Local celebrity photographer Garrett Geyer isn’t a dreaded paparazzo who hangs out in random places looking for celebrities. Rather, Geyer is an invited guest, a photographer who at the young age of 18 has already amassed such a large body of celebrity work that he receives invitations from stars asking to sit for his photographs and invitations from galleries asking to showcase his portraiture images.
A selection of Geyer’s celebrity photographs, "Up Close and Personal," is going on display at Samy’s Camera, 614 Chapala St. in Santa Barbara throughout August. On Saturday, the public is invited to “Meet the Artist” from noon until 3 p.m. to talk with Geyer about how he frames the perfect celebrity shot.
It was only three years ago, at age 15, that Geyer secured his first press pass to a Smashing Pumpkins concert through his relationship with nonprofit Santa Barbara Teen News Network (sbTNN). Nederlander Concerts in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Bowl offered sbTNN a photo press pass.
Geyer’s photo results led to his request for more press passes. The Bowl indulged his request.
Soon, Geyer’s portfolio grew to include photos of rock stars such as Katy Perry, Jack Johnson and Janet Jackson and bands including Phoenix, Maroon 5, and Mumford & Sons.
It didn’t take long for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to join in and offer up red carpet press passes to sbTNN for its film festivals. Again, Geyer stepped in, photographing such stars as Geoffrey Rush, Nicole Kidman, Martin Scorsese and Annette Bening.
“Geoffrey Rush was probably one of my favorite celebrities to photograph because he’s so nice,” Geyer said.
Prompted by the scope and range of his work, Rock Paper Photo Fine Art Photography Agency of New York signed Geyer early this year.
“I signed with them because they represent photographers I admire such as Robert Altman,” Geyer said. “It’s very exciting to be a part of something bigger and greater.”
One of Geyer’s recent coups was when he was “discovered” on Facebook by a celebrity assistant to Adrian Grenier of the former HBO special Entourage. Via email, the assistant asked Geyer to shoot photographs of Grenier at his home in Hollywood.
“When I received the email asking me to photograph Grenier, I immediately sent my mom a text that said, ‘OMG. OMG. OMG. Call me.’ My mom didn’t know if it was something good or an emergency,” he said with a laugh. “Of course, I responded that I was interested. What an incredible opportunity!”
Geyer shot a series of photographs that have appeared on Grenier’s social media outlets.
Geyer was also invited to Dodger Stadium to shoot a baseball game. Before legendary Dodgers photographer Jon SooHoo asked Geyer onto the field, he sat down with him in his stadium office to give him the lowdown about having a career in photography.
“SooHoo told me that not everyone becomes a photographer," Geyer said. "The difference is in the business. He told me that you have to be able to market yourself.”
Marketing doesn’t seem to be a problem for Geyer. He won 10 awards at the 2012 Ventura County Fair, including Best of Show, for six noncelebrity photographs that he entered.
When asked how his passion for photography began, Geyer says it began in sixth grade when a friend’s mother offered him her digital SLR to shoot a photo.
“It was the first time I had a semi-pro grade camera in my hand,” Geyer said, adding that the experience prompted him to save his money for over a year to purchase his first Canon Rebel XS Digital SLR.
Geyer added, “Actually, my creativity began before that. It began with my family. My great-grandfather was Sueo Serisawa, a Japanese painter whose work is in the Met, Smithsonian Institute, and other museums. My great-grandmother was a photographer; my grandfather is a sculptor, and my father is a jeweler and owns Mar of Santa Barbara.
“I grew up with design. Design is everywhere in my house.”
Geyer’s credits are many. He’s a former photojournalist for Noozhawk, an early graduate of Santa Barbara High and a former photography assistant for 240 Studio in Santa Barbara. He is the youngest photographer to be voted into the Channel Islands Professional Photographers Association and is also a member of Professional Photographers of California and Professional Photographers of America.
Geyer’s stars seem to be lining up in perfect “red carpet” fashion for his future. Just this spring, he was accepted into Parsons, Paris College of Art. He leaves in mid-August to pursue a formal course of collegiate study in the arts.
When asked what his future plans are besides school, he says, “I think I’m going to try to pick up film so I can really spend more time focusing on the shot. And,” he interjected with a twinkling smile and a bit of mischief in his eye, “I need to learn more about lighting. That is one area that I really don’t know much about.”
His portfolio of captivating professional photographs makes his last statement seem much more humble than true.