ABU DHABI // He has worked at the Cannes, Venice and Rome film festivals, but Fabrice Dall'Anese says he felt unmatched magic during his recent stint shooting in the capital.
The half-French, half-Italian lawyer-turned-photographer worked at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival for the first time this year, and says he is ready to sign up for the next instalment.
"I would love to come back to ADFF next year, because it is young and ambitious and understands how to unite cinematic cultures," Dall'Anese said. "With the power to attract Hollywood, Middle Eastern and Bollywood talents, it is truly an international environment. I had a vision, I contacted them, and ADFF was enthusiastic."
Dall'Anese is now back in Rome, preparing to photograph the actresses Eva Mendes and Keira Knightley for an 18-page spread in Italian Vanity Fair magazine. It is the third time he has worked with Mendes.
"It helps when they are familiar with your work, because sometimes they have only five minutes, and on top of that they have an image to maintain," he said.
His road to professional photographer was a winding one. While he was working on his PhD, the former entertainment lawyer found he needed an escape. He decided to put on an exhibition of his photographs, which he took as a hobby. An attendee at the exhibit asked him to travel to the Caribbean for three months to shoot the making of an underwater documentary.
"It was the most irrational decision of my life, but the greatest. I knew I wanted to be a photographer, and it was by beautiful coincidence that the right people saw my work," he said.
Ten years later, in Abu Dhabi, he got to work with Middle Eastern stars for the first time. Although he knew it might be a challenging project, he was excited to delve into new territory without prior knowledge of Arab cinema.
"I learnt a lot from the local culture in a photographic and human sense. It's different from working with Hollywood subjects, and I thought it would be refreshing to start without prior research," Dall'Anese said.
It was a rewarding experience, he said, and he plans to come back with an increased familiarity of Middle Eastern films.
"I was pleasantly surprised about the willingness and collaborative way in which I was met," he said.
Maha Nasra Edde, a UAE-based professional photographer, said Dall'Anese's approach to photography successfully reflects a part of each celebrity's personality.
"His images are very pleasing and almost perfect. What you see from his photographs is a portion of what the star wants you to see, and he manages to capture that," she said.
"As opposed to the American photographer Annie Liebovitz, who has a more raw and controversial style, Dall'Anese offers visually interesting shots that aim to please his clients."
"I really like his style," Edde said. "I also share the tendency to want to please my subjects, and I can imagine working with celebrities is thrilling because they have a strong personality."
Ozwald Boateng, the international menswear designer and subject of the documentary A Man's Story, which had its world premiere in Abu Dhabi, was photographed by Dall'Anese during the festival.
"Fabrice captured the feeling and intensity of so much that I was experiencing and experienced around the ADFF with that shot on the sand, he caught the contrast of the moment. It was seemingly an easy shot, but as is often the way of creativity, to capture a moment is divine."
For Dall'Anese, his most memorable experiences in the capital were working with Uma Thurman and Adrien Brody.
"We spent so much time preparing for Uma Thurman and so many things started to go wrong, until the moment she arrived and we had a wonderful session. She is stunning and so open," he said.
"With Adrien Brody, he had gotten up early to catch the sunrise in the desert and had to rush back for a press conference, but because he was familiar with me he said, 'OK', and was 100 per cent dedicated."
Dall'Anese is also the man who managed to convince George Clooney to pose in a bathroom.
"The Clooney shot is definitely up there among the strangest places, but he had no time to even leave his hotel room, which was filled with journalists and film crews, so we had to be creative," he said. "Clooney saw the set-up and was curious but was so cool about it, and when you see the photo you can't even tell."
Next on Dall'Anese's agenda is a book of his celebrity photographs, as well as a collection of photos of "normal people".
"If you only deal with celebrities, then you live only a certain type of lifestyle," he said. "I get so much satisfaction when working with those that are removed from our society – it is a beautiful experience."