Vanity Fair. Vogue. GQ. Newsweek. Christian Dior.
These iconic publications and companies are just a few of the clients Endicott College alumna Stephanie Pfriender Stylander ’80 has in her portfolio. And the list of celebrities she’s captured with her lens for her transcendent shots is equally as awe-inspiring—Kate Moss, Keith Richards, and Lenny Kravitz, among many others.
"Keith was very cool, the definition of cool. I created a set in the studio that echoed a stage set, all black, hot lights, ashtrays, drinks, light stands, and ashes. And away we went."
Stephanie Pfriender Stylander '80
Pfriender Stylander’s passion for art began as a young girl, and the rock-and-roll fan’s passion grew from there. She remembers seeing The Kinks perform as a 14-year-old, which turned out to be a life-changing event for her. The older girls from the high school were shooting photos for their yearbook, and Pfriender Stylander was entranced by the cameras they were holding. “I wanted immediately to understand what all the numbers and dials meant and did,” she says. “The next day I followed them into the darkroom and I fell in love with the medium.”
She went on to hone her skills at Endicott, where she studied photography and graduated with an Associate in Science with honors. She lived in Bullock Hall, which also housed the photography department—offices, studios, and the darkroom. “My life revolved around learning about photography,” she recalls. “I was very motivated and therefore got a lot out of my Endicott experience.”
Her career experiences have brought her around the globe, and she recently compiled some of her most iconic shots for her first monograph, The Untamed Eye. “The reception of my book has been wonderful—it quickly sold out,” she says. “Publishing this book has introduced my work to fine art galleries worldwide and the fine art market of selling photographs to collectors.”
With that, let’s take a look at the stories and lessons behind some of Pfriender Stylander’s most famous work.
Kate Moss, “Seek,” 1992, Harper's Bazaar Uomo, New York City
In 1992, Kate Moss was completely unknown at the time I chose her for my editorial magazine story. I was living in Paris, and Alessandro Calascibetta, the fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaars Uomo magazine, asked me to shoot a love story of a young couple on the streets of New York City. My inspiration for this story came from the great French film director, Jean-Luc Godard. In many of his films his muse was Anna Karina, whose acting and face I loved. She was beautiful in an unusual way, with wit and charm. I flew back home and went to see my favorite model agent, telling her that I was looking for someone who was different, more like an actress, unknown and unusual. She had just gotten several faxes, with pictures of this girl from London: “young, very petite, quirky, but something about her I think you will like.” I knew immediately Kate was the right person for my story. This series of Kate has become important within the history of fashion photography. This spring, Christian Roth, the eyewear designer of the black glasses that Kate wears in my pictures, just reissued the iconic frames with my images of Kate from the 1992 shoot in a worldwide campaign. It was fantastic to collaborate on this project after all these years.
Lesson: Follow your instinct. Everyone said, “Who is she? Are you sure? You could get this famous model, etc.," but I knew she had something special and unusual, which is what I wanted.
Dolce Vita, “Dolce Vita,” 1993, British GQ, Rome
Beautiful Rome, beautiful couple, and a cinematic fashion editorial story for the magazine. The story was influenced by the great Italian film director, Federico Fellini, and his film, Dolce Vita. My crew and I went all over Rome creating many pictures after we location-scouted and decided on where to go. This picture was created by surprise. One night we all went out to dinner after the shoot, and we stumbled upon this restaurant, Dolce Vita (Sweet Life). I turned to the fashion editor and she turned to me and we said we have to make a picture here. So the assistants and makeup and hair artists went back to the hotel with the models to style them and do the makeup and hair—my assistant to get the cameras and the lights. Back they come and boom we did this picture. I love the spontaneity; I love the expressions, the attitude, and the wink to Italian cinema and beauty.
Lesson: Be spontaneous. Don’t be so rigid that you can’t see anything else. Hopefully you will work with a good client who feels the same way.
Keith Richards, “The Third Eye,” 1993, British GQ, New York City
Keith was very cool, the definition of cool. I created a set in the studio that echoed a stage set, all black, hot lights, ashtrays, drinks, light stands, and ashes. And away we went. My cinematic approach and his natural movement with music, smoke, and talk created this very beautiful vibe. This image was created with a macro lens, so I was very, very close. When I saw that smoke ring land on his forehead, I knew this was THE image from the shoot and also, in the world of images, a famous portrait.
Lesson: Not to be overwhelmed. This shoot was early in my career, and he was a very famous person. Of course I was nervous, but I had a plan. I knew how I wanted to photograph him, so I kept my creative boundaries around me and didn’t get thrown off by fame. I think it is important to know what you want to do when you photograph a star. They are used to scripts of word and—in this case— music. Sometimes it doesn’t work or something else happens, but you always should know what you want your picture to say even if the way you get there is a different road map.
Photos via Stephanie Pfriender Stylander.