Los Angeles-based photographer Marcus Hyde got a phone call from an unidentified number last weekend and within days his photos were all over the internet. That's what happens when you get commissioned for a photo shoot with Kim Kardashian.
Originally from Virginia, Hyde has built a reputation as one of the most talented young photographers since moving to Los Angeles five years ago. He's taken photos with artists like Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, and Jhené Aiko, but this week's shoot with Kardashian immediately had a bigger impact than anything he's ever touched.
Inspired by images of Bo Derek from the iconic 1979 film, 10, Kim had the idea to do the shoot at a beach near her home. "The braids are identical to the beads from the Bo Derek photo shoot," Hyde says. "That's what Kim wanted. She stayed up all night getting her hair braided for hours." After the beach, they booked a "dirty, grungy" hotel for additional photos to round out the shoot, and within hours Hyde's polaroids were everywhere. Kanye West even called with his stamp of approval and asked if Hyde wanted to work with him on future projects.
"It was a quick, spur-of-the-moment shoot," Hyde notes. "There wasn't a whole lot of planning, but it came out really amazing. I definitely think it broke the internet."
Not all of the attention has been positive, however, as some people (including Lindsay Lohan) have taken issue with Kardashian's beads. Hyde says that goes with the territory, explaining, "Obviously, she knows in the back of her head that people may say this about the shoot or that about the shoot. But that's literally anything. She could do a photo shoot dressed in all black and people would be like, 'Oh, why is she wearing all black?' There will always be people who are reaching."
Even just a few years ago, Kardashian would have had to rely on a big magazine cover shoot to make an impact like this, but in 2018 she can commission a shoot herself and share the photos on social media. Hyde says that helped make the shoot feel intimate. "It was easy to work on because I didn't feel pressure with a huge production," he says. "She was literally the coolest person I've ever worked with, and I'm not just saying that to kiss ass or whatever. She was so easy to work with."
Check out our full conversation with Marcus Hyde below.
How did this shoot come together for you? Did you have previous connections with Kim or her team?
I got a random voicemail on my second cell number. It was someone saying they were with Kim Kardashian and they wanted to book me for a photo shoot. So, the first thing I thought was that someone was fucking around with my phone and leaving a dumb ass voicemail thinking I'm going to believe that Kim would call my phone.
Through a mutual friend of mine who is also friends with Kanye, I asked if the person who called was legit. They told me they were, so I immediately called back and said I was interested. Then Kim called me and we talked on the phone for like 20 minutes. She was like, "Hey, we're going to shoot in like two days. This is the idea. So, do you want to do this?" We texted back and forth some ideas and she sent me the address to her house.
I went to her house on the day of the shoot and grabbed some outfits for her. Then we went out and shot at the beach. We ended up going back to her house and had lunch with the whole team before we went out to the second location—this dirty, grungy hotel.
It was a quick, spur-of-the-moment shoot. There wasn't a whole lot of planning, but it came out really amazing. I definitely think it broke the internet. People are still talking about it. It's everywhere.
Could you tell right away that it was going to blow up as much as it did?
Kim is huge. She has ways that she can put something out and everyone will see it. But I didn't know that it would be this crazy—to the point that I got a phone call from Kanye. He was like, "Yo, I really like what you did with Kim. I want to keep doing stuff with you. Let me know if you're interested." So that's where I'm at with it now, which is crazy to me. It's surreal that someone that I looked up to and is an idol to me is calling my phone and talking to me—letting me know they like my work. It's crazy.
Kanye called you right after the photos went up?
He called me the next day. Kim texted me and told me she gave him my number. Then, randomly got a call hours later. I almost didn't answer it because I didn't know the number. But I answered and it was him. He said, "Hey, it's 'Ye." I didn't know what to say. I was lost for words.
Did the idea for the shoot change at all from what Kim first had in mind? Or did you stick with he original idea?
No, that was the idea for the shoot from the beginning. Obviously, she knows in the back of her head that people may say this about the shoot or that about the shoot. But that's literally anything. She could do a photo shoot dressed in all black and people would be like, "Oh, why is she wearing all black?" There will always be people who are reaching. But if her husband is cool with it, then no one can really say anything.
The original inspiration was Bo Derek's famous photo on the beach, right?
Yeah, the braids are identical to the beads from the Bo Derek photo shoot. That's what Kim wanted. She stayed up all night getting her hair braided for hours and hours. I'm really happy with how it all turned out.
How did you decide on the second location after the beach?
We did the beach stuff then went back to her house to regroup. We wanted to go to a grungy motel, so we searched for a few and ended up finding one, but it was really sketchy. Apparently someone died in the pool so it was shut down. That was super sketchy, so we went to another spot that was pretty sketchy as well, but we got some cool images. There was paparazzi around chasing her and everything.
How much time passed between these photos being taken and them going up online?
It was the same day. It was really fast.
Why'd you decide to use a Polaroid camera for some of these?
I shot with different formats. I shot digital, film, and Polaroid. The feel of the shoot looked best on the Polaroid. There are a lot of images that haven't been put out. Maybe they will or maybe they won't. But I think that she personally liked the Polaroids, so that's what we went with.
You’ve shot portraits of a lot of people over the years. How did Kim compare?
She was literally the coolest person I've ever worked with, and I'm not just saying that to kiss ass or whatever. The reason she was so cool was because I could give her direction and she would listen to it. She wouldn't say, "Oh, I don't like this side of me," or "I don't like this." She was so easy to work with. I didn't feel nervous or pressured or anything. She trusted my vision, so that was really cool.
Did she give you feedback on the shots?
Yeah, she loved them. The digital, film, and Polaroid shots all looked really different. She loved all of them, but she felt the Polaroids were a different feel for her, so she wanted to go with that.
Even just a few years ago, I feel like something like this would be a magazine cover shoot, but now people like Kim are able to make just as big of an impact by hiring photographers directly and sharing the photos on social media. From a photographer's perspective, what are your thoughts on shoots like this?
I personally like the intimacy of shooting one-on-one with the model. You can vibe with them and form a connection—as opposed to being on a big set with PAs and assistants and everything. That's too much and you can get distracted. But this was just me, her, my assistant, and her TV show people. It was intimate and easy to work on because I didn't feel pressure with a huge production. It was easy.
What has the feedback been like since the photos went up?
It's been everything that you could possibly think. I have thousands of DMs from random people all over. And I have friends hitting me up. It's hard to respond to all of them, but I do appreciate it.
Are there any misconceptions about the shoot that you want to clear up?
I had someone message me, saying there were rumors that I paid her to shoot. I wouldn't do that. I'm not saying she's not worth paying to shoot, but I've never had to pay anyone like that.
Is there anything else you're working on that you want people to know about?
I'm actually working on my first photography book. It will be full of all the best work from my last four or five years, so people can have something physical without just looking at my Instagram.