Drinking Martini & Rossi With James Bond's Personal Photographer Greg Williams – Forbes

Greg Williams on location in Venice
Whether it’s Lady Gaga clutching her Oscar backstage, Dakota Johnson fixing her dress before a gala or Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio sharing a private laugh together, photographer Greg Williams specializes in capturing celebrities in intimate, unguarded moments — when they’ve stopped playing their characters and look like they’re spending time with a close friend. As well as being an official James Bond photographer, including capturing on-set photos and shooting the posters for No Time To Die, Williams has teamed up with Martini & Rossi to celebrate photos of people reuniting after over a year of lockdowns. 
What influenced your candid-style shoots with celebrities? 
The photographs that first inspired me were from ’50s magazines and coverage of Hollywood movie stars. But there’s always been this big gulf between the publicist-controlled Hollywood image of someone vs. what the paparazzi would get on the street. You either had people put up on pedestals like gods or saw them getting in trouble. And there wasn’t much in between. 
What makes a great photo stand out for you?
It’s the element of imperfection that makes the pictures believable and authentic. I love seeing a kitchen in a hotel basement with someone wearing a ballgown or tuxedo walking through it. Those imperfections make the photo. 
Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt at the Golden Globes
How did you first get access to the famous people you wanted to photograph?
I started off scared of upsetting the wrong people. You only have to mess one big thing up and become persona non grata if you weren’t careful. So I learned how to navigate places, how to treat people using empathy, which I think is probably my best asset. The ability to get on with someone very quickly. Help them trust me and then not abuse that trust.
Now that your photographs are well-known, do celebrities feel even more comfortable letting their guard down with you?
That helps — until you work with someone who hasn’t seen them. Sometimes I meet someone that doesn’t have a clue who I am and within two minutes I’m in their bathroom photographing them brushing their teeth. My second shoot with someone is always much different than the first one, because with the first one you’re trying to gain trust.
Since your photos are intimate, do you show them to your subjects first before publishing?
I show everyone everything — and I’ve never lost a great picture. If they can trust me to shoot the least I can do is trust them to see the photos. What I do is collaborative. The reason some of my photos are very successful is because it isn’t just me, it’s the net result of me and them together. In my mind, I’m shooting artists, not celebrities and want to show the person behind the personality. It’s about scratching away at the facade, looking behind the curtain but with a positive agenda.
Shooting the Martini Moments project
Tell me about the Martini & Rossi campaign you’re involved with, ‘Martini Moments.’
This lockdown has been something that’s been incredibly historical for all of us. Coming out of that is quite a thing, so they had the idea of putting together a sort of competition that gets people photographing their friends reuniting. And Martini & Rossi saw that I’m very into education. I do a course where I teach how to take good photographs with whatever camera they have, including the one on their phone. So it’s quite a democratic thing. With a few quite simple tips, I can get you thinking like a photographer and your pictures will improve exponentially. 
And what is your Martini & Rossi drink of choice?
I take the Martini & Rossi Fiero and mix it 50/50 with soda water. We’re drinking that on shoots at the moment and it’s wonderful. It’s the easiest mix you’ll ever do.
Rami Malek in Venice
Are there any celebrities you’ve developed a special photographer/subject relationship with?
Tom Hardy and I have worked together for many years. I’ve known him since he was 15, before he was acting, and went to his first play. Another one would be Daniel Craig. I knew him before he did James Bond and then photographed his screen test and shot the posters for the last bunch of films. There are people I reach out to regularly and I’ll head over to their house and hang for an hour, but I try to do that with young up-and-coming people as well.
Did you always know you wanted to be a photographer?
I’ve known since six what I wanted to do. A distant cousin came over and he had these black cameras and big zoom lenses and flash guns. Three weeks later we get a package with this crappy little camera he didn’t need anymore. It had bits broken off, but it worked, and he wrote “this is for Greg, he seems really keen.”

As an American kid growing up in Italy, I discovered food, wine and travel at an early age — well, mostly wine. After graduating from NYU Film, and feeling the constant

As an American kid growing up in Italy, I discovered food, wine and travel at an early age — well, mostly wine. After graduating from NYU Film, and feeling the constant need to flee Los Angeles, I rediscovered wine on frequent escapes to Napa and Sonoma. For the past ten years I’ve focused on organic, biodynamic and natural winemakers – a combination of pleasure and practices I refer to as Responsible Hedonism. I’ve been able to travel the world visiting wineries, chefs and hotels – and as a professional photographer, I also love to photograph the stories I’m covering. In addition to Forbes, my writing and photography has appeared in The New York Times, Food & Wine, Gotham, Time Out New York, Men’s Journal and I am the editor of the Organic Wine Journal.

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