Archive for December, 1996

Albert Ferreira

December 22, 1996

In The BeginninG: “It is pretty nice working a party and Demi (Moore) is calling me by name.”

Albert is never home. His beautiful 200 year old house is sparsely furnished and less than lived in. The day I visit him he is preparing for a week long trip to Berlin and Moscow where he will cover the openings of Planet Hollywood restaurants. A stack of unread mail, including three issues of People Magazine lies on a nearby table. He doesn’t even have time to keep track of his own pictures or press clippings. “A lot of my stuff is sold overseas so I never even see where it goes. The only think I keep now, or try to keep, is the items in People and USA Today.” With a previous agent holding his originals and no accurate files or prints, it is often hard for Albert Ferreira to remember everyone and everything he has shot. It is impossible for him to amass it all. What would be devastating to most professional photographers, Albert casually shrugs off. “It’s the nature of my business, and I am just so busy, really what can I do about it?”

Albert Ferreira is contracted by some of the largest New York based Hollywood companies. He photographs movie stars and sports figures from the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wayne Gretzky for Planet Hollywood and The All-Star Cafe. He works at many premieres, parties, and restraunt openings as the house photogapher. As a welcome guest, he often gets the photographs that other members of the paparazzi only dream about. He did not always have an invitation in hand. Albert Ferreira gained his status through professionalism, discretion and dependability. “It is nice working a party and Demi (Moore) is calling me by name. She has known me for a long time and she knows I’m not going to take a picture of her and give it to the Enquirer. I could if I wanted to.” The stars trust him and he respects their privacy.

Albert’s beginnings took place in San Paulo, Brazil. Leaving home at the age of 17, he came to the United States in search of wealth and success. He began his career by taking odd jobs for anyone who would hire him. Albert landed a job with an agent who managed photographers. The agency, DMI, was looking for an employee to handle mostly secretarial work. Albert, whose hobby was nature photography, accepted the position. One day, he
mentioned to his boss that he would like to be given a photography assignment. Slowly, Albert began shooting for DMI and within 6 months he had a picture on the front cover of The New York Post.

“The shot was of Stallone, Tyson, and Eddie Murphy at the premiere of The Golden Child. After that I was full time.” His career flourished as he became DMI’s main New York photographer. His assignments included being the house photographer for Planet Hollywood, attending movie premieres, and shooting local concerts on assignment from New York newspapers.

A component of the work at DMI was pounding the pavement trying to catch the stars off guard. The game is to get an exclusive shot of anyone famous doing something they shouldn’t be. Albert hid in the bushes and loitered in front of homes, but found it wasn’t to his liking. “It used to be get the picture of them stuffing their faces; anything you can get for the tabloids. But I thought why should I do this? For a buck? I get more satisfaction out of people recognizing me and saying hello. They give me respect and that is what I care about.” His relationship with DMI strained, and after 7 years with the company, Albert left to form his own corporation. He and another photographer, Alex Oliveira, established Star Traks. Alex works mostly on movie sets and stakeouts. Albert works mostly for Planet Hollywood and the All-Star Cafe. As his schedule allows, he also accepts invitations to shoot movie premieres from many production companies including: HBO, Castle Rock Entertainment, Paramount, Miramax, Showtime, New Line Cinema, and TNT. Together, Alex and Albert have built a reliable and respected service, which is not easy to come by in their business. His present agency, The Globe, sells his pictures; however, Albert contracts all of his own work.
A typical assignment for Albert would be an event at a Planet Hollywood in any city across the world. Recently, he was sent to Chicago to cover a party where Chelsea Clinton was expected to be in attendance. As long as he receives one days notice and it coincides with his existing schedule, Albert is prepared to go anywhere. “They told me to get on a plane that morning and I would be back the next day.” Albert travels with a transmitter and a notebook computer. Pictures often need to be sent right after they are processed. “USA Today was waiting for the pictures, so I shot and transmitted the images that night.” He feels this is the best thing for the photographic industry. “You can handle the job and not worry about the magazines / newspapers receiving your images (by UPS or FedEx).”

When he does travel, especially if it is overseas, he has to plan even the last detail. “I like to get there a couple of days in advance. I need to get organized, set up telephone lines and transmission connections.” The work is tiring and often involves late nights. “In Chicago it was just a little party, but I was up all night. The party ends by two (a.m.), by three the film needs to be processed. Then, I have to wire the stuff.” In order to process film at two in the morning, arrangements have to be made with a lab in advance. “We pay to keep a lab open. I supervise the processing. Most any one hour lab will stay open for a reasonable fee.”

Albert has photographed almost everyone. When asked if there was anyone he would like to shoot who had never shot before, he answered, “Some- one asked me that question before and I don’t know who I haven’t shot. I think I shot pretty much everyone, unless they’re dead.” Interest in celebrities prompted conversation about who’s naughty and who’s nice. “Audrey Hepburn was one of the classiest ladies, she would come up, shake your hand and chat with you. She was as classy as she could be.” As for the naughty, “You have the brats, the Wynona Ryders. She plays hard ball. All of these young ones can be hard to deal with. Brad Pitt is a nice guy. I did some work with him and I told him how much I liked the movie Seven. Meanwhile, they are saying he chases photographers.” Some photographers do harass stars for their picture, but Albert feels it’s a give and take. “Alec Baldwin got away with punching that guy (a paparazzi photographer) in the face. Sure, I understand he doesn’t want some guy hanging out on his doorstep, but when he has a movie coming out, he wants to promote it. So you know you have to deal with it.”
Albert was uncomfortable about discussing the personalities of the stars. He keeps most of his opinions about their personalities to himself. “I let them live their lives. We have a working relationship.” When asked pointedly about certain stars, he offered few words: on Jackie Onassis Kennedy, “nobody knows how she is. She never spoke to anyone, a very private woman;” on Madonna, “She was really nice. She’s an actress in front of the camera when she has to be. When she’s got the AIDS Benefit and stuff, we get pictures of her. I always get her when she is willing to, when there is something to promote. But it can be a pain in the ass. Every time they mention her name, a horde of photographers respond;” and on Shaquile O’Neal, “It really is difficult to photograph someone that tall.”According to Albert, there is a clear difference between young stars and their predecessors. “You don’t see Robert Redford punching anybody. Why? Because they [sic] don’t do this bull. They go and do their movies. That’s a different class of actor. I mean Newman, Redford, DeNiro, Pacino, they don’t put up with anything. They do what they want to do. They are true actors and they don’t bother with the rest. DeNiro doesn’t even come to his own premieres. He doesn’t care.”
It’s hard to believe, but even Albert can get star struck at times. When he did his first party, he was very young and in awe of celebrities. “You get star struck at first, but then, it’s like, how can people get so crazy over them and try to touch them? They are people.” They more parties he went to, the more comfortable he became with the stars. “When I met Brooke Shields, I was amazed.” As a young boy, Albert had a serious crush on the actress. “Now we chat. I did some set ups with her and Andre (Agassi) when they firststarted going together and I have seen them since at the All-Star. She is a very nice girl.”
Albert walks into the living room with a book. Up until now, I have been sifting through various sized loose prints. “I got this together in a rush because I needed to show something to The Stones before they would hire me.” Albert presents an album of rock and roll photographs. He took most of them whiel on assigment for local newspapers. He is fascinated with shooting concerts and with The Rolling Stones. The first time Albert had ever been on tour was with The Rolling Stones. “They totally took a chance on me. It was hard to get the job. I was talking to their public relations representitive and she said, ‘but Albert, you are a party photographer.’ It’s hard to shed that image.” The Stones and their managers reviewed his book and gave him an opportunity.
They allowed him to shoot one concert. After seeing the results, Albert was headed on tour.Albert was hired in 1994 to shoot a leg of the Voodoo Lounge Tour. He shot sixteen concerts covering Mexico City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and New Jersey. “That was the best. The highlight of my career. Everyday it was a rush. You go out on the edge of that stage and it’s incredible. I could do it for a living, everyday.”

What he loves about concerts is having free reign to run all over and create his own shots instead of shooting what the papers want to see. At a party, he is focused to shoot similiar poses all the time. “There are no restrictions. When I was shooting The Voodoo Lounge, I went to Keith’s (Richards) dressing room and got pictures of him putting on makeup and with his guitar.” While all bands coordinate photographers on their own, The Stones financial terms were new to Albert. “The Stones don’t have to pay a photographer, they just pay your expenses. But you get to sell the film and you own the material to a certain point. They own all the rights, but you get to sell them.”

“I always look to take shots that will make the AP, which is stuff that a newspaper will look at. Nothing too stiff. It has to have some animation to it.” Albert shoots the images and once they are processed, he takes them to the Associated Press (AP), a wire service. He transmits on his own to USA Today. After that, his agent handles the distribution of the pictures. Some of the magazines that most commonly buy his work are People, US, and several New York newspapers. “Each magazine has their own style or format. You know if Sharon Stone is in a pretty dress, you have got to shoot full length for In Style (magazine). You’ve got to shoot head shots for a possible cover while changing to a zoom lens. You’ve got to do it all.”
Albert shoots with a Canon EOS-1N and a Canon EOS-A2. He also uses Canon Lenses: a
17-35mm and a 28-105mm. His film of choice is Fuji. “For portraits, I use Reala 100. It’s really sharp. For parties, I generally use Fuji Super G 400. It gives great scans.” When shooting head shots, he uses Kodak T-Max black and white and some Fuji Velvia slides. “I would prefer to always shoot slides, but in this business, wit hthis pace, I just can’t.” Many newspaper staff and wire service photographers are already using digital cameras. But, Albert feels that for this line of work, the quality is just not good enouhgh yet.
While there are hundred of photographers who claim to do what Albert does, very few are professionals working full time. “I can count about seven photographers that can do what I do (in the New York area). Most of them are on assignments from magazines or newspapers. But, when it’s private, when I go to parties and it’s just me, I have control of the pictures.” We spoke about how he got to where he is. “When you work with the studios and they have those big parties, they (the celebrities) do their work at one point. Then you let them have their fun. Hey, let them. I was at a party recently with Brad Pitt and Gwenyth (Paltrow) and, you know, they are making out. Yeah, that’s a great picture, but it’s their party. They did their bit and posed for me. I can live without that picture. They know that I am there and I respect them. Any other photographer would be shooting that picture. That’s what the studios like. I’m not greedy.”
I meet Albert at the Paris Theater where he is covering the premiere of The First Wives Club. The movie stars Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton. Diane Keaton is not expected to be in attendance. It’s 6:15 pm, raining in Manhattan, and I am late to meet Albert. The movie is not due to begin until 7 pm, but all of the stars make their arrivals for the press before the movie starts. There is a large crowd of fans settled outside the movie theater. In the front lobby, television crews are setting up there lights. Albert quickly ushers me into the photographers pit. The pit is located in the second lobby where, behind a rope barrier, six photographers are fidgeting. Several times over the next fifteen minutes, a publicist tries to shove a latecomer behind the barrier. The existing photographers bitch incessantly about space and angles, last night’s parties, and today’s front pages. As he is the house photographer, Albert is the only one who allowed to roam the lobby freely.A hush falls over the gabby photographers. Someone annonces that Kathy Lee Gifford and Frank Gifford are approaching. The stars enter through a seperate doorway. They pause fro a minute as photographers scream “Right here, look here Kathy.” “Frank, over here.” “Nice dress Kathy. Right here, full length.” Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Bette Midler, Valerie Bertenelli, Rosie O’Donnell, Sharon Stone, and Sarah Jessica Parker all file in and pause dutifully for photographs. While the photographers behind the barrier are forced to remain stationary, Albert is running all over the place. He follows each star from there entrance to the pit where he stops and takes his final shots.
After the arrivals, the lobbies clear out. Albert is sweating and juggling his film while trying to deposit his cameras into a beat up Domke bag. “Let’s go, we have an hour.” We jump into Albert’s car and drive to the AP. They process his film and review it immediately. The editors select a shot of Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler. One shot out of the eight rolls that Albert took. In an hours time, we are at the Plaza Hotel doing a walk through of the private party room before everyone arrives.

The party is much tamer than I anticipated. Most of the stars stay seated chatting and eating with their friends. The other guest are unimpressed with the company, and the fancy foods are served buffet style. It’s almost depressing. Albert circulates capturing an occasional smiling face. The crowd thins and finally, at 12 am, we can leave. We are both exhausted, especially Albert, who has been on his feet for over 5 hours straight. However, the night is not over yet. We drive to an all night lab where the party film will be processed and delivered in the morning to Albert’s Agency, The globe. “So what did you think?” Albert interviews me on the ride home, “It’s exhausting.” I replied “It’s over and it’s not half as glamorous as I was hoping.” He laughs, his eyes saying I told you so.

“I’d like to do more concerts and even work on some movie sets.” But even with all of the connections Albert has, it’s difficult to move form one field to another. The photographers who work on the movie sets need to be members of a union. “I’m sure if they would let me shoot a film set, I could prove that I could shoot one. I’ve done street stuff for them. If I had the access, companies would see original work.” The problem for albert is time. In order to get more of the work he’d like, he needs time to put together books and shoot some work without being on assignment. For now, however, he’s content with his present occupation.
Working with The Rolling Stones had such a positive impact on Albert, he is strongly considering going on tour with other bands in the future. “The publicist who hired me for The Stones I think would hire me for something else.” He has also managed to maintain a good relationship with The Stones and their managers. The group is considering doing a few smaller shows soon. Albert is talking with them about possible arrangements for those dates.“What I do, it’s half being a good photographer and halh being personable. I am quiet. I try not to schmooze too much. I know where my place is. I’m not going to be high-fiving Mick (Jagger). But that’s my personality too, very quiet. Same thing with Sly. I mean you chat and all, but hey, I’m not there friend. Charlie Sheen and I were bullshitting together, we even went fishing together. I was photographing him with the fish. We built up a relationship. With the other guys you know, there is a friendly relationship going on, but I’m not their buddies. I’m still not playing golf with Sly, but hey you never know.”