Art Streiber on photographing Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith for Architectural Digest

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Photo by Art Streiber for Architectural Digest.

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A favorite of magazine photo editors, Art Streiber has shot for all the big publications, but he had never shot a cover for Architectural Digest—till now. For the September issue of AD, now on newsstands, Art photographed Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and their kids, Willow, Jaden, and Trey, at the family’s Southern California retreat.

As it turns out, the shoot was a first for the Smiths, too—the first time the entire family has been photographed together for a magazine, notes The Hollywood Reporter in a story on the AD feature.

Here, Art—who worked closely with AD editor in chief Margaret Russell, art director Christy Sheppard, photo editor Tara Germinsky, and producer Carlos Mota—talks about how the assignment came about and how he approached it…

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From left: Trey, Willow, Jaden, Will, and Jada. Photo by Art Streiber for Architectural Digest.

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Margaret Russell was one of the first editors to hire me in 1993, right after my wife and I moved back to Los Angeles after our tenure in Milan for W magazine.

At the time, Margaret was at Elle Decor, and when she became editor in chief of Architectural Digest, I was excited at the possibility of being able to collaborate with her on one of the oldest, most prestigious magazines in the country. AD was founded in 1920 and has been featuring the best of American interior design for more than 90 years.

So when I got the call from photo editor Tara Germinsky that they were interested in my photographing the Smith family for their September cover, I was thrilled.

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Photo by Art Streiber for Architectural Digest.

Photo by Art Streiber for Architectural Digest.

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I’d worked with 3/5ths of the Smiths previously: I photographed Jada and Willow for Cookie magazine, Jaden for Vanity Fair, and Willow again for Vanity Fair…but had never photographed Will or their son Trey.

On the shoot, producer Carlos Mota did an effortless job of making every room look its best, from the placement of pillows and vases to the perfect position of some of the Smiths’ remarkably beautiful furniture.

After the shoot, we worked very closely with art director Christy Sheppard, who was very collaborative regarding the cover image of Jada and Will in their impressively large, but intimate, living room.

My first assistant, Elaine Browne, and my producer, Laura Katzenberg, and I had scouted the house and figured out exactly where we wanted to photograph the Smiths, coming up with three setups that were physically very close to each other in order to maximize the number of shots we’d be able to get in our limited time with the family.

I wanted to be able to give Margaret, Christy, and Tara as many options as possible: two covers and an opener, the opener with the entire family.  

My crew moved incredibly quickly and efficiently in order to pull off the entire shoot in an hour, and the Smiths were very, very gracious hosts.

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Read more: “Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Malibu Home”

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