Akos Simon's life and work might be summed up in one
word-connection. His images connect us to a place where woman is
goddess, and her beauty is timeless, transcendent. There is a
softness, a soulfulness, an otherworldliness that only an artist
Capturing that in a beauty advertisement is Akos' strength-and the industry knows it.
And there is another, more personal aspect to his stunning work. This self-described shy dreamer uses his photography as a "visual way of complimenting women." It's a mythical thing for him, an emotional connection to a part of himself he couldn't reach by studying math and physics in Switzerland as a young man. "I wanted to tickle the other side of my brain," he says.
Finding life in Switzerland boring, Akos left for the United States to study physics, an easy thing for him. But it was dry and he didn't like all-male classes.
Working with his wedding-photographer father, Akos discovered beauty and glamour photography might offer him a way to explore his creative tendencies—and get over his innate shyness around women by showing them, instead of telling them, how he perceived them.
Gathering his gear and courage, he traveled to Hawaii for a test shoot with a beautiful swimsuited Asian girl resting on volcanic rocks. Those in the know assured him he had talent. That was all the coaxing he needed; he quit his scientific studies and headed for Europe. His plan was to work beside Helmut Newton, but Newton's agent felt he would learn the business better from someone who worked daily, unlike Newton, who worked but once or twice a month.
So, Akos went to Paris, where he met Claus Wickrath, who told him he didn't need to be an assistant—he was already that good. But as Akos insisted, Wickrath offered him an assistantship. Working from 9 a.m. into the wee hours of the morning—often sleeping at the studio—he learned every facet of the day-to-day business.
"If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't be too modest about myself. I'd have approached agencies and magazines. If you think you are not ready, you will think that forever," he says.
LORD OF THE LENS
The photographer eventually settled in New York six years ago. His client list now reads like a Who's Who of beauty: Juvena, L'Oreal, Lubriderm, Maybelline, Nivea, Oil of Olay, Pantene, Vidal Sassoon, and Wella. His editorial work often graces the pages of Elle, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and Spanish Harper's Bazaar, for which Studio Photography & Design's cover shot was made.
To create that cover shot—without a budget from the magazine—he worked with fashion stylist and freelance editor of Harper's Bazaar, Joclyn Braxton. She shot Polaroids of clothes and accessories reflecting the latest fashion trends, with fluorescent colors becoming the theme. They hired hairstylist and makeup artist Felix Fischer, a clothes stylist, the model, and assistants. Akos built the set himself. Six hours and 15 pictures later, he had the ethereal photograph.
Akos' main camera is a Pentax 6x7; he shoots Kodak EPR 64 film for its grainlessness and sharpness, and uses Elinchrom lighting exclusively. Long ago, he "made a law" to experiment with every camera format, to understand the tools of photography. But he doesn't get bogged down with technology, and it doesn't matter to him how high-end the equipment. What matters is the aesthetic and personal connection.
"You need to concentrate on the person in front of you; the camera and equipment are just accessories, and people get fooled by it."
He is impressed with two pieces of equipment: the Nikon 8000 Coolscan film scanner and the Fuji Pictrography 4000 printer. Both aid him tremendously in his workflow.
Instead of costly drum scanning, Akos uses the Coolscan. "It does the same job, and I can calibrate it to my system's color world," he says.
He scans his own negatives, too, a process most photographers shy away from.The results are often richer and more precise than transparencies, he says.