Arthur Elgort & ChristiaanDYNAMIC DUO

photography by Arthur Elgort
hairstyle by Christiaan Houtenbos



They go together like bread and butter — different, yet both bring a perfect complementing quality to the table. Such is the case for the renowned duo: photographer Arthur Elgort and hair stylist Christiaan Houtenbos. Flipping through the pages of Elgort’s new book, Arthur Elgort: the big picture by steidl, the two friends found pictures that go to the heart of their past and collaboration.


CH So the world is curious about us.
AE Well, that’s good. I don’t know why. Because we’re old. We still have it.
CH Yes, we’re old but we’re alive and we can relate to what it was like.
AE And not only that — I am taking pictures all the time. I can’t stop.
CH For us, muses didn’t exist. We were our our own muses.
AE The models were our prey, never heard about muses.
CH And it was so because you were the kind of guy who took pictures of everything.
AE I love that picture of Kate Moss sitting there having coffee.
CH Right, I realize thinking about this the other day. It didn’t matter if it was a fabulous looking girl. It could be a street sweeper and you would take a picture.
AE Well, if it’s a good picture, you take it. Why not. I had breaks all the time. For example, when you had to do the hair, I went and had a coffee, checked everything out. We were in Milano next to the cathedral and we would always just sit there. Marianne and I can’t remember the name of the hotel.
CH The Grant. On the corner. It’s redone. It’s not so musty anymore, not like those days.

AE Too bad, I like it musty.
CH Yes! We liked it musty! Remember how they just left the place after midnight? All the employees would go home and just left us in the back. Bailey was the other hotshot who never went to bed. And then Nureyev would come swinging in with his own key to the front door.

AE There was Giorgio Repposi running the show.
CH He lives in the neighborhood. Yeah, he was a bit of our guru.
AE He would take us out.
CH I can still hear his, “CIAO!”
AE Funny guy. I loved that hotel but you had to know all the rooms there. There were good rooms and bad rooms.
CH And then there were rooms where we left our pot for the next trip.
AE No, we did that more in The Rafael.
CH Yes, you did that in The Rafael. I did it more in The Grant. On the inside of the cabinet…
AE Yes, and I knew where it was and I went back and smoked it.


Yasmin Le Bon Paris 1986
Kim Charlton New York 1977


CH I think the reason people are interested in our little story is because we were tight. And how were we tight? For myself I can say it was because compared to Avedon, where I would be shaking in my boots and have no references to real life at all, you were all of that. There you were, from day one, I remember the first job with you on the east side, right near Avedon’s place, where you took that beautiful new French girl for an early Mademoiselle cover, stuck her in a telephone booth and then a cover came out of it. For me, that was like, “Hello!”
AE You used to wear a suit then too.
CH I was fancy.
AE Very fancy. That same suit that you always wore. The red plaid one.
CH We were in fashion.
AE Not only that. We had good girls because they were my girls and your girls and they weren’t important. Nobody did Susan Hess. Same thing with Bonnie Berman. I remember Grace Coddington used to say she tried Bonnie Berman and it came out lousy. And I said that’s because you didn’t like her in the first place.
CH I remember that. It was always a fight for the girls. Even Jeny Howorth. In Europe they used her more, but in America nobody cared. But you cared. You fought for her.
AE Yes, I liked her but I didn’t like her at first. And then I saw what she could do.
CH To me, what’s behind that is that these girls were really life-living, happy, cool chicks. You didn’t have to push them around to do anything.
AE You could get them any time you wanted to. You didn’t have to wait online to get them.
CH So I liked you right away because there was something about the way you photographed and your endless generosity constantly giving photographs to everyone you photographed. All those pictures — I could make a book at home from all the pictures you’ve given me. You were always giving everything away. Nobody does that.
But then in the equation, it was also Marianne, our editor.
AE It’s important to know who the editor is. We didn’t get Vogue because I remember Lucia saying, “You don’t know how to do fashion. You know how to do lifestyle. You can do Sony, but you can’t do Valentino because you don’t know how.” And I said, “I do know how!”
CH I suppose it can be said in retrospect over the years if you look through pictures that I find, they could say that I was a bit of your muse. But it certainly wasn’t a conscious situation. And it was a total blend of our lives and work.
AE Well, we went out together. We went to the Fire Island Pines together.
CH Fire Island is a spectacular example of the blend of work and life. That’s definitely an important point — the fact that our lifestyle became not only working colleagues, but friends. We played cards and chased the same girls.

AE I mean you don’t play cards with Mario Testino.
CH No, we don’t but we sure party. There’s a total difference. A guy like Mario is actually rather close in spirit with you, but a completely different character. I think what I like about him is that he digs into lifestyle and friendliness and all that I recognize from our past.
AE In the past, when they asked me who I would like as a model, I said Apollonia. That was my girl. Nobody liked her at first, except then Avedon realized she was a good model.
CH She was, if anything, your first inspiration as a girl. She was spectacularly expressive and happy to dress gorgeous in her own life. Anything that hung on her didn’t matter.
AE She could be on the street drunk and the shot was good.
CH That apparently is the reality of that fantastic picture you have of her, which I hear you’re giving me, 11 by 16 ft, for Christmas. These images are completely born out of the love you have for photography, for me and for life.

AE You remember my first studio across the street from Avedon, that terrible studio.
CH It was the metal prison dinner plate.
AE I then decided I couldn’t do any more studio work. It was too boring.
CH I’ve completely come to the conclusion that you’re only as good as when you’re able to make the photographer want to take a picture. Which for you is easier, but these days people are so much more finikier. It takes people so much longer. With you, we could just tickle you and you’d take a picture.
Then, I remember, day after day, we would look through thousands and thousands of slides and you were able to just zip through it and zoom into what you liked and what you didn’t like. That was fascinating, every morning hoping for a miracle from the day before.
AE Then, I had my son and daughters so I always practice on them all the time.
CH Nobody is threatened by you when you aim the camera at them. You’re almost like Bill Cunningham in that perspective. They’re happy to see you aim at them.
AE Well, maybe you’ll get a good picture. You never know.



Rosie Vela New York City 1977