Renowned photographer Daniel Azoulay documents the changing miami skyline one image at a time.
Much like the city he now calls home, Daniel Azoulay’s photographic career, though not so much the shutter-bugging part, has gone through several metamorphoses. Picture taking has been the steadfast part of his professional DNA. From studies in photography to prolific fashion shoots, his hand has always clutched a camera. It is the object of his photographic affection that has changed – or more accurately, Azoulay finally succumbed to what he dreamed of documenting from the very beginning, way before he started shooting models for Vogue. Architecture and design has held a magic spell over the photographer. So does the Magic City that has kept Azoulay busy with endless documentary opportunities to focus his lens on its ever changing skyline – like the development of Frost Museum of Science, the Miami Tunnel project and Perez Art Museum, right outside his window.
Trillionaire Magazine: What drew you to photography in the first place?
Daniel Azoulay: I chose photography because I found it extremely fascinating. What you can do with the eye and vision is just incredible. I really never wanted to do fashion. I was able to travel around the world and enjoy great things that come with working in fashion – but I definitely wanted to be a contemporary art photographer. Back then in the mid 70s, things were very difficult, and photography was not very popular as an art form. I had to lean more towards fashion and commercial work to advance myself. But it all worked out in the end.
TRI: You had the opportunity to see how the city blossomed into a fashion destination. Are you at all surprised that the Miami of Scarface became the Miami of Versace?
DA: When I came here in the 1980s, fashion was basically nonexistent. I was one of the few fashion photographers here; the only work was for swimsuit companies and a couple of other things. I had to import all my models from Elite and Zoe in New York. It was nothing like Miami in its fashion heyday. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by how it all changed. I would say it’s fascinating. I think I knew that one day the city would become what it is today.
TRI: Interestingly enough, when Miami started to pick up as a fashion location, your career took a turn, and you started to shoot architecture and design. How different were these two subjects to photograph?
DA: There’s a tremendous amount of difference. When you are photographing fashion, it’s about that moment – that particular thing. The images get published and then that’s the end of it; everyone moves on to the next image. Architecture is monumental; it’s really there forever. As a photographer, I used to go from one model to the next, and I couldn’t remember their names. Architecture, which I document in extravagant detail, is a very strong subject; it’s a very powerful presence. In terms of actual shooting, architecture is much harder because you have to work with whites and shadows that reveal every angle and surface. With some of these projects, I spent years completing them. If you are really not attracted by figures and structure and shapes, then I don’t think you can have the kind of romance necessary to transmit architectural beauty. You’ve got to love the design, and you’ve got to love the building – and that’s a big difference.
TRI: Have you adapted your shooting style to accommodate this change in subject?
DA: Yes, my style has changed. I am approaching it a little bit more aggressively, but still with passion. I’m always mindful of
and grateful to the people in the business of building Miami’s skyline, who are responsible for my success, like Jorge Perez. He gave me the first opportunity to documenthisprojects.
TRI: Do you miss the Miami of years ago when the skyline was small and unstructured, or are you enjoying what it’s become today?
DA: I sit on my terrace at night, and I look towards downtown, and it is so beautiful at night. The lights, the colors – it’s phenomenal. In the morning I see all the buildings shining from the sunrise, and their glare over the bay is magnificent. It’s absolutely beautiful.
TRI: With such blatant evidence of time passing, how melancholic does looking out your window get?
DA: Very good question. It is very sentimental in the way that this changing skyline became personal. In a way, I’m part of this landscape, as it is part of me.