Nancy McCrary talks with photographer Bill Curry about what his history with photography, the fashion world, going from the front of the camera to the behind it, and Brazilian jiu jitsu – all in one sitting!
Be sure to check out the details of his upcoming photo and wellness workshop with Laurie Pettigrew after the interview.
Nancy McCrary: Good morning, Bill, and thank you for taking the time to talk with us today about your 20+ year photography career and the upcoming photography + wellness retreat.
You began your career in photography in front of the lens. How did that all begin, and how did it contribute to your interest in being behind the lens?
Bill Curry: I got to New York City on opening night of Studio 54, when the high fashion business was small and elite. Trying to build a portfolio as a model in those days was rather daunting.
Going around to Zoli, Wilhelmina, and Ford – the three top agencies there then – I had been turned down twice by each. After the third time at Wili I got in the elevator to go back to Ohio and work at a cement factory crushing stones. The agency was on the 12th floor and when the elevator got to 7 Wilhelmina herself walked on and said,”are you new with our agency?”. I told her I was turned down. “Really?” She took me back up stairs and signed me. A month later I was in LA to see her on the Johnny Carson show with Patti Hansen, then Vogue superstar and later Mrs. Keith Richards. Wili then took me to Paris to meet another agent and for the next year I lived in Milan and Paris doing Valentino, Armani, and Versace campaigns – lots of editorial, fashion, and runway shows. Over the next twenty years I worked with some of the great photographers of the world including Avedon, Penn, Bruce Weber, Aldo Fallai, Jean Pagliuso, Patrick DeMarchelier, Steven Miesel, and so many more. There were trips to Morrocco, Thailand, Bora Bora, Brazil, Peru, Jamaica, Australia, Senegal, Capetown. It was a World Tour for ten years straight. I bought a Canon AE1 in 1979 and would always immerse myself in the local culture after a photo shoot taking photographs. I learned so much by being in front of the camera about light, composition, locations, production, and having to craft a photograph – not just take one – as well a becoming adept at a photo-journalistic approach. National Geographic and its magnificent photographs was my bible and inspirational motivation.
NM: An impressive roster of photographers photographed you for fashion magazines and advertisements over a number of years. What traits did you adapt from watching them work? Is there a photographer whose practice you admire in a more specific way than others?
BC: For me, the French Mob as they were called in the 70s and 80s were instrumental in opening up ON LOCATION travel fashion photography. Arthur Elgort, Patrick Demarchelier, Uli Rose, Alex Chatlelain, Jon Stember were the pioneers who took photography from the studio and shooting on 8×10 cameras to shooting with Canon and Nikon 35mm like the wartime photo-journalist had done in Vietnam – applying it to beautiful women and exotic locations. It changed advertising, marketing, and editorial forever. Aldo Fallai from Florence Italy taught me you can shoot in mid-day in harsh overhead sun, strong back light, creamy shadow light, or golden hour – as long as there is light you can make great photos. He did it with film. Now we have digital with much more lattitude. That entire generation of photographers were technical masters. Peter Beard, Peter Lindbergh, Ellen Von Unwerth, Arthur Elgort are still my favorites. They took an organic approach to capturing a moment in time and space that was captivating, authentic and original. I believe Henri Cartier-Bresson was a master of the moment who was technically four steps around the spontaneous moment in front of him. He had a huge influence on me as well.
NM: Your personal work chronicles 20 years of Mixed Martial Arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. How did you become interested in photographing these arts and what has it meant to you?
BC: In 1994 I went to UFC 2 and met the Gracie Family who already had a forty year martial dynasty in Brazil. I took a seminar with Rickson Gracie, Royce Gracie and eventually began my training with Renzo Gracie in NYC. I had inside access to the Gracies, the under-the-radar, no rules fights going on in Atlanta and took photos. Then I was asked to write and photograph for Grappling Magazine. I was cage side and back behind the scenes at UFC, King of the Cage, Cage Rage, Affliction, Elite XC. World Extreme Fighting and went to Abu Dhabi for the ADDC grappling tournament sponsored by the Crown Prince Tahoon and Renzo Gracie. I met all the greats in those days, learned Jiu Jitsu from the best in the world, and had unlimited access the fledgling and, at that time, controversial sport of MMA.
I have been fortunate to have learned, by necessity, aspects of landscape, fashion, interior, food, wedding, environmental portraiture, photo journalism, travel, and resort photography. Hoping to share ON LOCATION approach to people, places, and aligning oneself with the present photographic moment.
NM: This workshop looks amazing, and I love combining health and wellbeing with photography. How long have you and Laurie been working together on these adventures? And what’s next for the two of you?
BC: This workshop in California will be our first together. We had scheduled it in Nicaragua and because of some political developments Laurie wisely moved it to her beautiful part of the country. I work as a Cranio Sacral therapist in Taos NM, and go the Maldives as a visiting practitoner at Six Senses Spa and Resorts. Wellness and Holistic Health are very much at the fore front of my life. An opportunity to combine my two passions in a destination workshop was intriguing to me. To see through the lens and with the heart..
Bill Curry began carrying a Canon AE-1 camera in 1979 on his first trip to Europe, and since then has taken photos all over the world, both in front of and behind the camera. As a fashion model he has worked with photography greats Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber, Victor Skrebneski, Francesco Scavullo, Aldo Fallai, Arthur Elgort, Pamela Hansen, Barbara Bordnick Steven Meisel, Jean Pagliuso and Patrick DeMarchelier, to name but a few.
On location shoots in Morocco, Greece, Borneo, Iceland, Italy, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tasmania, Peru and Mexico he learned to “see the light” that makes a great photograph. His belief in the preference of discovery over invention has molded his style. He never missed an opportunity to stay in a country after a fashion shoot to photograph the local people and their culture. He became adept at the “spontaneous” photo portrait and developed a photojournalistic approach to photography.
Having been the subject of editorial photos featured in Gentlemen’s Quarterly, Vogue, Men’s Journal, L’ummo Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Italian Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Glamour magazines, as well as advertising campaigns for Armani, Valentino, YSL Hickey Freeman, Eddie Bauer and Country Road, he learned the production side of the business, organizational skills, communication with art directors and clients and selecting the proper team for the job are important before and during a commercial photo shoot. He is a strong believer in the relationship between the photographer and the subject as being the real secret behind great photographers. The ability to establish a strong rapport with the subject is paramount to successful.
The master photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “ One has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. It is putting ones heads, ones eye, and ones heart on the same axis.” Bill Curry strives to fulfill these words in deed and in his photographic journey.
Bill welcomes both domestic and international assignments. He currently maintains a residence on the east and west coast of the United States.
AN ADVENTURE DESTINATION
PHOTOGRAPHY & WELLNESS RETREAT
Quinta Refugio Estate
Wine Country, Santa Barbara, CA
$300 discount when you mention South x Southeast!
Bill’s Workshop and Everything It Entails
Visit the American Indian Chumash
Hike through the rolling hills of Santa Ynez
Explore the rock formations on the Pacific Coast, its blue waters and waves. Picnic and swim in the Pacific Ocean.
Spend a day and evening in the historic quaint towns of Santa Ynez and the City of Santa Barbara, with its lights, markets, music, local people, and Spanish missions.
Travel the countryside as we go horseback riding through the wine country, and take advantage of the many photo opportunities along the way.
Excursions to wineries
Each day we will download your 10 best photos. Bill will select your week’s top edits for presentation to be shared at our closing evening gathering.
Wellness & Wellbeing
Feast on a delicious menu of healthy California Cuisine with local farm-to-shed ingredients sourced and created by Kurorte Retreat’s Chef Vicki Weatherly. The delicious cuisine is designed to promote optimal health and to speed up your metabolism.
Tone-up with Kurorte’s signature “In Your Body” fitness program of yoga, aquatic exercise, horseback riding, hiking and jujitsu.
Wind-down with a CranioSacrel session with Bill who is a nationally board certified licensed practitioner. This modality reduces stress and creates clarity and enhances the body’s own healing capabilities. (if you would like to add sessions, they are available for an additional charge.)
Relax with a soothing therapeutic massage session by our licensed massage therapist – a true healer. (Additional sessions are available for an extra fee.)
Sip on our refreshing signature healing green smoothie, tamarind drinks, and tinctures throughout the day. Your skin will glow!
Bring home your Kurorte’s signature “In Your Body” nutrition and fitness plan