Art Streiber takes us backstage at the Oscars

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On Sunday night, millions of people around the world will be gathering in front of their TVs to watch the 83rd annual Academy Awards on ABC. And while Tinseltown’s biggest stars will be nervously waiting to hear their name called, Art Streiber will be backstage documenting the moments that would otherwise be witnessed by only a privileged few.

Art has been photographing the Academy Awards—the rehearsals and backstage on the big night—for 10 years now. Last week, I spoke with him about his Oscars photography. He explained that at first, he shot the story for Premiere, and when that magazine folded, the project moved over to InStyle, and he began shooting the Oscars for them. Rather than publish the images after the awards ceremony has aired, however, InStyle holds them for an entire year and uses them during the run-up to the next year’s Academy Awards. They form a sort of preview/look back.

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A gallery of Art Streiber’s backstage Oscar photos at InStyle.com. Click to view.

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Art is one of the top celebrity and entertainment photographers in the business, and he is celebrated for his portraiture. But shooting backstage at the Oscars offers a very different perspective on the famous people whose images are otherwise so carefully managed. Through his photographs, we can experience the magnitude of the event and relate to the simple humanity of it as well. These photos also give Art a chance to look at things differently.

“One of the things that I really like about this work is that I’m not talking to the celebrities. I’m not directing them. It’s reportage,” he says. “At rehearsals on the day before the Oscars, the stars are arriving every 15 minutes to figure out their blocking, their lines, where they’re supposed to look, where their seats are. In the tradition of Phil Stern or William Claxton, these are real moments. They’re unscripted.

“The opportunities to do that kind of photography with these kinds of actors doesn’t exist anymore,” he continues. “Ninety-nine percent of celebrity portraiture in magazines and on billboards is completely managed and micromanaged. So when I’m shooting backstage at the Oscars, yes, the celebrities are dressed and look amazing, but the moments are all real.”

Over the years, Art has been interviewed many times about his Oscar photos—this year, TheAtlantic.com, for example, ran a feature about this body of work—and in 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted an exhibition titled “All Access at the Academy Awards: Photographs by Art Streiber.”

“Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by the Academy Awards,” Art notes. “I remember when I was about 12 or 13, noticing that everyone was in tuxedoes and asking my dad, ‘Does everybody backstage have to wear a tuxedo?’ And it turns out that they do. All the grips, the security guards—everyone, including me, is in black tie. I’m fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes there, so being able to photograph at my favorite annual event is just a dream for me.”

Here’s a look at some of Art’s Academy Awards photos from over the years:

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Click image to view portfolio.

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Related:

“And the winner of the best backstage photos award is… Photographer Art Streiber shares intimate moments with the stars behind the scenes at the Oscars,” The Guardian, 2010

“Catching Oscar With His Guard Down: Official Academy Photog Specializes In Behind The Scenes Shots,” CBS News, 2006

“Behind the Scenes at the Oscars: A Photo Gallery,” TheAtlantic.com

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One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Streiber. He’s been shooting backstage for more than a decade (a plum, fun gig he talks about here) and will be there again on Sunday, for the 84th Annual Academy Awards, on assignment for InStyle. […]

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