Updated: Apr 21, 2022
Think again to all those who say that photography can't go beyond a hobby. Some see the dream and attack it, and some cringe at the fear of defeat.
The gentleman featured in this story has proved that photography can be a long and lucrative career choice.
I recently got a chance to talk to a legend in the game whose career spans 60 years. He is the son of a famous film star. He has captured some of entertainment's most prominent figures during his tenure, including Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Robin Givens, Janet Jackson, and many others. The man behind the honored lens I'm talking about is none other than the legendary Harry Langon Jr. Mr. Langdon was nice enough to take the time to answer a few questions about his journey as a photographer detailing his upbringing, perspectives, and experiences. So without further adieu, let's see what this talented professional has to say. DMD: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Can you give some insight into your upbringing? HL: I was born “with a Silver Spoon “ in my mouth. But that all was deleted when my father unexpectedly died when I was ten. Yes, it was sad for my mother and myself, no more having fun with a famous father who was a comedy movie star. I thought I was going to have it very easy as a kid. But no, he did not leave us with very much money. But, looking back now he did leave me with a “Creative Gene”.
I was a social retard so to speak and was always working on taking pictures. My mom enrolled me in a ballroom dancing course so I would meet girls and find my own personality. I was considered bashful.
DMD: Was photography always something you wanted to do? If not, what led you to it? HL: To occupy my early youth, I loved to draw and paint, then I discovered drafting and pen and ink medium. Also, I had a Chemistry set. I think that is why I enjoyed processing Black and White photography. That began to evolve as one of my hobbies as a young teen after my mother got a darkroom kit for me to experiment with. Cameras in those days used 120 film and could be developed yourself in a red safelight room.
Being Creative was my motivation even as a 15-year-old, Public school seemed too restrictive and I dropped out at 15 to begin working as a Carpenter apprentice. I went on at 19 to be a Journeyman. This was a good-paying job which would help pay for my aspiring photography hobby.
I was showing promise and my Mother got me another job as a photo assistant to a portrait master who used a large 8X10 format camera. He taught me old-school portrait lighting. Now I was able to acquire a gift for working with people at an advanced level. This photographer developed all his own photos and taught me Black and white darkroom skills.
I eventually got a job running a photo lab in Beverly Hills processing other people’s photos in Black and White and color. Many were fashion photographers and I was able to see what they were doing in professional fashion photography.
After a few years, I was able to reach beyond what the East Coast photographers were doing and develop my own style. DMD: Your style has a very unique look to it; how would you describe it? HL: Shooting in color was a big step for me. I was able to incorporate the use of color to give another dimension to my photography. The days I spent in Art School learning about the use of colors to make a visual Statement also provided an added benefit.
I also could use my carpentry skills to build sets which I could design. This was giving my photos an edge to them to begin creating my own style. My years spent with the portrait photographer gave me an ability to enhance my clients features and diminish their faults.
DMD: Are there any influential people that helped shape your style? If so, can you share? HL: After work, I would buy magazines where the top photographers had their work. George Hurrell, Victor Screbnesky, Francesco Scavullo, Richard Avedon, and Bert Stern were very popular at that time. I would also study their lighting and how they posed their models. If you look at the eye in a photo, one can see the lights that were being used.
DMD: With such an impressive list of clientele, I’m sure you have tons of memories. Which would you consider to be the most memorable? HL: My complex sessions with CHER, Donna Summer, President Ronald Reagan, Diana Ross, and Tina Turner demanded quite a large staff. Plus, really great hair and make-up artists.
DMD: As a creative, we all have those frustrating moments of “artist’s block” how do you handle those times? HL: No amount of money can help creatively. The sessions can go on for eight hours or more. Each subject no matter how much is being spent must still be guided very carefully. Their career may be dependent on how carefully you treat them. The subjects in my photos already knew how they wanted or needed to look. They say sculptors can look at a rock and listen to what the stone wants to be. The being that waits inside of it, so to speak. Perhaps it is being psychic for lack of another term but, I tap into their future.
DMD: What do you love most about photography? HL: The whole realm of what can be done creatively as a photographer is very rewarding to me as a creative person and has enabled me to enjoy a wonderful life and future.
Check out some of Mr. Langdon's work below! image credits | Courtesy of Harry Langdon Jr. Models - Victoria Principal, Tina Turner, Machen Amick, Janet Jackson, Harry Langdon Jr., George Clooney, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Dottie West, Diana Ross, Cher
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