Roxanne Lowit is a quiet speaker. Even with the microphone, her voice barely carries over the rows of the filled theater at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem. But this is not lost on her, and she does not see it as a shortcoming. Instead, her photos do her speaking for her; as she says, “hopefully my photos speak really loudly.”
And they do. She told the audience that everybody looks wonderful at night, and that may be true, but what is instantly apparent is that everybody in her photography looks wonderful. The presentation began with a video montage of her process. She leaves her studio late at night to go to a party at a club. The partygoers are dressed artistically – everyone is in their best makeup, and their clothing often shows a great amount of imagination (even if sometimes it leaves very little to the imagination). She takes photos throughout the night. Sometimes they are staged, sometimes not, but as Roxanne says, it’s truly about being in the right place at the right time.
Roxanne works hard to make her photos special. The moment she captures has to mean something on film: it has to have validity, a reason for being, and she looks for these moments as she reviews the photos in her studio. A video showed her perusing her work with her assistant, explaining that a good photo is one that will draw people in.
After the video, Roxanne played several slideshows of different categories of work she has done in her career. She is most famous for her work backstage at fashion shows, capturing the essence of the crazy world of high fashion and style. As she clicked through her beautiful images, she gave the audience a bit of her history. Before the tradition of glamorous supermodels in big venues, these shows were done in the designer’s showroom. Roxanne would go backstage at these shows to take pictures because she knew she couldn’t get in the front. Annie Flanders of the Soho news spotted these pictures, and told Roxanne to buy a real camera and go to Paris. From there, Roxanne never looked back because she knew she had found what she loved.
Her approach to capturing moments backstage is to be quick and go with the flow. She explains that sometimes you only have time for one click, so you have to make it count, and when nothing is happening, make something happen.
John Galliano, Carla Bruni, Kate Moss (an admitted favorite of Roxanne’s), Naomi Campbell – they all make frequent appearances in her backstage work. But her repertoire extends far beyond fashion. She has done ad campaigns for Smirnoff, Kate Spade, and Diet Coke, always ensuring that the models look like they’re having fun and avoiding an overly posed image.
She has also photographed a lot of celebrities, such as Salvador Dali, Steven Tyler, Ray Charles, and Madonna, capturing them at moments that seem exceptionally human. But my favorite photographic endeavor is her Dior Backstage book, showcasing clothing and makeup that goes above and beyond a typical fashion show, turning models into walking pieces of art.
It may seem like a dream job, but Roxanne Lowit works hard, sneaking into shows and photographing all hours of the night to come up with the best images. At the close of the presentation, an audience member asked if she allows people to observe while she works. Her answer perfectly encompasses everything she does: “You can observe – but can you keep up day and night?”