Troy Plota's Images Stand the Test of Time
Troy Plota loves fashion but he's not trendy. He loves photographing women, but also spends a lot of time shooting men.
Despite those seeming contradictions, few people love their jobs more than Plota. The fashion and beauty photographer's clients include Van Heusen and its Izod and Arrow brands, Geoffrey Beene, Bass, and several magazines. He also photographs celebrities including musicians Usher, Toni Braxton, and Mariah Carey.
Plota is a busy man. In fact, when SP&D interviewed him, he was in South Beach, Florida, using one hand to talk on his cell phone, and the other to direct an advertising shoot for Dillard's department store.
"I'm right on the water in a beautiful house with large, amazing windows," he says. "I heard this house was never used for a shoot before. It should be great."
Plota grew up a member of the MTV generation and always had dreams of directing a music video. He directs film shoots instead. "A big key to a great shoot is a laid-back atmosphere," he says. "I make sure to have a fun crew and I keep the models relaxed."
SECRETS OF HIS SUCCESS
Troy Plota'S Gear Box
24-70mm and 70-200mm Canon lenses
45mm, 80mm, and 110mm lenses
Profoto Pro 7 packs and heads
Profoto 7B Battery pack
large Breeza Reflector
large Mola Dish
large Silver Chimera
Elinchrom Octa Light Bank
Gitzo tripod with pistol grip
Apple 17-inch PowerBooks
Apple 15-inch PowerBook
Phase One Capture One software
GretagMacbeth Color Checker
Besides keeping everyone happy, he has three secrets for photographic success. The first key is to start small. Plota, who grew up in Largo, Florida, began his professional career in Atlanta. Although Atlanta is a major metropolis, it is not New York when it comes to photography, he says. "Too many photographers go to New York and have to become assistants for many years before they shoot on their own. You need to keep shooting every day."
Next, he advocates getting back to basics. "We've seen a full evolution of photography," he says. "It's all been done. And I want my photography to live on for as long as possible. I'm not really trendy. I prefer not to photograph someone wearing the latest style that will go out tomorrow."
This approach is evident in Plota's image of a woman leaning on a statue in Cabo San Lucas that appeared as part of a 12-page L.A. Confidential fashion/travel story (p. 54). "The model was a real trooper because the statue was really hot," he says. "But I wanted to take that image. I knew it would come out great."
The images of Alina Cojocaru, costar of Shallow Hal with Jack Black (p. 52 and 53), were also shot for the same L.A. Confidential story.
While it may seem like a glamorous occupation, it was a long climb to the top for Plota. "I do have a great job, but it was incredibly difficult getting here," he says. "Thinking about it adds perspective."
Plota's journey began when he was 14 and the photo editor at the Largo High School newspaper. He subsequently found some gratis work at a local fashion design school taking headshots of students. While there, Plota became friendly with a teacher of a modeling class. He took pictures for free. The models loved his images, and Plota began to be paid for his work.
This success, in part, gave Plota the confidence to make impromptu visits to modeling agencies to promote his portfolio. His plan clearly worked, as he was later hired by Playboy, where he worked for four years. He landed the Van Heusen gig eight and one-half years ago.
A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN
Plota does not model himself after anyone. When on shoots, he has one main goal. "I want people going home saying, 'That is the best I've ever looked. That was a good experience.'" The image of a man donning sunglasses running away from a boat for Izod's winter collection (below) is an example.
"I shot that in Alaska in the middle of the day in front of a glacier," he says. "I always wanted to shoot in Alaska. I went with my art director to scope out locations for the shoot. I knew this was perfect. What's more amazing is that I needed no Adobe Photoshop retouching. Alaska's natural light is beautiful."