Whether you know it or not, you’ve seen Tony Powell’s work. He’s photographed the Hollywood likes of Oprah, Morgan Freeman and Gloria Estefan – and around these parts, most everything below your feet and above – from the Arena Stage ads you walk by in the Metro, to notable figures featured in the Washington Post and Washington Life Magazine’s Young and the Guest List.
But there’s more to Tony’s work than meets the eye – his struggle with (and defeat of) alcohol addiction tells a story that’s worth more than a thousand words. For Tony, his photography is not a hobby – it is a lifestyle and a form of expression that will exceed your highest expectations.
What sparked your interest in the arts – and photography specifically?
I’m forever grateful that I was exposed to the arts at a very young age. I began to paint and play the piano and trumpet, as a child, as well as being given the opportunity to act, sing, and dance all across Switzerland, Germany, and Paris, at the age of nine, in the European premiere of the musical, “Raisin,” which had just left Broadway. For me, the arts have always been like a circle – they lead into one another and are the same. There’s this indescribable compulsion to create something that never existed before – whether I’m composing a piece of music, painting a canvas, or choreographing a ballet – which led me to photography. With a camera, I could create in an instant what it might take days or weeks to paint or write. Way before the Kardashians and “selfies” I was setting up my tripod all over the city making self-portraits in different environments.
What piece of work are you most proud of and why?
I’m always trying to outdo myself so definitely whatever I’m working on at the moment! I especially enjoy the editorial I work I get to do with Washington Life Magazine, The Shakespeare Theatre Company & Arena Stage and many others. A lifelong dream of mine recently came true when I began shooting for National Geographic.
Very honored to be a part of my executive editor, @vcoyne’s exclusive interview with, @louiselinton – speaking out for the first time since her infamous Instagram post, apologizing for her words and saying, “I deserved the criticism.” Cover and feature photos by @tonypowell1 Read the story and see all the photos here: http://washingtonlife.com/2017/09/05/exclusive-interview-louise-linton-gets-real/
You have photographed some incredibly impressive people and events. Have you ever geeked out over any favorite celebs?
Only a handful of times…
The Archdiocese of Washington hired me to be Pope Francis’ photographer during his historic visit to Washington, DC. At one point His Holiness and I became temporarily stuck next to each other in a throng of people waiting for his security team to clear a path and I thought, “…if you’re going to ever get a selfie, now’s the time to do it.” My hand was shaking so hard trying to hold my phone it almost flew out of my hand. Another time a few years ago, I was preparing to shoot a group portrait of famous artists for the State Department and in walks my favorite actress, Meryl Streep. I was so excited to meet her I could barely focus on the correct camera settings. After the shoot we had a great conversation!
One of the greatest honors, to date, was being selected to be the official photographer for the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Working with Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, and many others that week was certainly a highlight of my career as was working work with Prince Harry a few years back – I hope to one day photograph Meghan Markle.
What are some memorable places that your work has taken you?
Being half Brazilian, it was deeply meaningful to be in Rio de Janeiro, last month, producing a new series of fine art based on the Carnaval! Another time, at the invitation of the Ambassador of the UAE, I was able to visit Abu Dhabi and photograph the Formula One Grand Prix, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the opening of new Louvre Abu Dhabi. And my first time photographing fashion in Europe, this past summer, with model Fig O’Reilly produced some really powerful images.
What’s your favorite spot in DC?
I’m a strict vegan and consume mostly raw ingredients so South Block Georgetown is my go-to each day for cold-pressed juice and raw acai bowls!