Photographer Leonard Greco talks us through his portraits

1 June 2015

“Taking the leap of faith and committing to your craft is insane,” says photographer Leonard Greco. “Get ready for major self-doubt and anxiety, but when you get a job or execute something to your full potential, it’s the most empowering feeling.” Words of wisdom from the lensman whose work for ’SUP magazine and portraits of Parisian troubadour Sébastien Tellier we’ve featured before.

Leonard’s work runs the gamut from portraits to still-life to fashion photography, but the common thread in all three is their artful subtlety. He’s put the time in too. After studying photography in Boston, he moved to New York where he managed photographer Todd Selby’s studio before spending a few years knee-deep in the Condé Nast archives. “That place is pretty wild,” he tells me. “There are original negatives in there from all of the masters, the first colour negatives and even the printing plates from the first New Yorker cover. My favourite images were a series of Jack Nicholson in Cannes in the late 60s. He’s lounging by the pool and owning cool in a way that’s probably extinct now.”

Whether it’s the Arctic Monkeys or two college friends, the softness of Leonard’s portraits in particular caught my eye. But he tells me there is a difference between personal and commissioned work. “It takes a lot of guts to make art,” he says. “Shooting stuff for hire almost becomes objective with guidelines and understanding. When I’m shooting personal stuff though, I’m totally anxious and full of self-doubt.”

Looking through his portfolio you’ll be hard-pressed to see any such doubt. Leonard has shot for a string of independent magazines including Anthem in its former print days, The Travel Almanac and Nylon, and worked with Levi’s. But it’s only now that he’s set to take a more personal turn. “My new goal is getting back into exhibiting my personal work and putting together some small publications. My first show is next month at this small gallery called Mingo in Beverly.” We’re confident his “leap of faith” will see him land on both feet.

Here, Leonard talks us through some great portraits reaching back to his student days:


This is the first project I really immersed myself into while I was still in college (well over ten years ago now). I focused on my friends Ian and Casey. I’m actually going to make a book of this series soon and try to get exhibited. It’s long overdue and every time I look at these images they still hold up.


Leonard Greco: Ian and Casey


This is one of my first portraits years ago for Anthem Magazine I did with John Tan. I was so nervous and wish I could shoot Boyd again now. He’s big these days, I keep seeing him in movies.


Leonard Greco: Boyd Holbrook


I shot this for an editorial about hiking that never ran due to differences in layout ideas. I’d say that the first five years of getting work published was almost all done for free. If you’re shooting a story for free and it’s going to be laid out with your name on it, you should totally fight so that you’re happy with how its sequenced and designed. It’s tough to navigate differences of opinions and not sound like an asshole but hopefully people respect you for caring about how your work is presented.


Leonard Greco: Dave


This is a picture of Hugh’s tattoo I shot for The Travel Almanac. Hugh was great to work with and I got some great pictures because he respected me and let me do my thing. Portrait photography is a weird thing. A lot of clients all just want the same picture: the subject in an environment that reflects their identity or career that is aesthetically pleasing but informative. If a subject is open to letting you experiment, then you need to push it as far as you can.


Leonard Greco: Hugh Scott-Douglas


This is a portrait I shot of my friend Patrick from North Americans while I was in LA last year. He makes great music and has a label with our other friend Joel called Driftless. I shot the cover of their first release Dominae by Ejecta and was later inspired to shoot Patrick while I was in LA. 


Leonard Greco: North Americans


I was on a life-changing adventure with my friend Jay Carroll. We had been in Marfa in Texas for a few days shooting videos for Levi’s and ended up at the St. Cecilia in Austin. We stayed in a different lavish room every night and wore kimonos. Zach is a childhood friend of Jay’s and showed up with his wife to hang out and have dinner. There’s an even better picture somewhere of us all wearing that same kimono. 


Leonard Greco: Zach

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Alexander Hawkins

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