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"SayHey"



If you shoot runway in Paris, Milan or New York and someone yells out 'Hey Randy!', you know whose head is going to turn. There are less than a score of first class runway photographers in the world and Randy Brooke is one of them.

When Randy was just ten, his father gave him a complete darkroom dating back from the 1920's and 1930's. In high school he was on the Yearbook photography staff. Then in college (Ohio University) he majored in Photography and Art History where he was able to study with three teachers who were also National Geographic photographers. These teachers considered him most likely to make it as a top notch photographer, but they also warned, that if he wanted to make money then he should "go into real estate"...

After College, Randy returned to New York where he eventually landed a job as a photo studio manager and assistant to a photographer who had worked for fashion photographer Bill King. Later, he expanded his skills by assisting numerous other working pros.

"One nice thing about my assisting was that on many of these shoots I was asked also to shoot film. I remember on one occasion that a photographer I worked for was booked for two different jobs at the same time. So he covered one job and I went to to the other - to document a book party at Bloomingdales- where I photographed one of the more social artists of the 20th Century Andy Warhol! Not only was it exciting, but during a small break in the action, Andy actually started interviewing me! ...One of my fifteen minutes of..."

Although Randy has built a reputation for being one of the top "runway photographers" his lifelong study of photography has given him the ability to take on all kinds of photo assignments. From shooting such fashion icons as Elsa Klensch to photographing Skylines for CNN. If you ever watch "Larry King Live" on CNN when the show airs from New York City, the background photos are Randy's.


Photo: Randy Brooke

"Fashion is somewhat seasonal and chaotic. So after finishing a season of fashion and shows, I really enjoy shooting interiors and other still lifes... inanimate objects seldom give attitude."

But don't let Randy kid you, he loves shooting runway. He has made it as much a science as an art. In some ways shooting runway sounds easy. After all, if the most beautiful models in the world walk down a runway, dressed by the world's greatest designers, made up by the best makeup artists, hair perfectly styled, under 100,000 watts of balanced light, and pose - you would think that there is little more required from a photographer than aiming the camera in the right direction and pressing the shutter button. Well, getting the right spot, shooting at the precise moment, and at the best angle is the art and science of runway photography.

Runway photography has changed a great deal in the last fifteen years. When Randy first started shooting runway in 1980, most New York shows took place in the designer's showroom. A hundred or so members of the press and buyers were invited to an average show, and no more that a dozen photographers. The photographers were given seats on the runway with their names on them just like the editors and buyers were. On-camera flash and daylight slide film was the only way to shoot, and the Nikon FM2 with a 50 -135 zoom, a Vivitar 283 side mounted flash was the mark of a professional runway photographer.

Starting in the early 1990's, today's top shows now have upwards of 500 photographers and video crews all fighting for positions at the front of the runway - reserved at times with their names written on little pieces of tape stuck to the floor. This massive migration of photographers from the side of the runway to the front pit, fueled on by the editors' desire for a new style of runway photography using available light exposures, was greatly accelerated by the introduction of professional autofocus cameras led by Canon.

"Runway is not brain surgery. But it does take real skill to shoot a model from the side of a runway as she passes by with a manual focusing camera. But from the front pit, with an autofocus camera and either a Canon 200mm. 1.8L (at $5000) or the 70-200mm. 2.8L zoom, any mediocre news photographer can be confident of getting at least decent images."

But capturing the defining moment, and knowing when the moment presents itself, is what distinguishes a top runway photographer. Movement, composition, and capturing peak action, combined with the photographer's knowledge of where the best position is, marks a true professional.

"During fashion week, shows are from morning to night, and arriving early to the next show can help assure a good spot to shoot from. Three of the most important things in shooting runway are Location... Location... Location!" A professional runway photographer can shoot from many positions, but only a few positions incorporate the current style of runway photography."

However, the greatest advantage the top runway photographers like Randy have is the relationships they have formed with each other through shared experiences. These relationships, developed over time, can sometimes make the difference between getting great pictures as opposed to only good ones. They can ask each other for help in making just a little more room for another camera position when one of them arrive late at a show; or when their camera malfunctions and they need another camera body to shoot with; or when they run low on film and can't reach their bag.

This is the "professionals" final edge that makes Randy, Michele, Maria, Joe, Dan and a few others more than just good runway photographers but great ones. You cannot buy this advantage ...it has to be earned.

(Randy Brooke's photo credits include: USA Today, Newsweek, Sigma, Palm Beach Post, Vanity Fair, Paula, New York Magazine, Chicago Sun-Times, LA Style, Lookonline, Paper Magazine, Esquire Japan, San Franciso Examiner, Essence, and Donna Karan.)

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