You’ve seen arresting, intense images from photographer Brian Bowen Smith before...We guarantee it. Smith is the among first names mentioned when it comes time for Miley, Cindy Crawford, Demi Moore, or Channing Tatum to appear on the cover of a magazine; Jennifer Aniston personally advocated for Smith (a former gymnast and handsome protégé of super-shutterbug Herb Ritts) to get his star-snapping career on an upward trajectory. Yet, it’s his personal fine art photography, not cover shoots, that’s putting him front-and-center these days. Currently, Smith’s exhibition of photographs, “Metallic Life,” is on display at the De Re Gallery in Los Angeles (through November 19). These beautiful nude images, created in collaboration with makeup artist Kela Wong, have been printed on metallic canvas at soaring, life-sized dimensions. “It’s really important to see them this big,” Smith insists. “That scale makes them feel really special. I like when you’re looking at the human form at it's actual size.” (He does make smaller, more house-friendly prints, available through De Re Gallery.) These are no ordinary bodies, mind you. Several (not all) of the models in the series are indeed very famous, although fanning the flames of their celebrity is hardly the point of their participation. Tallulah Willis bares her body and soul for Smith, as does his close friend, Kourtney Kardashian. “Kourtney’s a friend and I love her," Smith said. "I wanted people to change their perceptions of her. Everyone got over that it was a Kardashian on the wall once they saw that it had nothing to do with sparking up controversy...It’s a beautiful image.”
Some colleagues from the art world warned him about shooting an individual as ubiquitous as Kourtney, but Smith knew she had a side to her that deserved to come out: “She was willing to be vulnerable, as were all the people wound up in the show,” he said. “They wanted their vulnerability to be shown [and] to do these pictures as much as I did. Kourtney said, ‘I want to be in this...I’m amped, no boundaries, no walls up...’” To dispel potential critiques from art-world detractors who might see his celebrity connections as an “easy in” at an L.A.-based gallery, Smith is hungry to take this, and future exhibits, on the road. “I would love to seek out galleries in other cities and may try to do a show in New York,” he says. “I want to be accepted in the art world, so I want New York to see this.” It’s probably best not to underestimate Smith, given his roots at Herb Ritts’ side, not to mention the countless iconic images he’s created throughout his career. “To be honest, I started doing fine art,” Smith says. "I started doing celebrity work and I’ve been blessed to be doing that work, to make a living. Putting on shows is expensive! But now, it really feels like things are coming around full circle.” And from what we see on the walls of De Re, it can’t come around soon enough.