Widely regarded as one of the most important figures in contemporary photography today, Timothy White is truly a legend in the making. One of the world’s most highly sought-after celebrity photographers, Timothy is the photographer of choice for the highest echelon of Hollywood and international celebrities. He has shot some of the most memorable covers for publications such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, Esquire, and Rolling Stone, some of the most iconic movie posters today for Hollywood studios, and an expansive roster of musicians.
I met Timothy through a friend at his gallery, the Morrison Gallery at Sunset Marquis. The moment I walked into the gallery, I was stunned by his body of work. From shooting some of Jay Z’s earliest pictures to a shot of Elizabeth Taylor flicking off the camera, his work is inspiring and divine. As a photographer myself, it was such an honor to shoot him and tell his story.
Tell us about your upbringing. Where are you from?
I’m from New Jersey, just across the bridge from NYC. The city was my backyard and I had a fun, independent childhood. I then went to the Rhode Island School of Design where I studied photography before moving into NYC and beginning my career.
How did you find your passion?
Growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I was always looking for an alternative lifestyle and career. That period was all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and music and photography seemed like the right fit for me.
What is your creative process?
I’m always open to the experience and try to limit my expectations. I walk into situations and react to the mood of the subject, the clothes, the setting, and the light that is in front of me.
How do you connect with your subjects?
I know a little bit about a lot of things, and try to somehow find something that I can connect with my subject about. I react to things I see and try to find something in conversation that will connect us and distract my subject from the process.
How did you find your niche in photography?
I am a people person and know that I have the ability to put people at ease and create a trusting environment. When I realized that the camera allowed me to use my personality to capture a version of others, I found something that fit me perfectly with comfort and ease.
What was your first big break?
After graduating college I opened up a studio in NYC and tried to do anything to make a living. I started taking portraits of people in the city and as I traveled around the world. I brought some of that work to Rolling Stone Magazine who gave me my first big break.
How would you describe your style? What are you known for?
I think my style is more reactionary. I show up and find things in any particular landscape that interests me. Whether it be a background, a texture, a vehicle or prop of some kind and compose a picture with those elements. I also use whatever it takes in lighting that inspires me, whether it be ambient, daylight or a artificial source…from car headlights or a flashlight…I use whatever moves me to create a picture.
Do you have any advice to aspiring photographers?
My advice would be to shoot what interests you and what is present in your life. If you use the elements that are around you and that stimulate you… and you consistently look at it through a lens (both literally and figuratively), you will find something that moves you and will become a complete vision.
How do you achieve higher consciousness?
I focus on consistency in the work I do on my mind, body, and spirit. The power I get from those daily practices give me a sense of well-being, strength, and calm.
Why is gratitude so important?
Gratitude is the reminder of how small we really are. If we really look at others and all that is around us, you can’t help but be grateful for all that we have.
One’s reality is achieved through the thoughts one believes in their head. How do you take a thought and manifest it into your dreams?
I was taught by my parents that I could have anything I wanted as long as I was willing to work hard at it. I believe that is the definition of manifestation. Whatever it is, believe in yourself and work hard until you accomplish your dreams and visions.
Everyone has a past…sometimes, it can be quite dark. How would you suggest letting go of your past so that you can achieve great results for the future?
Focus on the present. Be in the moment as best you can be, but keep looking forward. How would you recommend anybody to take their career to the next level?
Never stop believing that you can achieve whatever you have in your sight. Keep working and working until you find what you’re looking for.
Who inspires you?
People who are honest with themselves.
What projects are you working on now?
I currently working on the the marketing and creative advertising for my gallery, the unearthing of my extensive archive, and always looking for new creative outlets. …and taking pictures of course!
What is your dream project?
A dream project is something that allows me to find excitement in what I’m doing, and somehow feeling like I’m bringing something special to others.
What does beauty mean to you?
Of course the answer to what is beauty is that beauty is from within. I love finding the things in life and in people that are beautiful that allow me to focus on how fascinating and wondrous life is and how it all consumes me emotionally.
How would you describe success?
Success is finding peace in your life. Whether from career, relationships, family…the sense of just being and content with the process and belief in all that surrounds you.
What has been your greatest struggle?
Honestly, my greatest struggle has been in the search for finding out who I am. Always looking for the best version of my life and to try to find as many answers as I can, while still knowing that I may never know.
Where can we find you?
I can be found with my face in a book, sharing time with my loved ones, and lost in thought. Visit his official website.
Iconic Images by Timothy White below: