Celebrated Photographer Andrew Werner Dishes on His Amazing Career

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 10: Andrew Werner attends the Global Lyme Alliance fifth annual New York City Gala on October 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Global Lyme Alliance)

Andrew Werner is an icon in the world of photography whether he wants to see it this way or not. He’s been making his way through the New York City social scene and beyond for years with no signs of stopping regardless of what COVID has thrown at him this year.

The uber talented and super driven professional has achieved quite a lot in many aspects of what it is like to take on this kind of job. Whether its shooting an A-list celeb (Paris Hilton, Cher, Billy Porter, etc), partnering up with some of the fiercest fashion labels around or showcasing just how gorgeous one person can be, he is one to be reckoned with the minute he whips out his camera.

His passion is undeniable and his work is downright fierce. Andrew chatted with us about how all of this began for him at an early age to the levels he’s gone to stay busy during COVID and some fun stories about the subjects he’s shot. Take a look.

Credit: Andrew Werner

How did you get involved in the art of photography?

A camera has been in my life for as long as I can remember. The passion I have for photography stemmed from my love of connecting with people. There’s something so profound of having the honor of sharing a moment, however brief. with other people. You get a moment into their lives, their stories, their hopes, fears and dreams. It’s very personal. 

It’s funny, my mother was just showing me a photograph of myself at nine years old which my brother took. At the time, he had just learned how to do a double exposure technique with the camera and I was his willing subject matter. The resulting photo featured two of me at the kitchen table having a conversation… I was mesmerized by it! Ever since then I always had a camera in hand.

So, after graduating from the University at Buffalo where I shot almost all aspects of campus life for the school newspaper, I began photographing New York City’s notorious nightlife—this was the start of my career. Then I expanded to Manhattan’s society events, red carpets, charity galas, and weddings.  Over the years, I’ve been able to refine the narratives that inspire me, and found my love for photographing fashion, beauty, interior design, jewelry, and architecture. While my subject matter has varied over the years, people have always provided the common thread— relationships, society, and the environments in which we experience key life moments.

Did you have any inspirations before getting into the industry? 

So, I am rather nostalgic. Photography has always been my way to freeze time and save it to reflect upon. Through photography I was able to become a master storyteller, I always was moved by photographers who could capture a compelling narrative through their lens.

Photographers like David LaChapelle, Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, and Ruven Afanador were key sources of inspiration for me over the years. Each of them had their own unique way they told stories through the camera, be it a technique or the type of subject matter they shot. This motivated me to search for my own way to tell stories. Whether through the use of color, accessories, fashion, hair/makeup, and expression, I have tried to capture what splendor means to me in the hopes that it evokes emotion and inspiration in others.

Credit: Andrew Werner

How would you describe your specific style?

Just like life, my style is ever evolving and adapting, mainly to the subject matter I am working with at the given time.  My devotion to the craft, my attention to detail, and truly focusing on what I want to capture are the consistent vital elements to my work. Honing my style over the past decade has granted me a reputation for not being your typical one trick pony, apparent in the diversified nature of my portfolio. By not limiting myself into one genre, I have had the opportunity to explore what brings me the most happiness while doing what I love. So while my themes may change from the red carpet, to a fashion editorial, to a commercial campaign or to a humble family portrait, my one goal is to have the human connection, that feeling of that moment captured in the work.   

You’ve shot some pretty yummy looking guys during your career. Do you usually search for them or do they come to you?

What can I say… I’ve been lucky. Some of these attractive muses I was able to find, and others found me! From my years in nightlife, to NYFW, Jeffrey Fashion Cares and agency jobs, I have met a multitude of amazing people both inside and out. When they have had this combination, they make the perfect subjects for the camera. I always say word of mouth has been my best form of advertising, and sometimes a seamless moment is just fate. 

My series, Strength & Confidence: Portraits of Trans Male Models had an awe-inspiring response from the LGBTQIA+ community. This was the kind of story that was fate – we had found each other, and the project was innate. It is these instinctive endeavors that keep my drive and excitement flowing and for that I am very fortunate. 

Credit: Andrew Werner

What has been your favorite shoot to date and why?

Every photoshoot I have done leaves an impression on me, however, over the years, there are a few shoots that have truly changed my life. Several years ago, Sally Jessy Raphael’s team reached out to commission new portraits.  This legendary lady and I formed a bond while working together that stuck with me over the years. Capturing this new chapter in her illustrious career, her trust in my artistry and conceptions created one of those special connections that became a friendship as opposed to a subject & photographer.

In Fall 2018, I photographed Harry Winston’s New York, a magnificent collection of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings inspired by the luxurious NYC life that inspired his work and archival designs. Having grown up in a family whose love and business was fine jewelry, this was an honor for me. The pieces were exquisite and the shoot a milestone in my career that is deeply personal.  

Most recently in March 2020, when the world hit pause, I had over 30 projects cancel practically overnight. Life as we knew it changed and my profession had no choice but to alter with it.  Without my normal day-to-day of people-based work, I made Manhattan itself my muse. 

I embarked on a new journey, initially as a therapeutic one, documenting New York City’s most iconic landmarks and foot-trafficked spaces, completely devoid of people and human activity.  The result is my series, Places Without Faces. It was an emotional, inspiring and self-reflective experience that revealed the importance of personal and interpersonal relationships in our lives. As someone who defines with light, it is sometimes the darkness that is most intriguing.

If there was one event that you could cover what would it be?

Joe Biden’s Inauguration. End of story. 

Credit: Andrew Werner

Do you feel photographers are not as appreciated these days due to so much of the focus shifting to social media selfies and filters?

You know, I can honestly say that I do not feel underappreciated in today’s technological shift and social media craze. Hey, I’m even guilty of it too. Who doesn’t love a good selfie when you find your light? If anything, I think it is better that people have the opportunity to see what expertise goes into taking a good photograph. There is a difference between someone snapping a quick photo on their phone and a professional photographer taking hours to perfect a vision. Both capture different types of perspectives and different levels of storytelling. Both can co-exist in this world.

We all have memories, meals, and last night’s outfit we want to share, and I fully support everyone doing so! But my Nikon, equipment, and years of experience give me a different insight the way I approach the art of photography.  The instant gratification of snap-filter-post culture has jaded us and hindered the craft behind it. 

For example, years ago I was hired to photograph my good friend Amanda Lepore on her way to jury duty. Capturing her entire morning for a several hours until she entered the courthouse, the story was then pulled after someone snapped a shot of her and shared it with their networks. Soon, it felt like it was everywhere. Hours of work and time tossed aside because this one moment was captured and distributed the world over in a flash. 

Currently we have become a society that puts more value on speediness and less focus on the quality of a well-crafted image. But times and trends always recycle, and it is my hope that there will always be a need for a skilled, artistic and knowledgeable photographer.  

What does the future hold for you and what are you looking forward to the most in your career? 

The future holds exciting projects both personal and professional! I look forward to sharing more of my series Places Without Faces, working with brands to bring their vision to life, and producing art with other creatives. When not busy with photography, I am handcrafting Fleurs for Fleur’d Pins, my line of lapel flowers, which are all made in NYC. It was important I develop an accessory that can offer a personal a way to express someone’s unique style while also boosting their confidence and optimism.

I myself, do my best to stay optimistic and happy, two things I wish for everyone these days — because in the words of my grandfather, “this too shall pass”. 

What do you think?