SPD Fall Reading: Red-Blooded American Male

SPD Fall Reading: Red-Blooded American Male

Justin Bieber, Gene Kelly, Neil Patrick Harris, Elon Musk, and Robin Williams are just a few of the famous faces featured in award-winning photographer Robert Trachtenberg's new book Red-Blooded American Male (Amphoto). Trachtenberg, whose photos have appeared in publications such as Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and Rolling Stone, curates a collection of over 100 portraits in his latest book.

Creative Director of Works Well With Others and SPD Board Member, David Curcurito, spoke with Robert about his process and how Red-Blooded American Male came to be.

Read on for Robert's answers and to see some shots from his book after the jump!

SPD: What is the idea behind your Red-Blooded American Male book? Why all men? You certainly have striking photos of remarkable women too.  

Robert Trachtenberg: My agent suggested I do a personal project, and I realized I had unwittingly put a lot of men in a lot of compromising positions over the years, so I figured I should keep going, shoot some new stuff and put it all together in a book that made fun of conventional notions of masculinity. There was no way I was going to follow the rodeo circuit or a baseball training camp, I can tell you that. Way too sincere and has been done before. 

SPD: Was there one photo in particular that launched the whole idea behind the book? Was it three? Which ones?  

RT: Probably the Will Arnett cover shot and the Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner - they run the gamut from the absurd to the heart-melting. 


SPD: Who's the one person missing from Red-Blooded American Male? The person you wished you photographed. 

RT: I actually joke about that in the introduction to the book - I can't give my answer away, pick up a copy. 

SPD: In addition to doing great work as a photographer you've won an Emmy Award for outstanding directing for nonfiction programming for American Masters. Why not put all of your focus on writing and  directing instead of photography? What is it about photography that keeps you coming back? 

RT: The films take about a year to do, but there's nothing like walking into a location or studio and walking out either twenty minutes or a few hours later with a shoot in hand. Done. Finished. It's a concentrated burst of creativity.


SPD: There's certainly a lot of humor in all your work. What if your subject just isn't funny? 

RT: If we need a funny shot for some reason, they don't have to be particularly funny. The humor can happen to them, they don't have to be the cause of it. 

SPD: What if you're not feeling particularly funny either? 

RT: This comedy stuff is serious business. Doesn't matter how I'm feeling, if I hear people laughing at the monitor, I'm good. 

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SPD: Horrible publicists, little to no budget...what are the biggest challenges as a photographer within the current state of magazines. 

RT: Doing something both you and the client are proud of. You know, something that will get 36 likes on Instagram. 

SPD: What about the current state of magazines is exciting? 

RT: Next question. 

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SPD: What will your next book be? 

RT: No idea. I think next up is another film and more shoots. 

SPD: What was your favorite Red-Blooded American mens magazine before the Creative Director left?  

RT: Ladies Home Journal. No wait - Esquire. Is that right?

Robert Trachtenberg's Red-Blooded American Male is out now. Purchase it HERE.

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