Photographer Dan Lecca

"We have a great track record, we don't make any mistakes. This intimidates a lot of people and they see our names everywhere. We cover everything. This is why we're so successful, the clients automatically assume that we are the best." - Dan Lecca

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DAN LECCA - 'THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY': A PROFILE OF A RUNWAY PHOTOGRAPHER

- By Vivian Kelly

PART 1: INTRODUCTION:

Runway photographer Dan Lecca is the undisputed king of the runway. He reigns supreme towering above the other photographers, a modern day "Moses on the Mount", graybeard, stern and imposing. At just about every fashion show, when he walks up to the podium, the others part for him as the Red Sea did for Moses.

Dan is shooting runway for some of the biggest newpapers and fashion magazines in the world. His client list includes: Harper's Bazaar, Allure, Town & Country, Marie Claire, The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine among others. In addition, Dan is currently the house runway photographer for many of fashion's best known designers including Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Celine, and shortly Louis Vuitton.

A Romanian immigrant who left his native land a rock star at age 19, came to America speaking no English, worked as a short-order cook in his 20's, then worked on 7th Avenue before he started taking pictures, was last week in Cannes on a plum assignment shooting the Victoria's Secret fashion/lingerie show.

Much has been said about Dan Lecca, both good and bad. The old saying about not being able to make an omelet without breaking any eggs applies to most successful people no matter which profession they're in. Inevitably, on the way up, feathers are ruffled, egos are bruised and rumors swirl around those at the top. Indeed, if no one's talking or envious, you aren't really successful, are you?

A select jury group of Dan's peers and clients we polled weighted-in with their opinions on " The King of the Catwalk". We also asked Dan himself about his climb to the top of the heap in a profession that has been compared to "combat photography".

PART 2: COMMENTS FROM HIS CLIENTS AND PEERS:

Fashion RTW Designer Michael Kors:

"Dan appeared on the scene and wanted to be the best - he went the distance. Runway photographers not only have to fight for their place but they also have to get the shot. As a result, they become so aggressive that they lose their humanity. Dan is the exception. He always gets the picture and remains a gentleman while doing it."

"I like that he makes it seem easy and never complains. Dan's a classic he's not trendy. Everyone in the business says, 'let's use him'. (We started using Dan around 1990.) His pictures really capture the moment, they never look old fashioned or stale. He also makes an investment in people - he's as nice to a nothing girl as he is to a super model. When the models come down the runway and see a whole wall of lenses, they definitely look for Dan and play to him."

Fashion Runway Photographer who asked to remain anonymous:

"The biggest problem is that he is relentless. In the late 80's, early 90's he started going after everyone's accounts. His appetite was insatiable, he wanted to have all the business. There's even a designer who is mortally afraid to not hire Dan Lecca.

Because his wife is shooting for The New York Times, they have lots of power. Everyone accommodates him and his clique of photographers. In New York he's set - Fern Mallis of the CFDA praises Dan to the heavens, maybe she has to go with the flow. But, the head security guy at the Tents says he's a bloody pain in the ass. Lecca would annihilate anyone who got in his way."

Sue Rolontz, The Tobe Report:

"My initial response would be: work, guts, nerve, he wanted to be #1. He can be the most impossible human being in the world and then he can be giving and incredible in the next moment. It's important to him that he and his wife Cory be the very best. In many ways, she supports him and makes it possible for him to do what he does. He's been a wonderful help to me. I told him when he stops doing this, I'm leaving Tobe because I couldn't do this without him."

Ernest Schmatolla, Publisher Lookonline.com and 13 years a New York fashion photographer:

"Dan would do anything to take a client he wanted from another photographer. He was very smart. He would send 100's of free pictures (edited to perfection of course) each season to a designer he wanted to work for with offers of working at or below the same rate the current photographer was charging.

He was also not above playing a dirty trick or two to win back a client. He once pretended to me that he was the house photographer for a Marc Jacobs show - an account that he had won from me back when Marc was still at Perry Ellis, but then lost it when Marc hired me back 'for good luck'. Well, what Dan did to me to get the account back 'should not have happened to a dog' as the saying goes!

And if he got angry at you, he would threaten to have you thrown out of a show - and since most of the PR people are so cowed by his attitude - he actually could. The way you work around Dan is the way you work around a Great White Shark. You can see both of them coming along way off, so the best thing to do is stay out of their way or risk being eaten!"

Vicki Ross, Fashion Producer, South of Seventh RTW Shows:

"He's taller and very authoritarian and speaks up and tells the producers or event managers if there's something wrong. He's not afraid to speak his mind."

Fashion PR Executive who asked to remain anonymous:

"He was stopped by security as he was on his way in to the Matt Nye Show in Bryant Park a few seasons ago. Boy was he ever annoyed when they stopped him!"

Bill Marpett, Fashion Video Producer:

"Do you remember in National Geographic where you see the top monkey ruling the pack? That's Dan, he's the top monkey on the runway scene. Everyone follows his lead, he has that kind of domineering personality. It's an unwritten law that he oversees the runway scene and straightens-out any problems happening up there.

Dan started really taking off when he started shooting for The New York Times. Even if he's not shooting for the house, he gets a lot of respect and always has a key position on the platform. He's got his priorities straight. He gets the goods, and that's what the clients care about. He has a system set up that no one else has, the rest of them operate like wild guns up there."

Randy Brooke, Fashion Runway Photographer:

"Dan was never anyone's assistant even when he was starting out - he just wasn't the type. There are a lot of 'Dan stories' out there and they're probably all true. Dan doesn't intimidate me, I'm probably one of the few though.

Back in the 80's, everyone shot from the sides of the runway, mostly with flash. Then in 1989, the Cannon auto focus lens came out. Dan's friend, Charlie Gurley, bought the $8000 auto focus lens because he had trouble focusing from the side of the runway where everyone was shooting from. Charlie showed Dan how to use it and next season, he went out and bought the same stuff.

By 1985, Dan was starting to get a couple of clients and got a rap that he went after everybody's clients. The other photographers could hear his footsteps coming up behind them. To this day, Dan vigorously denies it. For the past five years, he's been claiming that clients contact him, not the other way around. Today, I'd say he has 90% of the business.

There are also a lot of Dan stories about the Pierre Sherman price war that started in '85. By 1989 it had escalated into real severe nastiness and animosity on both parts until 1992. They were always fighting verbally, but it never got physical. Dan started the price war with Pierre's clients but in reality it was Pierre who lost most of his clients himself."

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