The Generosity of Lapo Elkann
When a photographer arrives to shoot a subject, they can never be sure who exactly is going to show up. Whether it's a Hollywood celebrity, and newsworthy politician, or a pedestrian 14 minutes into their 15 minutes of fame, any number of personalities could appear in front of the camera, with a myriad of egos and showboats that need to be managed.
When Amanda Marsalis met Lapo Elkann, heir to the Fiat fortune and president of Italia Independent, at the Gucci store in Beverly Hills, he really could have been another personality to parent. But that's not what she found at all. “He is Italian royalty, basically. And he is phenomenal,” Amanda explains. “He’s not a regular guy. There’s nothing regular about him. He does amazing things. It was a real pleasure.” She found Elkann to be completely affable. It really could have gone either way. Faced with the background that he has, coming from that kind of wealth and attention, it's entirely reasonable to expect a different kind of man, a lesser man.
In fact, Elkann was so friendly and easy to work with, that it almost got in the way. "He’s one of those people that when you’re around him you feel the energy in the room electrify," says Amanda. And she wasn't the only one who felt that way. Bystanders were constantly stopping them, interrupting the shoot, and Elkann was gracious at every turn. Instead of it being an obstacle, Amanda found that it loosened the set even further and allowed her to capture his authentic energy. “I was so impressed. Because it didn’t throw him from our shoot, even if people were interrupting us, he still came right back and was right with me as soon as they left, instead of being distracted. His ability to be present was mind blowing.” He needed to be present.
He and Amanda only had 45 minutes to get everything they needed for The Wall Street Journal. That included the four different looks he was in, and it all had to be done around his broken foot. The shoot could have been stressful, rushed, focused on minimizing distractions, and trying to stay on task – especially with all the interruptions. But it didn’t go that way at all. “It didn’t feel so stressful because he was giving me what I needed,” Amanda says. They started inside the store, then went outside, and then shot him in a Maserati. “I just wanted to get in the car and go where he was going to go for the rest of my life,” Amanda says. Instead, he drove off to his next appointment in style and Amanda stood, surprised and impressed.