The last time I worked with Bert Stern

by JamesNYCJune 27. 2013 02:04

When I moved to NYC. in 1994 Bert Stern was on my list of the top 20 photographers I wanted to work with.
I had the privilege of working with Bert Stern a few times with my friend and Bert's long time first assistant Carl Sulit.
The last time we worked together was an Advertising Shoot for REEBOK - Classic photographing Samuel L. Jackson just days after the release of the Quentin Tarantino film: 'Jacky Brown'.

We shot in Studios #4 & #5 at at Pier 59 Studios in NYC.; just a little over kill for a simple 1 person day light shoot. But the Client and the Ad agency thought it a good idea to rent the whole 5100 SQFT so that they could bring staff and have a party and see a "Movie Star".  There were about 40 people sitting in the back of the studio with champagne flowing and catering for close to 50.

Those that knew Bert Stern know that this type of circus atmosphere did not go over well, and he kept himself well away from the fray and had his rep. act as the go between when questions arose.

Bert's setup was simple as it always was. Hasselblad camera and a couple of lenses, 120 black and white and color transparency film, and 6 film backs, and strobes on hand in case the daylight when down.
By the time Samuel L. Jackson showed up and he was changed into the clothes and shoes for the shoot, the circus in the back had gotten pretty well out of hand and were talking so loud that Samuel L. Jackson couldn't Hear Bert's direction even though they were standing only 12 feet apart. At which point Samuel L. Jackson started getting pissed off and told the people in the back of the studio to: "Shut the fuck up!" which produced a moment of glee because they had been cursed out by Samuel L. Jackson. " Go figure"
This only pissed of Samuel L. Jackson more and and a few frames later he asked Bert how many more images he needed to take.
Moments later Samuel L. Jackson said he was done thanked Bert Stern, called for his PR person and left the studio.
We managed to shoot 8 rolls of film during that short time and not long after Samuel L. Jackson had left, and after making the requisite goodbyes Bert also left; rather than hanging around with what had now evolved into the cast of a Fellini film.
I went on to work with others whom I'd moved to NYC. to work with, and my friend Carl had continued to work with Bert. Recently they had been scheduled to work together again for a Loreal shoot in June, but that shoot was changed to August due to Bert's recent illness.

Bert Stern died on Wednesday June 24 at his home in Manhattan at the age of 83.
He is survived by two daughters, Trista and Susannah; a son, Bret; a sister, Diane Schlanger; and three grandchildren.
His death was announced by Shannah Laumeister, a longtime friend, who said she and Bert had been secretly married in Las Vegas in 2009.
Which many people found rather strange when you consider the well known fact that Bert Stern hated Las Vegas.
Shannah Laumeister is also the director of the recent documentary:   “Bert Stern: The Original Madman






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Comments (3) -

Scott Heist
Scott Heist
7/17/2013 7:32:46 AM #

Pretty much my expereince with agency/celeb shoots. In leiu of communication it was an aurguement on how to get the job done while dealing with the expense etc of creatng "an experince" for a crew that was oblivious that they actually had a job. The fee became  directly related to the was internal creation of that expereince.

Most of this crew, really didn't need teir jobs. So it was scary for those of us that did.

Aprovals became subjective to the internal agency politic and the ultimate person to whom we were to commuicate disappeared.  

Hasn't been helpful socially or economically.

Howard Koby
Howard Koby
7/18/2013 6:17:04 PM #

I graduated Art Center College of Design (1968) in Los Angeles and a year or so later they held an almumni photo competition in which Bert Stern was judge. I always admired Stern's work and wanted to work for him after graduation but due to getting drafted in the US Army and other circumstances I wound up starting my own studio in LA specializing in advertising and travel photography. From a fashion shoot I entered the photo competition and was honored with first place in advertisiing judged by Mr. Stern. I'm sorry I never had the honor of meetin him and send my condolences to the family. The picture is timless and I entered it again about ten years ago in a contest called Incredible Eyes and again it won first place and was published in a book entitled Incredible Eyes. I use the photo to this day as the lead image on my website -

7/27/2013 6:44:47 PM #

Thank you, James, for the great article.  I understand.  I also had a chance to work with and know a master on the West Coast, Peter Gowland.  They will always will be remembered.

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