Why you should care
Ever wanted to snap a picture with a famous person? Michael Lewis has made a career out of it.
Why get an autograph when you can get a professionally shot photograph with a famous person? A photograph shot by yourself, kind of. Ellen DeGeneres may have snapped the most retweeted celebrity selfie at Sunday’s Oscars, but she’s not the first to make the most of a golden opportunity.
Michael Lewis is an L.A.-based professional photographer who often shoots celebrity profiles for magazines. However, it’s the photos that he takes for himself that caught OZY’s attention. Lewis has a collection of pictures of the rich and famous with him IN the shot. Call it a photobomb, call it a selfie, call it something else, but the results can be pretty hilarious.
He’s photographed himself (with the help of an assistant pressing the button) with the likes of Eva Mendes, Tom Hanks, Tina Fey and many, many more.
He started taking these pictures at the end of his photo shoots, after a suggestion from his assistant to jump into the frame with David Hasselhoff. “It seemed like I should be getting some sort of souvenir,” says Lewis. ”Who needs the guy’s signature when I can get a picture with him. It’s my picture with me in it.”
This has now been extended to all his shoots, not just those with celebrities. In the beginning, Lewis wouldn’t warn them; he would just walk into the frame and take the picture before they knew what was happening. Now, he tells them this is something he does at every shoot: “I’m not really asking them. If you don’t ask, they can’t say no.”
Lewis understands the photos aren’t “selfies” in the strictest sense of the word.
Lewis says getting the right shot for the professional job he is hired for takes precedence, and sometimes he doesn’t have enough time for the souvenir picture. But when he does take them, he says the actors have never shown him resistance. Some actors, like Eva Mendes or Tom Hanks, actually like the idea of the fun shot. Lewis says Mendes insisted on it when the crew started packing up before they had taken it.
Still, the photographer says he’s very self-conscious about the pictures, so he tries to get in and get out in less than a minute. “I always feel like I’m pissing the person off a little bit,” he admits.
One would never notice Lewis’ trepidation from looking at his body of work, where he lies passed out next to Jack Black or looks mischievous alongside Melissa McCarthy. He says that in the age of Photoshop, he needs to make sure people realize he isn’t editing himself into the photo in post-production. Besides, he says, the photographs are much more effective when he is integrated into the scene, like the picture with McCarthy’s arm around him.
When his celebrity self-portraits get attention, Lewis says he feels weird. ”These were never supposed to be my work,” he says. ”If I had a book done, I never thought it would be this.”
Hopefully not so weird that he’ll stop the perfectly posed pseudo-photobombs. Can’t you see the potential for a humorous coffee table book? It’s like it’s written in the stars.