The recorder of royal wedding
After 15 years of taking celebrity cover shoots for fashion magazines, portraits for ad campaigns and events, a single assignment earned Polish photographer Alexi Lubomirski his nickname: “the royal wedding photographer.”
Last year, he received a phone call from Kensington Palace asking him to take portraits for the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
“It was the worst day in my life,” he said. “My mother was having a brain tumor taken out. The doctors said it was a 50/50. I was so worried all day long.
“In the background the television was saying ‘Prince Harry and Megan were getting engaged.’ And I didn’t pay attention.”
After 10 hours he was supposed to hear from the doctors. Instead, the call from Kensington Palace came first.
“It (the news) made my mother recover much quicker,” he joked.
Lubomirski describes snapping the engagement photos as “surreal, amazing, crazy.”
It was a four-hour photo shoot, and by the end of the day, he was running out of ideas. “It was cold … so I told him to take off his jacket, wrap around her and squeeze her. And she got all snuggled, turning around into him, and this moment happened,” he told Shanghai Daily, sharing an intimate behind-the-scenes moment.
“(People) felt they were invited into a very private moment and witnessed something beautiful,” he said.
“The photo ‘humanizes’ the royal couple. It made people think, ‘Ah, they love each like we love each other’.”
The 43-year-old was recently in Shanghai for his solo photo portrait exhibition “Selected Portraits by Alexi Lubomirski.”
The show features more than 40 celebrity portraits he has taken over the years, including Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts and Emma Watson. It runs through October 20 at MIFA 1862 in Harbour City.
The exhibition is a prelude to his “Glamconscious” project, which will be launched next year. He intends to use his platform “inspire for the right reasons, whether is for sustainable fashion, no-fur, no exotic skins, or for production that doesn’t harm environment, even healthier eating habits, such as going vegan.”
Born in England, Lubomirski became interested in photography when traveling to Peru during his college gap year, and “lack of patience” led him on to turn professional.
“In photography, you can create in a 10th of a second … you are working with ingredients that are already halfmade,” he said.
He worked as an assistant to famed fashion photographer Mario Testino in Paris for four years after graduation from college, and then went out on his own. A year later, he got his first cover shoot for Harper’s Bazaar US, when the magazine was looking for someone to fill in as some of its big names were quitting.
Apart from pure luck, he also attributes the take-off of his fledging career to his inquisitiveness. Shy as he is, Lubomirski loves the puzzle of “getting connected to people.”
He has a “five-minute rule,” which is to talk to celebrities for five minutes before photo shoot to form a connection.
“They might talk in a way where I understand they want to be treated like ‘the queen of the England,’ or they want to be treated as your best friends. Or they like dirty jokes, or no jokes. Or they just broke up with their husbands, or they just had a baby,” he said.
“If they just broke up with their boyfriends, I would be the person who was talking all day long about how incredible new chapters are. If you just had a baby, I would talk about sleep habits and diapers…” The trick is to earn the trust. “They trust you, and they will be willing to give you more,” he added.
Being a veteran in an ever faster industry — a three-day assignment for 20-page editorial in the past could be squeezed into just a day now, plus a behind-the-scenes video and a fashion movie — it is vital to trust gut instinct: the little voice “often whispering but sometimes shouting” in his mind.
After hushing that little so much at the beginning of his career, Lubomirski has learned to go with it.
Portraits of Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts by Alexi Lubomirski — Ti Gong