Firooz Zahedi

8. FZ

Firooz Zahedi has spent the majority of his life capturing arresting images. His body of work runs the gamut from portraits of personalities including Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, and Angelina Jolie. He has covered everything from advertising campaigns, print media and album covers, to fine art photography and collages. Born in Tehran, Iran, Zahedi grew up in London before moving to the United States. He interrupted a brief career in diplomacy when he enrolled in the Corcoran School to pursue his love of visual arts.

After graduation, Zohedi met Andy Warhol, arguably the single biggest cultural influencer of the time. This led to a position as Washington correspondent for Interview magazine. He eventually moved to Los Angeles to be Elizabeth Taylor’s personal photographer on the set of Return Engagement. By 1988, Firooz was shooting iconic cover images for magazines including Vanity Fair, TIME and Vogue. In 1998, Zahedi started shooting images of interiors, architecture, and flowers. Over the course of his career, he has enjoyed many prestigious group and solo gallery exhibitions. He will be publishing a book, My Elizabeth: 35 Years of Photographs of Elizabeth Taylor, this winter.

Can you tell us about your meeting with Andy Warhol?

I met Andy through my friend Nima Isham, who was a journalist. Andy loved publicity, and Nima was always writing about his social activities in her column in the New York Post. I thought he would be very weird like his early sixties image, which was quite psychedelic, but in fact he was fairly conservative, dressed in a jacket, shirt and tie, and he loved to make money! We got on well, and I helped promote him in Washington, DC, where I was living at the time (in the mid 1970s). He made me the correspondent of Interview magazine in Washington. I started as a photographer by shooting for that magazine.

What makes a particular celebrity a good photographic subject?

My favorite person to photograph was Elizabeth Taylor. She was a dear friend and we laughed a lot. I never felt I had to prove anything to her. She gave me my earliest major break, and was always supportive and made me her personal photographer and I went all over the place with her. It was very special. I have worked with many talented and beautiful (and handsome) celebrities, and most of the time, they have been great to work with. If they respect and like your work and are cooperative, celebrities will give you a great photo. If they can’t trust you and feel insecure, then the portrait becomes so-so.

What are your thoughts on photography as an art and as an industry?

Anyone with an iPhone can be called a photographer. Photography has become so conceptual. Fine art photography doesn’t necessarily mean the artist is a great photographer, in the sense that he/she knows anything about lighting, and composition. Fine art photographers, as opposed to more commercial photographers, need someone, be it themselves, a gallery owner, a curator etc. to explain the meaning of their creation. Commercial photography is pleasing to the eye, and easier to digest. But for the last twenty years or more, people have been seriously collecting photographs, and have moved on from collecting the classics by earlier photographers to collecting more conceptual photographs, which are digitally shot and produced. I have had several exhibitions of my [digitally shot] abstract photos, and I enjoyed the results, but I continue to have prints made from images I shot on film. You can’t fight the digital takeover, but I still collect beautiful platinum or silver gelatin prints. It’s great that photography has become so prominent in the art market. Why not? It is an art, and it will continue to evolve and become more dynamic.

8. Hand Signals-Firooz Zahedi

Text by Karena Akhavein
Photograph by Darian Zahedi