News & Runway

Craig Arend (AKA Altamira) of Models Off Duty: a tFS Interview


Craig Arend

Craig Arend live in action shooting.

Craig Arend, known online as Altamira, is the street style photographer behind Models Off Duty. In just a few short years, he’s managed to attract the attention of some of the world’s most influential editors, stylists, and models, all of whom gladly pose for his camera. His work has appeared in a slew of Vogue iterations, Elle UK, Teen Vogue, and New York Magazine, among others, and he now regularly photographs the glitterati at A-list events from New York to Paris. We spoke to the always dapper Arend about his favorite models to photograph, the difference between shooting an editor and a model, what he looks for in subjects to shoot, and more.

Craig Arend

The Fashion Spot: How did you get into street style photography?  

Craig Arend: I dated a stylist who would always pull from multiple showrooms and bring everything back to her apartment and pre-style outfits. Seeing all the designer clothes regularly really sparked my interest in fashion. A trip to Paris and the Etienne Marcel metro area with a point and click solidified it and in June 2007, Altamira was born.

Craig ArendCraig Arend

tFS: What do you look for when you're looking for subjects to shoot?

CA: A good outfit and good timing. I can't stop a model when she's walking across Broadway with a million people around her.

tFS: Who was your all-time favorite person to photograph?

CA: All time? The list is endless; so many models have soo much personality. If I had to pick one, I'd say Abbey Lee Kershaw. There's nothing like having an army of people trying to get her photo and then have her, in the midst of the madness, slow down for my camera.

tFS: How is shooting an editor/stylist different from shooting a model?

CA: With regards to fashion, models can't be compared really. They are young and haven't had the years to develop and mature their personal sense of style. While they may have access to the same environments that high fashion photo shoots provide and fashion week provides, ultimately, they don't have the same freebies and closets of clothes to pull from that editors do. It's two different worlds. I hear editors criticize models, saying, "They should dress better because they are always around the best of the best." My response is, "You should pose more gracefully and go into character then at the flip of a switch, since you are exposed to the best of the best.

tFS: Can you name some models/editors/fashion influencers that love to pose for your camera?

CA: Most of the models and editors know my face by now. Model-wise, Frida Gustavsson always stops, Abbey Lee does too, and even Karlie Kloss. Edita Vilkevičiūtė talked to me in Milan about my interview in L'Official that her mom sent her with her photo in it. Lindsey Wixson literally jumped to me and said, "I wore this thinking of you" in good fun. We have a professional rapport that goes back many seasons over many different cities. The same goes for editors like Anna Dello Russo and Miroslava Duma also stop with barely even a word spoken.   

Craig Arend

Craig Arend and Mick Rock.

tFS: What's the hardest part of your job?

CA: Monetizing the blog was originally the biggest challenge. Now that I've been able to market my photography services on a broader scale beyond and including street style, I realize the blog was merely a launch platform for my work. 

tFS: Who would be your ultimate "get"?

CA: Kate Moss on a good day, no doubt.

tFS: How is shooting in the various fashion capitals different? The same?

CA: Paris is the most intense and the most populated with other "wannabe" street photographers.  New York is a close second with everyone and their brother holding a camera and shooting.  As far as which city brings out the best street style, Paris by far. Paris is truly where the magic happens. The Fall/Winter shows in Paris are by far the best. The sun doesn't set till like 9 at night, leaving me more time to shoot.

tFS: Aside from New York, London, Milan, and Paris, what other Fashion Weeks do you plan on covering?

CA: Besides Paris Couture shows, I'm actually seriously planning a trip to Copenhagen and Stockholm Fashion Weeks. I think there's a lot of emerging talent at both, in terms of designers and new model faces to watch.

tFS: You also shoot A-list events for a variety of online and print publications. How does that compare to street style?

CA: The access to the "A list" people and the fact that I'm usually only one of two photographers present at such an event. In street, there's usually a hoard of people behind me trying to steal the same composition and it's not just me, it happens to the other street photographers as well. I stop the model and then they shoot right over my shoulder, borrowing my shot when they don't even know the model's name to begin with or know anything special about her outfit. In Milan, I confronted a girl from a major fashion magazine for "borrowing" my shot of Alessandra Ambrossio, it was so annoying.

tFS: If one wanted to get shot by you at a party or on the street, what's the best way to go about doing that?

CA: Don't ask me to shoot you. I actually had four people do that last week. That's actually a fast way for me to take your photo and then delete it from my camera. The best way is to look great, look approachable, and honestly, have some value within the fashion or modeling industry that makes you relevant. Maybe you are curvy, maybe you are color blocked etc. There's an ongoing joke among all the street photographers about "posers". Usually, they are people who stand outside the shows who go just to be shot. We all have them figured out, who they are.  

tFS: Can you describe your own aesthetic? What are some of your favorite brands? Boutiques?

CA: This whole Prada color blocking scheme is amazing! I am loving my new rust orange pants from Zara, paired with a blue linen blazer from Zara, and a grey tunic length t-shirt from Zara. You get the point. 

images: Craig Arend