nd birthday at the Chateau Marmont with Leonardo DiCaprio Photo Credit: Randall Slavin
Cameron Diaz, Milla Jovovich with others. Photo Credit: Randall Slavin

Slavin reflects on the release of these photos in 2019 was the right time for them to be seen by the public. He recalls in an interview with Vice Magazine, “I’d been approached numerous times over the years but I didn’t think enough time had passed to give the pictures any power.”

The photos in the book offer the reader details into Slavin’s history with the celebrities he photographed with a side note on how he met them, the context of where the photo was taken and his relationships with them. In reinforcing the foreword given by Jeremy Renner about Slavin’s work essence being “Pure intimacy and truth of the individual spirit” Slavin inherently finds a sense of beauty in a world other than our own.

We All Want Something Beautiful is now available on Amazon.

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