“It’s really all about trust.”
Larry Busacca is Chief Entertainment Photographer at Getty Images, and has been a leading entertainment industry and celebrity photographer for more than 30 years. In addition to shooting on the red carpet at the Academy Awards or in a tent at the Sundance Film Festival, Larry’s photography subjects have ranged from Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan to Beyonce and Taylor Swift. Larry also was an original partner of MediaVast, the parent company to Wireimage, Filmmagic and Contour Images, which Getty Images acquired in 2007.
Lena Dunham at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Larry Busacca/Getty Images, 462155252
What’s the most challenging aspect about entertainment photography?
It’s all about access. It’s how you navigate the path to obtaining access to the talent [the celebrities].
How do you do it?
Relationship building. I’ve been doing this so long that most of the key players know me and trust me. They know that I know how to get the shot I need to get and get out of the way. It’s really all about trust.
You’ve been doing this for 30 years now. How did you get started?
I’ve always been around photography, and I’ve had a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember. My father was a photographer but my parents always insisted that I go into a “real job.”
I was in college and I started shooting for the school newspaper. I shot a few concerts and I really enjoyed it. Then, one day, in 1983, Dave Edmonds was playing Roseland Ballroom in New York, and I went to cover the show for my college paper. During the show, this guy with funny hair walks out, and everyone goes nuts. I didn’t realize at the time it was Brian Setzer, but I still got a few pictures.
The next morning, I get a call at 9 a.m., with a woman saying, “Hi, it’s so-and-so from Rolling Stone.” Still half asleep, I thought someone was messing with me, so I hang up. She calls back and says, “Hi, this is so-and-so from Rolling Stone magazine, and you probably shouldn’t hang up on me.” (laughs) They wanted the pictures of Dave and Brian together, and Roseland had put her in contact with me. Man, I jogged to the lab so fast and waited for those prints like an expectant father. The photo ended up running as a quarter page “Random Note” … I still have the $100 paycheck framed in my office.
In the video above, it’s clear you love your job. Why do you love what you do?
Working inside Getty Images, I get to do what I love to do — I get to dance in both worlds of technology and creativity. I get to experiment. I love technology, and how technology intersects with images — especially in this decade.
And I get to work with the best people, the best entertainment photography team in the whole world. I get to see what the trends are and what photographers are passionate about, what they’re doing, what they’re thinking about these days versus 10 years ago.
And… back to the most simple thing, I get to shoot the biggest stars at the biggest events, year after year, developing trust at the highest levels of talent and management. And the talent begins to remember you, and let you do what you need to do to make great images.See Larry Busacca’s latest images