Photo alum Star Foreman goes for baroque with Golden Age glam Hollywood portraits

by May 28th, 2014

Los Angeles photographer Star Foreman’s vibrant, campy tableaux have defined publications such as LA Weekly and Pasadena Magazine.

Her family history proved pivotal in getting her very first gig with LA Weekly. Creative director Darrick Rainer liked Foreman’s work and interviewed her around the time he was planning the Weekly’s first annual theater issue. When he found out that she grew up going to plays and musicals almost every weekend because her grandfather was T. E. Foreman, a newspaper theater critic for 50 years, he assigned her the cover on the spot. Rainer later chose Foreman’s work for the paper’s Top Covers of 2013.

Foreman’s trademark tableaux are inspired by Golden Age Hollywood, burlesque, and a love of fashion and design. “I love shooting fashion,” she says, “because at any given moment fashion is changeable. Great fashion photography transmutes itself, becomes art that is enjoyed for its aesthetics, absent the need to sell something or someone.”Foreman graduated from Art Center’s Photography and Imaging program on the eve of the 2008 economic crash and, she recalls, “I was going from having access to virtually unlimited resources when it came to lighting and studio space, to having a single strobe and an old Canon T1i.” Though it was an unsettling time, she shot every week, whether she was working or not—full shoots, she says, with fully styled models.

It’s a testament to her perseverance that in 2012–13 Foreman was named one of the Top 200 Photographers by Lürzer’s Archive, the distinguished creative resource for advertising professionals.

Foreman has been hired to do plenty of product and architecture shoots, but, she says, “My main focus and love is working with people.” An aficionado of the celebrity portrait, she researches her subjects assiduously, preparing shoots differently for a shy person like rap artist Madlib or someone more exacting like Gates McFadden of Circle X Theatre.

“[Musician] Skrillex gives you five minutes before he opens, so you shoot fast and you shoot dirty,” she says. “Performance artist Aaron Axelrod loves photography and has an amazing wall where he paints. He gave me as much time as I needed to play and just explore.”

Among her other people-centered projects is the 60-Second Photo series, virtually impromptu micro shoots that she stages at events. “I set up a light somewhere, or use an available green room, and surprise my subject with a 15- to 60-second sitting, usually taking only five or six shots. These are much freer and very fun, but could never take the place of my more controlled portraits.”

The most common thing Foreman hears from subjects is that they hate getting their photo taken. “My job,” she says, “has to be to get them to love having their photo taken—by me, at least.”

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This is an expanded version of a story that originally appeared in Art Center’s Spring 2014 Dot magazine, where you can read more about alumni and faculty achievements.

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