Steven Klein (American, b.1965) is a celebrated American photographer who won acclaim for his photography style, which has been described as eclectic, conceptual, sexual, and subversive. Klein's love for photography began in 1975 at the age of 10, when he built a dark room in his parents' basement. He began to take tons of photos of a fashionable sixth grader he deemed his muse. He credits her for introducing him to the world of fashion. After high school, Klein studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. After graduating in 1985, he decided to focus full time on photography. Klein has said that the artists Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) and Francis Bacon (English, 1909–1992) have greatly influenced his photography style.
His first photography job out of school was shooting a Christian Dior mascara ad campaign in Paris. Klein worked on a wide variety of advertising campaigns for high-end clients like Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana. In 1994, he photographed his first Vogue portfolio titled Nude Study with models Jaime Rishar, Shalom Harlow, and Nadja Auermann. Klein's first solo photography exhibit, Steven Klein, took place in 1997 at the Staley-Wise Gallery in New York City.
One of Klein's most famous pictorials ran in the July 1999 issue of W magazine and featured Brad Pitt portraying his character from the movie Fight Club. His shots of David Beckham for Arena Homme Plus in 2000 are the first to position the soccer player as a fashion icon. His shoot for the same magazine in 2001 featuring a bloodied, tough-looking Justin Timberlake turned the singer's image from "boy band singer" into "leading man" overnight. Klein went on to shoot one of Alexander McQueen's first ad campaigns in 2002. Later that year, the Musée de l'Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland exhibited a retrospective of his work up to that point. In 2003, Soho's Deitch Projects in New York City debuted X-STaTCI PRO=CeSS, a collection of photos that Klein collaborated on with Madonna. Madonna later used those images on her Re-Invention tour. In 2005, W magazine released the infamous photo shoot featuring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as a retro, mid-century married couple mired as marital distress. The photos, meant to promote the movie i>Mr. and Mrs. Smith, were intimate and provocative and lead to intense speculation about the actor's personal relationship. More recently, Klein shot the video for Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" in 2010 and ad campaigns featuring Rihanna in 2011. Always in demand by today's hottest and most influential tastemakers, Klein continues to inspire, challenge, and provoke the senses with his work.