Max Vadukul

Max Vadukul is one of photography’s signature image makers.

He has long standing relationships with The New Yorker, French Vogue, Italian Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue, W Magazine, Interview, and Rolling Stone. He shoots regularly for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Esquire, Vogue China, Egoiste, Town & Country, and others. His book, “MAX,” published in 2000 by Nicholas Callaway, came out the same year as Helmut Newton’s “Sumo,” helping start the trend of oversized large-format photography books.

In the 1980’s and 90’s he introduced a distinct blend of high-octane energy and offbeat spontaneity, through predominantly black-and-white images, into the traditionally commercial form of fashion photography. In the 1990’s, as the second staff photographer in The New Yorker Magazine’s history (following Richard Avedon), he emerged as one of the world’s foremost portrait photographers, capturing hundreds of subjects ranging from Mother Theresa and Salman Rushdie to Mick Jagger and Mikail Baryshnikov. He describes his style as “art reportage,” which he calls the “taking of reality and turning into art.”

Vadukul was discovered in 1984 by the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto, who assigned the then 22-year-old Vadukul one of his prestigious ad campaigns. It was the first of several Yamamoto campaigns for Vadukul and introduced the photography world to his dynamic movement-filled black-and-white images. Vadukul established his editorial career in the 1990’s with a large body of work for French Vogue and Italian Vogue – much of which was produced with his wife, the eminent fashion editor Nicoletta Santoro, with whom he has collaborated regularly over the years. Recently, he shot two of W Magazine’s annual “Art” issue covers – an overseas collaboration with the Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei, and a collaboration with the artist George Condo and actress Jessica Chastain. In 1996 the producers of the Broadway musical “Chicago” asked Vadukul to create the new show’s image; the dark, stylized black-and-white portraits he took remain the basis for the show’s current campaigns.

From 1996 to 2000 he held the post of The New Yorker’s staff photographer, shooting an average of 52 assignments a year. Other subjects included Al Gore, James Brown, Donald Trump, Natalie Portman, Tom Hanks, Roger Federer, Tilda Swinton, David Geffen, and a group portrait of 40 Nobel laureates. In 1997 he photographed almost the entirety of the magazine’s celebrated Indian Fiction issue. After his tenure at The New Yorker he followed its editor, Tina Brown, to become Photo Editor-At-Large of her Talk Magazine.

Vadukul was born to an Indian family in Nairobi, Kenya in 1961 and is a self-taught photographer. His family moved to Northern London when he was a teenager. He did not complete high school, but he developed an interest in photography after his father took a job at the Carl Zeiss lens company. At the age of 16, he ran away from home to escape an arranged marriage. The National Geographic channel produced a feature documentary on Vadukul in 2000 about the improbable arc of his life after Africa; the documentary continues to air around South Asia today. Vadukul is also the first Indian photographer to shoot covers for French and American Vogue.

Vadukul has a long history with music photography. As a lead photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine he took portraits of Amy Winehouse, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, the Beastie Boys, Florence Welch, and Metallica. He has also photographed several albums including the Rolling Stone’s “Bridges to Babylon,” Beyonce’s “B’Day,” and Paul McCartney’s “Memory Almost Full.” His black-and-white style was utilized most directly, however, by Sting, who asked Vadukul to take the photos for his “Dream of the Blue Turtles” solo album, which was the artist’s first after the Police.

Vadukul has also photographed campaigns for Chloé, Comme des Garçons, Longchamp, Armani, Emanuel Ungaro, Sandro, and HBO’s “Six Feet Under.” Last year, he photographed the campaign for the Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, featuring Neil Patrick Harris.

Roberto Cavalli 2021 – Fausto Puglisi Zero Collection


Style Magazine – Car Crush backstage 2020

Self-Portrait: Max Vadukul (2000) produced by the National Geographic Channel

Artist Details