Turning a Fascination with Autos into a Stellar Hollywood Career

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Timothy White Britney-Spears

We chat with renowned Hollywood photographer Timothy White about the power of automotive imagery and his awe-inspiring car collection.

Photographer Timothy White has created some of the most iconic images of our time. Over the the last 30 years he has been revered as one of the most prolific and in-demand photographers in the business, photographing every icon from Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen to Whitney Houston and Tom Hanks. In summary, White has photographed, well, everyone — from a teen Britney Spears lounging in a cool vintage Ford truck to Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor exiting a shiny black limo while flashing the paparazzi a two-handed, two finger salute. And making White’s incredible images even more compelling is his inclusion of equally captivating automobiles.

White’s subjects range from movie stars to rock stars, heads of state to Hollywood royalty. White’s work has appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Time, Esquire, Vanity Fair, and countless additional iconic titles. He has also photographed advertisements, hundreds of movie posters, created cover art for albums, and has had four books of his photography published, including: Portraits, Hollywood Pinups, the motorcycle-centered Indian Larry, and Match Prints. Some of his best friends include Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt, with whom he shares his love of cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

His portrait photography is revealing, expressive. He perfectly captures a sense of mood and atmosphere from every range of emotion. Some shots convey a candid and unexpected revelation, others are stylized and conceptual. The familiar faces in some images are unexpectedly revelatory, meditative, and introspective. Other shoots offer humor and whimsy. White captures sex appeal that ranges from coquettish charm, to the playful, to the downright sultry. His work is above all else real, and true, which, when you are dealing with some of the most notable names from Washington to Hollywood, is no easy feat, to be sure. Add in some rare and unique vehicles and White’s photography becomes even more fascinating. Then again, considering that White is also a hardcore auto enthusiast and longtime car collector, we wouldn’t expect anything less.

And fortunately, the one thing that remains constant in his work is the recurring imagery of all things automotive.

White reveals to Ford Truck Enthusiasts that he developed a great passion for automobiles early in life, and he fuses that in his work in an often organic and fascinating way. In fact, he has created a series of photographs dedicated solely to cars and trucks and has put together exhibits to celebrate those images, such as the “Cars and Stars” at the Morrison Hotel Gallery showcase in Los Angeles. White also has a rare and extensive collection of cars that most only dream of.

CLOSE SHOT: Oscar winner Glenn Close from White’s book “Portraits.”

We dialed up White to chat about his awesome array of work, his enviable car collection, and how his great automotive passion is a part of his work, and his life.

Ford Truck Enthusiasts: You’re a fellow auto enthusiast. Tell us about your collection.

Timothy White: Well, I got rid of a lot of them, but at one time I had over 30 cars. Really eclectic though, really eclectic. From a ’39 Lincoln Zephyr to an ’69 Aston Martin, to hot rods, all sorts of good stuff. Really eclectic stuff. I’ve kind of lived a lot. (laughs) Big British cars. I also like American Jalopies from the ’30s and ’40s. And I have had a lot of Cadillacs, of all years.

Are any of the trucks or cars in your photos from your collection?

Yeah, a lot of them are. A car just pops a lot. It’s great architecture, it is something that interests me that’s also just a great prop with which to work around, work people around. It makes them comfortable. Certainly all the the curves and the shine…and on the opposite end something dirty and funky is kind of fun too, So there’s a lot of ways to create a mood, something that helps make a photograph special. Sometimes I find things too, I pull into a gas station and there’s a great car so I asked someone if i could use it for a photo.

Timothy White

IN THE ZONE…: Britney Spears was on the cusp of superstardom when White photographed in a Ford in her backyard in Louisiana.

When you bring a vehicle on set does it change the reaction of your subject?

Well, it’s what you’re doing with it. When you bring a car into a photographic situation, it’s not necessarily an interest to that subject. But when I do…it improves the lighting, or it works with the clothing, or the background, there’s something that gives it a feeling. I can take an older car and light it in such a way, and light the picture, that it looks like it’s a Film Noir piece from 1947. But I can also take that car and use it into a modern way and make it seem more out of place and not as stylized, and of another period.

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S.J. Bryan is an editor with Ford Truck Enthusiasts and regular contributor to F-150 Online and Harley-Davidson Forums, among other auto sites.

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