Greg Lotus

by Eleni Solomou

Model Cheekbones and a Taste for World Peace
Due to an unfortunate series of pageantry, world peace is often associated with the final round of a beauty queen’s recognition. In a reverse sequence of events, it was instead world peace that led Greg Lotus from Virginia to his first modeling job. “When I was 16, I won this written essay contest with a piece on world peace and I got to go to New York City to be a United Nations delegate,” Lotus recalls, still amazed by this unexpected turn in his life. “While I was there I was scouted by Eileen Ford, I started to model, and that’s how I got into the industry.” The path led him to discover a passion for photography—a passion that, so far, has been showcased on the pages of Vogue Italia, GQ, Vanity Fair, L’Uomo Vogue, and W magazine.

Lotus’ images have a structured surrealism, much like an OCD dream sequence of a light-sensitive architect, a look and feel accordant with his personality. “I try to build my world of beauty and live in a world of beauty. I designed and built my house. I decorated my house. If I wasn’t a photographer, I’d probably be an architect,” Lotus explains of his talent in ordered beauty-making. “I like to see inside the picture. Maybe the public only sees the outside of the picture. I like to see the inside, and I like to prepare and really take time to decorate my picture. A lot of research goes into my story concepts and ideas. You have to know the picture before you even take the picture.”

If anything were possible, what would your next picture be? If you could shoot any person who’s ever lived, any animal. Like Naomi [Campbell] sleeping on the belly of a lion while Marchesa Casati is brushing the lion’s mane. If I could do anything, I’d photograph lots of things. I’d photograph the president. I’d photograph the queen. I’d photograph royalty. I could photograph the homeless. I’ve done that. It’s hard. People, you know. My most favorite person I ever photographed was my grandmother.

Why was she your favorite? It’s a piece of history, it’s a piece of me. It’s just enjoyable to take her and put her into my world where she’s in the farm and she’s feeding the cow. And I made her put on a couture dress or something like this.

What’s the most unexpected thing that has inspired you? The unexpected things that inspire me are the unexpected things people tell me when I’m photographing them. I went to Graceland in Memphis and I photographed Lisa Marie Presley for her album cover. Spending days in Graceland was a strange trip because they closed Graceland for me to photograph. So we’re basically living in the house for a couple days and it was like a warp. There were no security guards; it was like living in the house with Elvis. I would be with Lisa and she would say, ‘Oh this is my grandmother’s bedroom, and I think actually my grandmother died in this bed, and I think my aunt also died in this bed. And by the way I don’t think they’ve ever changed the mattress.’

Did you photograph her on that bed? Yeah, that’s why she was telling me about the bed. You know, they tell me these things and you never forget these stories, it’s incredible. You have to have that communication in order to reach inside of those people and find them.