The Hollywood Reporter: From Brangelina to Leo: Behind-the-Scenes Details of 10 Iconic Hollywood Photos

Jeff Vespa spent two decades snapping Lupita, Tom and more at the Globes, the Oscars and every other big industry night, and now, as he moves from event photography to production, he shares the stories behind some of his favorite images.

by Chris Gardner

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

It’s easy for Hollywood photographer Jeff Vespa to calculate how many events he’s shot during his 20-year career. A simple search on WireImage — the photo agency and wire service he and eight partners founded in 2001 and sold for $200 million in 2007 — yields more than 300,000 images snapped at more than 4,400 events, from the Golden Globes and Oscars to film festivals like Venice, Toronto and, his personal favorite, Sundance.

But Vespa, 47, is now shifting his focus to his Vespa Pictures, where he’ll create video content for brands and media; shoot portraits and ad campaigns; and pursue his true passion, filmmaking. (He’s in postproduction on his directorial debut, Paris Song, starring Abbie Cornish.) But no more event photography for him.

As he leaves a job that, at times, made him feel as if he were everyone’s friend — “like Switzerland” — won’t be easy. “I know studio heads, celebrities, actors, publicists, agents, managers, the boyfriends, the wives, the husbands and the children. Everyone across the board in the business. I’ve really had a unique vantage point,” he says. “But I came to Los Angeles because I wanted to be a filmmaker. I’m an artist, and it’s time for me to create more. I’ve been doing this so long now that I, of course, have trepidations. But for me, I need to take this step.”

Before his foot officially hits the ground, Vespa shares the stories behind some of his favorite images.

Click here to the see the photo gallery.

HuffPost: The Story Behind That Photo Of Leo Texting After His Oscar Win

Veteran celebrity photographer Jeff Vespa is responsible for the viral image.

It took Leonardo DiCaprio five nominations to win an Oscar and one photo to prove he was chill about it.

You remember the one: Leo, seated away from the crowd at the Vanity Fair party, head bent over a phone while his Oscar sits on the floor between his legs. Just a casual night out in an Armani tux.

Evidence of an A-lister acting normal after scoring Hollywood’s biggest prize is made for online vitality, and the Leo photo didn’t disappoint. Even Oscar winners need to text their buddies, right?

Jeff Vespa, a veteran celebrity photographer who used to work for Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, was the lucky person to snap the picture. Vespa has captured Hollywood events since shooting the “Bulworth” premiere in 1998. On that fateful Oscar night last year, he spotted DiCaprio in a corner, an entourage flanking him. Vespa asked to grab the Best Actor winner for a few posed shots, to which his publicist responded, “No problem, just give him a minute.”

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Baltimore Sun: Clooney, Kidman, DiCaprio: Pikesville native Jeff Vespa photographs them all



“The difference between a great photo and no photo at all,” says Jeff Vespa, “can be one second.”

So says the celebrity photographer who has coaxed memorable portraits from Seth Rogen and Al Pacino, charmed Tilda Swinton and Zoe Saldana and even captured Leo DiCaprio playing with his phone at a Vanity Fair party last year, his treasured Oscar languishing on the floor.

“Everything is timing. … You have to have eyes in the back of your head and keep track of where everyone is and what’s happening everywhere in the room,” says the Pikesville native, 47, from his newly opened studio in suburban Los Angeles. “That is how you get the great shots that people remember.”

Timing has been key to his career: In 2001, he co-founded the photo agency WireImage, which sold to Getty Images in 2007 for $207 million.

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The Wrap: Haley Lu Richardson, Michelle Morgan Top Verge List of Rising Sundance Stars

Jeff Vespa, the official photographer of the Sundance Film Festival since 2003, on Wednesday unveiled his Verge List of emerging talent with movies at this month’s festival in Park City, Utah.

Haley Lu Richardson, Josh O’Connor and Trevor Jackson are among this year’s selections, featured in the new issue of Vespa’s digital magazine, Verge. O’Connor and Harris Dickinson are two actors hailing from the U.K., which Vespa says gives the list a broader range.

“This actually was one of the easiest years for choices,” he told TheWrap. “Every year, this is my favorite story to do. Meeting every actor and knowing this is just the beginning for them. It is fun to be a part of all of that. That is why I like doing this before the festival. Most of them have never been, and I can kind of give them some guidance on what to expect. They are in for a wild ride.”

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L’oeil de la Photographie: Portraits by Jeff Vespa


Robert Pattinson © Jeff Vespa

Jeff Vespa is one of the most renowned celebrity and portrait photographers. Former editor-at-large for, founder of Verge magazine and co-founder of the photo news agency, WireImage, his lens comes with unprecedented access. He is one of just two photographers allowed to shoot and distribute images from within Vanity Fair’s prestigious Oscar party, and has maintained the title of official photographer of both the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival for more than a decade.

Recently Vespa launched the Instagram account @portraits where he will post exclusive outtakes and selects of Hollywood’s most famous faces. Here he shares with us a selection of his most Iconic images.

Follow him at


Daily Beast: How Jeff Vespa Takes Such Intimate Celebrity Portraits

151223-vespa-chastain_c2xh6kby Tim Teeman

 Jeff Vespa doesn’t ask his famous sitters—like Daniel Radcliffe and Keira Knightley—to do anything outrageous, but they still teasingly reveal themselves under his gaze.

As a child, Jeff Vespa wanted to be a fine artist, but “really needed instant gratification,” as he puts it. So, he put down the paintbrushes and picked up his mother’s camera.“I didn’t have to sit and draw for hours to get photo-realistic drawings,” he says. “Now, I could just take a picture and be done with it.”

Vespa, 45, is well-known today as the co-founder of WireImage, the largest entertainment photograph agency in the world, and as a celebrity photographer—The Daily Beast today carries a series of portraits he has taken of stars, including Sir Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain.

GALLERY: How Jeff Vespa Takes Such Intimate Celebrity Portraits (PHOTOS)
But Vespa’s first big project, undertaken when he was around 14, was to take photographs of his friends in the punk scene of Baltimore, where he grew up. Continue reading

Dujour: The Man Who Spots Stars

The Man Who Spots Stars

He sensed the stardom in Ryan Gosling and Adrien Brody before they hit it big. How does photographer Jeff Vespa do it?

Right now, if you look up actor Jack Kilmer on IMDb, you’ll see one single entry—this year’s Palo Alto—and no headshot to boot. But Jeff Vespa is sold on his star power.

It was the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, and Vespa had just done a story on Kilmer’s co-star in Palo Alto, Zoe Levin, for his digital magazine Verge. The photographer did a shoot with the young actress, calling her out as one of four breakout stars from TIFF.  “I don’t like the idea of ‘10 to watch’ because sometimes there’s not ten to watch,” Vespa tells DuJour. And he would know. Years of shooting new and old talent at Sundance, Cannes and nearly every major film festival has trained Vespa’s eye for spotting the biggest stars among the mostly unknown, and in Toronto, he saw something in Val Kilmer’s 18-year-old son.

At the showing of Palo Alto, attending in support of Levin and the 26-year-old director Gia Coppola (who Vespa’s known since she was just a teenager), he found a fifth TIFF star on the rise. “I watched the film and I thought: This guy is a star, period. He’s not somebody who’s trying to be one. I don’t even think he wanted to act. He’s just so natural, and he’s got a totally different look.”

Looks are important to Vespa in determining Hollywood stardom—this is a business based on image after all. “Does this person have a look that people are going to get into?” he asks. “Are people going to fall in love with that face, are people going to be interested to watch this person?” But for the up and comers Vespa features on Verge, the fewer photos on their IMDb page the better: The year-old magazine is Vespa’s platform for discovering the next big names and introducing them to the world.

Following his time at (and before that, co-founding WireImage), striking out on his own was a natural move for the film festival photographer. “It just all coalesced in my brain at once: I just realized that this is what I’ve been doing for so many years already. I’ve been discovering people, I’ve been the first person to photograph them and then continued to help their careers by doing articles on them and shooting them at events.” Through original photo shoots, interviews and videos, Verge is Vespa’s way of doing what he’s always done, just in a much more intentional way.

Now, instead of meeting the new faces for the first time when taking their portraits, Vespa identifies who has star potential before Toronto, Sundance or Cannes. He’ll look at every single movie on the lineup, go on IMDb and identify all the actors he doesn’t know. With a giant master list of newcomers with possible star power, he requests copies of the screeners, talks to managers, publicists, the festivals—all the legwork that any reporter might do—and determines his frontrunners from there.

“There’s a huge difference between meeting them at Sundance and photographing them, and meeting them before we get there, telling them I really believe in them and then giving them press. Once you’ve done that, no one will ever forget that. There’s a special relationship that won’t ever change.” With over 35 shoots and eight videos for the magazine to date, Vespa couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come. “Frankly, the most fun and the best experiences I’ve ever had is doing these shoots for Verge. These people are so new—for some it’s their first shoot ever; they’re so excited and it’s such a great feeling. It’s not about a business for me, it’s about doing what I love doing and I want to do it with good people and work with them in the future.”

The goal for Vespa is to build relationships that extend well into these stars’ careers. It’s happened before, with stars like Ryan Gosling, Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts and Michelle Williams (see their photos in the gallery above), to name a few. For them, it’s surpassed industry-relationship status. It’s friendship. Sometimes it’s even like family.

“When we would go to Cannes or Venice, it used to be all foreign photographers,” he recalls. “I would end up being the sole American that these people recognized in a sea of a hundred photographers and journalists, so I was like a family member. Nine times out of ten, if they knew me, they’d go, ‘Oh thank God you’re here, I feel so much better now.’ Those are the cool things, why I want to be in this business: to be a part of this and these people’s lives.”

Original link:

Photo gallery link:

Verge Launches!

Ar Graynor Verge Jeff Vespa

Verge is a new web magazine focusing on emerging talent. I decided to launch the site to combine my film and photography in one place. Please check out all the articles, photos and videos at – Backpacking With Sheen and Estevez

Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez at the Toronto FIlm Festival

‘The Way’: Inside a Father-Son Journey

Over a legendary career, he has played many larger-than-life characters — the charming killer of Badlands; the troubled special-ops officer of Apocalypse Now; the leader of the free world on The West Wing. But at 71 years old, in a fickle business that puts a premium on youth, Martin Sheen has found that a meaty and meaningful lead role is hard to come by. Good thing, then, that filmmaking runs in the family.
Sheen’s son Emilio Estevez, the actor-turned-writer/director whose past work includes the Golden Globe-nominated RFK drama Bobby, penned a new movie, The Way, especially for his dad: Opening in theaters October 7, it’s about a grieving, closed-off father experiencing new adventures on the Camino de Santiago, a winding, 500-mile pilgrimage route that ends at a cathedral in Galicia, Spain (where Sheen and Estevez have real family roots). For 40 days in 2009, Estevez directed his dad in the movie’s lead, the two of them and a fleet crew shooting in stunning, spiritual locations in France and Spain. Joining them for about a week in Pamplona and its surrounding towns was editor-at-large Jeff Vespa; here, through Vespa’s photographs and Estevez’s commentary, go behind the scenes of The Way.
Check out the full story on – Portraits: Toronto Film Fest 2011

George Clooney and Ryan Gosling

George Clooney and Ryan Gosling clown around at the Toronto Film Festival

Director George Clooney and Ryan Gosling joke over a deer-in-the-headlights stare as they take a break from promoting the movie The Ides of March at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2011. The actors are just two of several stars who dropped by photographer Jeff Vespa’s Toronto studio; check daily throughout the festival to see more celebrity portraits made exclusively for LIFE. Check out the full gallery on

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