All images courtesy @shotbyorion

The 21-year-old photographer catching candid shots of famous faces

New York-based Orion is shooting Rihanna, Kim and Timothée with little more than a disposable camera.

by Ryan White
15 April 2020, 1:00pm

All images courtesy @shotbyorion

“What is my secret to finding so many big names?“ asks 21-year-old Orion. “Well, it wouldn’t really be a secret if I told you now, would it?” Originally from California and now based in New York City, Orion works as a restaurant host and does photography and video work on the side. But his main passion -- if his second Instagram account @shotbyorion is anything to go by -- is catching fleeting encounters with the biggest celebrities out and about in New York, and making it seem casual and effortless.

“I basically go to a lot of events, and build relations with people to the point where some know me even on a first name basis,” he says. “Then I try to engage in small talk to start off with, and eventually bring up my work and ask if they are interested in being part of it." A cursory glance at his feed shows he's not messing. The resulting images capture a mixture of actors, models and musicians -- Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Kendall Jenner, to name a few -- looking into the camera lens as if greeting an old friend. "That relationship is the reason most of my subjects look incredibly relaxed and more than happy to have their picture taken.”

The difficulty of this shouldn’t be underestimated, nor the talent it takes at just 21. Anyone who’s spent a moment outside a film premiere, store opening or award ceremony knows the atmosphere quickly turns from mild frenzy to complete chaos the moment a celebrity arrives. But Orion’s work is a far-cry from the standard sort of tabloid paparazzi photography from the red carpet. Paparazzi is, however, naturally a word Orion is keen to distance himself from. “I do not see myself as a paparazzo because that title really does have such a negative connotation and with good reason,” he says. “Not to knock that line of work because those photographers do need to make a living and not all of them are bad I’m sure, but the reality is a lot of them are guilty of invasion of privacy and take photos without people’s knowledge or consent which I’m not okay with."

There’s been no acrimony whatsoever with Orion’s work. In fact, the response has been so overwhelmingly positive that one of his favourite subjects, Timothée Chalamet, now greets him with open arms every time. “It did start off as coincidence,” he says of finding Timothée so many times. “But it became very much intentional, and not just for me, but for him as well,” he says. “What I mean by that is that he is one of the people I’ve made a personal relationship with and who has gotten to know me. So now when he sees me in person, he’s asking me where my camera is, ready to take a photo, without me even asking him anymore! He’s just as excited if not more than I am.”

Often taken with little more than a disposable camera -- “In the past I had my own camera but unfortunately I damaged it and I’m in the process of replacing it” -- Orion's pictures are a testament to how an engaging image of a celebrity needn't be complicated, as well as charming vignettes of fame, free of cynicism.

Timothée Chalamet