Native to Peru, Jaime Lopez came to New York to study graphic design at Parsons in 1980 only after being rejected from his choice university in Switzerland, which had hit its quota of Latin American students. Upon arrival Lopez, who only spoke Spanish at the time, was quickly forced to learn English prior to beginning his studies. Then, during an internship with photographer Alex Chatelain he came across his true calling. Since then, his photos have been published across the fashion landscape in Cosmopolitan, GQ, Elle, and other magazines. He now resides in Sagaponack with his wife, former model, Marilyn Clark, and two daughters, as he works on his latest project, a book capturing local artists.
How did you discover your love of photography?
When I got to 100 Fifth Avenue, I went up to the top floor and I didn’t walk out until I got an internship. I got a week-long internship with a fashion photographer — Alex Chatelain. I fell in love with the freedom of the pace and the amount of people that work together on a photoshoot. Then I switched careers.
What was your first hired shoot?
I moved to Milan to do a year abroad. I worked for anybody that would hire me. I originally went for only eight months but I ended up staying for 10 years. It was at the time Spain was being admitted to the European Union and all the major magazines had unprecedented editions in Spain. For a photographer to be there at that moment, a huge moment of growth, they didn’t have enough talent there. It was the best thing ever.
How do you know when an image is right for print?
It depends on the subject. If your subject understands your vision and is an artist, you will have the picture very quickly. You know that you got the picture and then you’re just curious about what else. You become like a scavenger trying to provoke other situations. Ninety percent of the work is done. Finding the location as you walk around, trying different attitudes, trying to find a more spontaneous picture.
Did you meet your wife, an East Hampton native, on a shoot?
In 1985, we were on a shoot in Florida. I was there for 15 days and models came and went. She was the only model involved with the pictures when she was not in front of the camera, helping out. It was weird but we had a better chance to catch up.
How do you choose black and white v. color?
The picture chooses itself. The location, the clothing, the model. The drama in the clouds or the story the picture is telling you. A girl that’s wearing all black leather, with a lot of art in the background, that’s better off in black and white. Something very colorful like red boots, whatever that is very flashy, that calls for color. Nowadays, with digital photography, it’s easy. In the old days, you had to mount the camera with black and white film and that was it, unless you had another camera with color film.
What is your favorite camera to work with?
Now it’s the Canon. With film, I used Nikons.
What is the book you’re working on?
It’s a wonderful project with around 40 Hamptons artists. When I got the studio, I told my agent I need a project. I started working with Folioeast, the name of my gallery here on the East End. And I wanted to photograph all of their artists.
Where do you take these photographs?
It’s at my studio with a white background, where I tried to provoke situations that take you away from being scared of being in front of a camera. We play, we discover. Sometimes we don’t do anything. They are sometimes hiding behind a newspaper or with their hands in their pocket. Then I go to their studio and photograph them in their environment and that environment — the paintings, the backdrops, the tubes laying around. I try to photograph the energy of that art.
When did the project begin?
It began last summer. I’m aiming to have it done by spring 2020. We are trying to rush it now because a few artists work outdoors.