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If anyone is next in line to take Chicago’s throne from heavy-hitting fashion photographers Victor Skrebneski, 80, and Stan Malinowski, 73, it’s 42-year-old David Leslie Anthony. Even his bio sounds regal: Anthony, the son of a French-Canadian photographer and a British knight, shoots for top-drawer magazines such as Vogue Italia and Harper’s Bazaar, and his work is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s premier permanent collection in London. As someone who values tradition and the fine arts, Anthony offers this guiding principle to capturing his stunning looks: “You cannot create the future unless you know the past.”
A ROCKY START
After struggling as a photographer in Europe for five years, Anthony moved to Chicago in 2000 with his portfolio, four cameras, and a used Toyota. At a McDonald’s pit stop on the way to his first local assignment—a test shoot with a Ford model—someone popped the locks on his car and stole everything. Not knowing a soul in the city, he called the gig’s makeup artist, borrowed her camera, and nailed the shoot. But the next few months were hard. Anthony refused to call his corporate lawyer father in Montreal to ask for help. He had no choice but to sleep in his car in Fulton Market. Looking back, he says the experience allowed him to see Chicago in a way that other photographers don’t. “I’d park at twilight under the tracks and watch the wonderful, changing colors in the sky,” he says.
“People don’t think Chicago’s visually exciting, but you see things differently if you’ve lived abroad,” Anthony says. Why cross an ocean when the perfect location is in your backyard? The Murphy Auditorium at 50 East Erie Street becomes a street scene in Paris (model with balloons, far right). Montrose Beach transforms into the Scottish Highlands. “I shot for Marie Claire on Lake Michigan, and people were saying, ‘When did you go to Miami?’”
MOM PLANTS THE SEED
“I always like to photograph my women very strong because my mother was very strong,” Anthony says. His mother shot for Harper’s Bazaar in the 1950s but soon gave it up in favor of beginning a family. “She started teaching me about design and color,” he says of his childhood. “On walks she’d point out angles and compositions and how to look at the world in pictures.” Earlier this year Anthony had a show at Luxbar that featured his work alongside his mother’s. “I love how she shot movement—rather than making the model stagnant as was the style of the period,” he says. “I see a similarity in my own work.”
Photograph: Tyler Curtis