It’s A Hot Day At The Beach With Author Michael Gross Sitting Next To You
So you are lying on the beach - toes buried in the sand (just like your kids) - and you’re itching to read something more than the routine magazines you haphazardly tossed into your giant bag on the way out the door. You crave something provocative, with a tinge of sex appeal and naughtiness, however, classy, unlike the array of rags that you continue to stare at every time you stand in the checkout line at your local grocer. Yes...we are all tempted but to succumb? I think not.
In walks New York Times bestselling author Michael Gross with a new non-fiction compilation of tempestuous tales to both fuel and feed your literary cravings. Focus: The Secret, Sexy, Sometimes Sordid World of Fashion Photographers (Atria Books, released July 5, 2016) confirms just about everything you’ve ever imagined about the glamourous and seductive world of high fashion photography...and then some.
Encapsulating the lives, loves, losses, and lurid affairs of some of the most widely recognized wizards behind-the-camera, Focus will, undoubtedly, satiate your current 'focus' for engaging reading material while helping to clarify what the world was really like for three decades of iconic fashion photographers. PG-rated this book is not. Keep the kiddies playfully digging their way to China and frolicking in the waves (with your chair close-by, of course) while ‘mature’ you embraces temptation and begins reveling in the masterful words of Michael Gross in his interview below as well as his newest page-turner Focus.
What is your personal mantra?
As Abbie Hoffman said: “SACRED COWS MAKE THE TASTIEST HAMBURGER.”
One of your talents as an author and writer is your ability to identify 'low-hanging, juicy fruit' and then expounding upon it in a highly provocative, exciting way. How do you know when a topic is ripe for the picking (so to speak)?
I WOULDN’T SAY I GO FOR LOW-HANGING FRUIT, NECESSARILY. FEW OF THE PEOPLE I WRITE ABOUT ARE EASILY ACCESSIBLE OR OPEN BOOKS, AND EVEN WHEN THEY APPEAR TO BE, WHAT THEY PUT ‘OUT THERE’ ISN’T WHAT INTERESTS ME. I LIKE TO EXPLAIN WHAT GOES ON BEHIND CAREFULLY CONSTRUCTED FACADES. I LIKE EXPLAINING HOW THINS REALLY WORK. I FIND THAT JUICY!
Share with us what readers can expect from your newest book FOCUS.
FOCUS LOOKS AT THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS IN THE GLORY DAYS OF FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY -- FROM WORLD WAR II TO YESTERDAY. ITS SUBJECTS ARE THE PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO CHANGED THE CONVERSATION, EMBODIED THE PROFESSION, AND LIVED THE 'LIFE' TO THE FULLEST. IT'S REALITY AND GLAMOUR COMBINED.
What is the biggest fallacy the 'fashion photography' world perpetuates?
I DON’T THINK FASHION INTENDS TO PROMOTE PRETTY LIES, BUT MANY OF ITS FANS CAN’T HELP BUT LIE TO THEMSELVES BECAUSE IT’S ALL ABOUT ASPIRATION. THE FACT IS, VERY FEW PEOPLE LOOK LIKE FASHION MODELS. I THINK MORE ACCURATELY, SOME PEOPLE - WHO VIEW AND LOVE FASHION PHOTOGRAPHS - IMPOSE THEIR IMPOSSIBLE STANDARDS ON THEMSELVES. AT OUR BEST, WE ASPIRE TO BE BETTER THAN WE ARE. AT ITS BEST, FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY IS INSPIRATIONAL. THAT’S WHY I’VE CREATED A HASHTAG TO PROMOTE BOTH THE BOOK AND THE SOCIAL MESSAGE THAT FASHION PHOTOGRAPHS AREN’T REAL BUT RATHER, WE MAKE OUR OWN REALITIES AND THAT’S WHAT’S REALLY BEAUTIFUL. SO, #FOCUSYOURSELFIE. STRIKE A POSE. THERE MAY BE SOMETHING TO IT. STRIKE A POSE FOR WHATEVER MATTERS TO YOU. IT’S THER MOST BEAUTIFUL THING YOU CAN DO.
How have the topics you've chosen and the articles and books you've written over the years helped to keep your own life and purpose in focus?
ANYONE CAN RUN OFF THE RAILS. MOST OF US HAVE AT ONE POINT OR ANOTHER IN OUR LIVES. I WRITE ABOUT THE SORT OF PEOPLE WHO ARE AT HIGH RISK OF LETTING THEIR FAME, THEIR WEALTH, THEIR GOOD FORTUNE, THEIR GOOD LOOKS, GO TO THEIR HEADS. YEARS AGO, I DEDICATED A BOOK TO “BEAUTIFUL LOSERS, THE ONES WHO KEPT THEIR SENSE OF TIME, SPACE, AND THEIR OWN IMPORTANCE.” ANYTIME I FIND MYSELF WOBBLY ON THE RAILS, I TRY TO REMEMBER HOW IMPORTANT THAT IS.
Explain the 'line of respect' you adhere to when covering the lives of others.
I WRITE ABOUT VERY PUBLIC PEOPLE WHO HAVE CHOSEN TO PUT THEMSELVES IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE. I THINK IT’S VITALLY IMPORTANT TO SEE WHO THEY REALLY ARE, TO EXAMINE THEIR LIVES AND THEIR MOTIVES AND SHED LIGHT ON HOW THEIR REAL LIVES RELATE TO THE IMAGES THEY PRESENT TO THE WORLD. THAT SAID, I TRY NOT TO INVADE PERSONAL ZONES. EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO LOCK THE DOOR TO THE LOO. BEDROOMS ARE A TRICKIER PROPOSITIONBECAUSE SO MANY OF OUR PUBLIC PERSONALITIES WANT TO SELL US ON THEIR PERSONAL NOTIONS OF SEX, LOVE, ETHICS AND MORALITY. SIGNIFICANT OTHERS ARE - IN MOST CASES - ARE FAIR GAME BUT I TRY TO AVOID WRITING ABOUT MY SUBJECTS’ CHILDREN SINCE THEY DIDN’T CHOOSE THEIR PARENTS AND SHOULD NEITHER BE 'RAISED UP' BECAUSE OF THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS NOR PUT DOWN FOR THEIR SINS.
You come from a highly respected 'literary' family. What's in the family water (so to speak) that seems to have compelled each of you to take a literary route?
INK IN THE VEINS? BUT SERIOUSLY, WE ARE NOT LITERARY. MY FATHER MILTON, MY SISTER JANE AND I ALL WORKED OR WORK AS JOURNALISTS (THE FANCY WORD FOR INK-STAINED WRETCHES). MY FATHER, ACTUALLY, WANTED ME TO BE A LAWYER AND I ONLY DEVIATED FROM THAT COURSE AFTER HE DIED -- WHEN I WAS A JUNIOR IN COLLEGE. I AM GLAD TO SAY, HE SAW MY FIRST PROFESSIONAL BY-LINE BEFORE THAT HAPPENED.
Share with us a social cause or cause-based organization you support.
I’M NOT A ONE-TRICK PONY IN THIS REGARD. OVER THE YEARS, I HAVE WORKED FOR POLITICAL CANDIDATES, MARCHED FOR PEACE AND THE EARTH, GIVEN MONEY TO AIDS RESEARCH, SUPPORTED FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND A FREE PRESS, AND MORE. RIGHT NOW, I THINK PROMOTING INDIVIDUALITY AND SELF-EXPRESSION IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT AND EMPOWERING. TOO MUCH FAUX REALITY IS BEING IMPOSED ON US. AGAIN, THAT’S WHY I INVENTED #FOCUSYOURSELFIE -- AS A WAY TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS TO PROMOTE A RETURN TO THE SORT OF VALUES I ADMIRE, WHICH HAPPEN TO BE VALUES MANY OF THE FASHION PHOTOGRAPHERS I WRITE ABOUT IN FOCUS REPRESENTED AND EVEN EXALTED. THEIR DAY IS DONE, BUT WHAT’S NEXT HAS YET TO BE DETERMINED.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered.
WHEN I WAS TEN YEARS OLD, MY FATHER TOOK ME TO THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, WHICH STILL HAD A CARD CATALOG WITH ONE CARD FOR EVERY BOOK IN ITS HOLDINGS. HE SHOWED ME THE TWO CARDS FOR THE TWO BOOKS HE’D WRITTEN. I NOW THINK THAT MY CAREER PATH WAS SET THAT DAY. EVEN THOUGH THE CATALOG IS NOW DIGITAL, THE EFFECT IS STILL THE SAME. MY BOOKS ARE THERE. THAT’S ENOUGH FOR ME.
A masterful combination of instinct, appeal, entertainment and erotic imagery, Focus will capture your attention and drive you to want more of Michael Gross’ body of work. Thankfully, he is quite prolific in his skill. In other words, he’s written a ton in the form of books, articles, and blogs -- all of which you can easily find here or when reading the luxury, travel magazine Departures, where Michael is a Contributing Editor.
Looks like your days as the beach just got a whole lot steamier, don't you think?
Many thanks to Michael Gross and Simon and Schuster for making this interview possible