Perhaps it’s Jorge Alvarez’s knack for solving problems and fully understanding his clients’ needs. Or the way he creates positive energy at his photo shoots. Either way, his dedicated clientele—including Spanish People, Venus Bellagio, Venus USA , and Jack Victor Clothiers—are drawn to Alvarez, as well as his images.
“My clients give me a huge responsibility, which I take seriously,” says Alvarez. “I am very thankful for the work and always aim to give what they want, when they want it.” At photo shoots, he sets a comfortable tone, keeps up a good pace, and makes sure he has a “bowl” of espresso. “It really gets me going,” says Alvarez.
Asked what gives his work its distinctive look, Alvarez offers a three-word response: light, life, and beauty.
“I love photographing people,” he says, whether it’s fashion shots for catalogs or celebrity portraits. “Once I gain the confidence of my subject, we have fun and get great shots. For me, what comes from inside the person is even more important than what is on the outside.”
Feeling the Light
When it comes to capturing his fashion and beauty images, Alvarez relies on his Hasselblad H1 and Phase One P 25 digital back. “That is one incredible arrangement, a work of art,” he says. “It makes me feel totally confident to tackle any job. One small thing I love is the lock system on the camera and the back. Whatever settings I’m using, I can lock them in, go wild, and not worry about accidentally changing them. There are incredible opportunities with high-end digital photography from the client’s standpoint, as well. Seeing the shots immediately and knowing you have what you need saves enormous amounts of time and money.”
More often than not, Alvarez works with two lights. “I love to mix strobe lights with natural and tungsten light,” he says. “With that combination, I can do a lot of creative stuff. I like to keep things simple and clean, and I always like to have a feeling of light hitting the body.”
Glance down at the image of the woman in the snow (below), shot by Alvarez for Venus USA , a huge catalog company. “I love this image,” he says. “With snow-making machines and the help of a ‘snow magician’ named Dieter Strum—who won an Oscar for Fargo —we were able to create the look and feel of winter at the height of summer.”
And there’s the image of Jon Gruden, coach of the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers (p. 20). “I photographed that image for Jack Victor Clothiers, of Canada,” says Alvarez. “It was a great shoot because Gruden could see every image on a large screen in front of him. The client signed off on the images right then. As Gruden left the studio, he told me, in his signature deep voice, “You got it going on.”
Alvarez also had it going on when he photographed Don Francisco, known by some as the “Johnny Carson of the Spanish-speaking World,” for the cover of Spanish People (p. 22).
“I shot that image just before his show began on Telemundo in Miami. The audience was clapping and the band was playing while I shot. Then we blew the power and lost half of our lights. I pretended nothing went wrong and instructed my assistants to rearrange the ratios of the lights. It came out very well in the end.
Alvarez does a lot of shoots with Latin women in the Caribbean, Belize, as well as the U.S., for catalogs and magazines. He says, “I can communicate with the girls, so they know what mood we’re trying to accomplish. It has opened a great number of doors for me.”
This past summer, he shot in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, as well as Catalina Island in California, Chicago, the Florida Keys, and various Florida beaches. Prior assignments brought him to the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and Mexico.
Our cover shot is classic Alvarez. Taken this summer on a cloudy day in Nassau, the Bahamas, he captured this casual fashion image of American Indian model Jessiqua Pace leaning comfortably on a blue Mini Cooper for Venus USA with his Hasselblad H1 and a Phase One P 25. He lit the scene with a Quadra Light Bank from Elinchrom and a Hensel battery pack.
Alvarez captured the full-page closeup beauty image of New York model Amber Arbucci that opens this SP&D article during a live shoot at a coming-out party for the Phase One P 25. He used his Hasselblad H1 with a Phase One P 25 back, lighting the interior with multiple Profoto beauty dishes and grids. Amber’s makeup was by Michelle Cain.
Where the Heart Is
Alvarez’s Spanish fluency comes from his years in Cuba, where he was born. His family fled to the U.S. when he was seven.