Art Streiber on shooting American Idol’s Top 11 (and appearing on the show!)

Art Streiber appeared on American Idol on March 30, and while he didn’t have to face the judges, he did have to photograph the hit reality show’s Top 11 for a feature in Entertainment Weekly—and be interviewed about the shoots.

In fact, FOX ran Art’s interview segments throughout the broadcast that night. The episode was especially thrilling for Bill, who’s a big fan of both AI and, of course, Art. “Art was as big of a star as the rest of them,” Bill enthuses.

Here, Art takes us through the assignment, from prep to finish, and explains why getting the group shot you see here was “a bit like herding cats.” (But in a good way.)

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American Idols Top 11. Photo by Art Streiber for Entertainment Weekly.

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“The shoot happened very quickly and was turned around very quickly,” Art explains. “Entertainment Weekly called me on a Thursday to see if I was free to shoot the following Monday. The episode aired on the following Wednesday, and the group shot of the 11 remaining Idol contestants was published on that Thursday. That gave us a week from start to finish, and my crew and I were in the middle of a prelight and shoot for TV Land on the Thursday that EW called.

So we had four days (including a weekend) to crash together a studio that could handle all of us, come up with a look for the set, and find a stylist who would have only the weekend to pull clothes for 11 different subjects.

We scoured reference photos, and after a day of homework, my set designer, Nick Tortorici, and I came up with a nightclub/lounge look that EW liked, and we gave our stylist, Maria Divaris, the go-ahead to find ‘cool, hip evening looks’ that weren’t too formal and weren’t too casual. And both Nick and Maria did WONDERFUL jobs pulling their ends of the shoots together.

The Idol production team needed two studios of their own for interviews and a video runway piece, so we ended up in all three of the Siren Studios towers. My producers, Joanne Davidson and Kate Amengual, worked alongside the Idol producers to make sure that all of the trains ran on time.

We started shooting singles at 3 p.m., did the group shot at 3:30, and finished up with singles after the group shot at 4 p.m.  All in all, we had an hour and a half to photograph each of the 11 singles and the group shot that was published in EW. Each of the Idol contestants was great in front of the camera, but a few were able to bring a variety of looks and attitudes to the set.

The group shot was a bit like herding cats. We shot with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, in order to match the format of a double-page spread, and after accounting for evenly distributing the men and the women and coordinating the placement of each of the contestants based on the color they were wearing, we had to get them to ‘party like rock stars’ to give the final image the dynamic energy that EW had requested and that I really wanted to execute. All of the subjects were fun and willing and very easy to work with.

After the shoot, I sat down for the Idol cameras but had NO IDEA how they would run my interviews, which they did extensively across the episode.

And it turns out that quite a few people tune into American Idol every week… I got calls and emails from all over the country from folks who had seen the episode and recognized the guy behind the camera.”

Thanks, Art!

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