L.A. pho­tog­ra­pher puts celebri­ties in their best light

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE&STYLE - By Mar­ques G. Harper

It was a pic­ture-per­fect spring day when I ducked in­side Jo’s Cof­fee on West Sec­ond Street to meet with Los An­ge­les-based pho­tog­ra­pher and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Leo Jaramillo. He was in Austin work­ing on a shoot with new mod­els from the Wil­helmina Brown Man­age­ment mod­el­ing agency. (“He’s some­body that we trust, and he can get great shots,” Justin Brown, pres­i­dent of the agency, later told me.)

While he was here, Jaramillo also had plans to shoot a mu­sic video with an Austin-based band called the Adamant. Two of the bands mem­bers, twins Josh and Jeremy Olsen, are signed with the mod­el­ing agency.

“There’s a spe­cific look we that we know photo editors are go­ing for,” said Jaramillo, 35, who has a photo blog, Fist Full of Film,

through his web­site, www.leo­jaramillo.com.

He would know best. The pho­tog­ra­pher grew up in Or­lando, Fla. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school in 1993, Jaramillo started work­ing on com­mer­cials and as an ex­tra for Nick­elodeon shows. His years at the Uni­ver­sity of Cen­tral Florida al­lowed him to study film. By the late 1990s, he worked full-time in pro­duc­tion and rose up the ranks to be­come first as­sis­tant cam­era op­er­a­tor, as well as a teacher.

How­ever, Jaramillo had big­ger goals: He left Or­lando for Los An­ge­les about six years ago. Of course, work­ing on a movie or photo shoot is ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive in Cal­i­for­nia.

“When you move to a new town, you start at the bot­tom again,” said Jaramillo, who lives with his wife, Jen­nifer, and chil­dren, Vivien and Jake, in Los An­ge­les. “It’s al­most like a rite of pas­sage.”

Then one day he got a job work­ing as an as­sis­tant to famed pho­tog­ra­pher An­nie Lei­bovitz. The first part of the day he got her cof­fee, but then life for Jaramillo changed.

“That was the job that said, ‘We’re down a man and we need help,’ ” said Jaramillo, who was drink­ing a bot­tle of Coke. “In that moment was the tran­si­tion be­tween get­ting cof­fee to work­ing for one of the pre­miere pho­tog­ra­phers.”

The rapid job ad­vance­ment came be­cause Jaramillo knew how to prop­erly light a set­ting. He has worked with Lei­bovitz ever since, and he has worked with other noted pho­tog­ra­phers, in­clud­ing Tom Munro.

Re­mem­ber the Vogue cover by Lei­bovitz of the cast of the movie mu­si­cal “Nine”? Jaramillo was in­volved in tak­ing the ini­tial test pho­tos and prep work. Usu­ally, he is hired to get the light­ing and body com­po­si­tion right be­fore any celebrity or pho­tog­ra­pher sets foot on a photo shoot set.

“Pho­tog­ra­phy is a com­mu­nity project,” he said. “Some of my best work has been through col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

The av­er­age per­son, look­ing at a fashion mag­a­zine, likely doesn’t re­al­ize that a photo shoot can take hours and in­volve a small army to brain­storm, com­plete pre­pro­duc­tion work in­volv­ing poses, light­ing and styling, and set Los An­ge­les-based pho­tog­ra­pher and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Leo Jaramillo was in Austin to pho­to­graph new mod­els with the Wil­helmina Brown Man­age­ment up the shoot.

“There’s a lot of pho­tog­ra­phers who don’t know how to light and don’t know the equip­ment,” he said. So that’s where he comes in. Re­cently, Jaramillo, who is a free­lancer for well-known pho­tog­ra­phers, has worked on shoots with David Du­chovny, Ellen Page, Leonardo DiCaprio, Pa­trick Dempsey, Teri Hatcher and Kim Kar­dashian (she’ll be at the Sephora mod­el­ing agency. Jaramillo also has worked for well-known pho­tog­ra­phers such as An­nie Lei­bovitz and Tom Munro. store at Barton Creek Square July 22).

He told me about the time he had lunch on a photo set with An­gelina Jolie and Brad Pitt while Jolie was preg­nant with twins. And then there’s the con­tro­ver­sial Mi­ley Cyrus photo shoot with Lei­bovitz that ap­peared in Van­ity Fair. Jaramillo de­clined to com­ment.

Then came the name that stopped me in my tracks: Madonna.

Jaramillo worked with Munro, who shot pho­tos of Madonna for Elle mag­a­zine and di­rected her mu­sic video “Give It 2 Me.” Jaramillo said Madonna was friendly on the set and knew what she wanted to ac­com­plish. One of the im­ages from the Madonna shoot is on the cover of Munro’s new book, “The Art of Celebrity Pho­tog­ra­phy” ($75, Dami­ani), for which Madonna wrote the in­tro­duc­tion.

“I’m so proud of it,” Jaramillo said. “On the cover is some­thing I lit.”

Still in the after­glow of his Madonna story, I had to fin­ish my as­sign­ment: tak­ing a photo of a gifted pho­tog­ra­pher, who spe­cial­izes in light­ing and pro­duc­tion.

Then Jaramillo, who en­joys shoot­ing pho­tos with real film, de­cided to turn the cam­era on me. Grab­bing the Le­ica M6 around his neck, he started tak­ing pho­tos of me on Sec­ond Street.

Weeks later, he sent me a text mes­sage: “This is Leo from Los An­ge­les. Love this shot of you. I took this right af­ter the in­ter­view.” There star­ing back at me was my im­age in black and white.

Leo Jaramillo He lights up work of An­nie Lei­bovitz.

Leo Jaramillo pho­tos

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