Steven Lyon is an enigma, hailing from Los Angeles, California. His career forged by Andy Warhol's lens on Sunset Blvd in 1982. For over three decades, Steven has engineered a creative legacy both in front and behind the camera. Considered one of the top male models in the world throughout the 80s and 90s. The start of his career saw him as the face for designers such as Gianni Versace, Claude Montana, Jean Paul Gaultier, Cerruti and a five-year run with Trussardi.
For five years, he was featured nude alongside the famous icon Iman for the then much talked about Nikos underwear campaign, lensed by Victor Skrebneski. He has been photographed by such iconic photographers as Paolo Roversi, Mario Testino, Francesco Scavulo, Herd Ritz, Victor Skrebneski, Giovanni Gastel, Gianpaolo Barbieri, and Guy Bourdin. In 1989 and 1991, Victor Skrebneski honored him with the controversial nude Chicago Film Festival poster next to Deborah Harris.
After several years in Paris he retires from modeling in 1993. Five years later, he buys his first film camera, sells his house in L.A, and immerse himself back into the Paris fashion world- only this time on the other side of the lens, drawing his inspiration from cinema and the iconic photographers such as Helmut Newton, Peter Lindberg, and Herb Ritz. It wasn’t long before Lyon took these influences and developed his own signature style. A very contrasted grain, usually adorn in black and white. During an editorial trip to Namibia photographing supermodel Lara Stone amongst the nomad Himba tribe, he developed a love for Africa and its people. In the years that ensued since then, Lyon has found himself on Safari throughout Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. It was on these trips that he developed his passion and appreciation for wildlife and wildlife photography.
Currently, Lyon is filming a feature documentary in Africa called Something that Matters. The documentary takes a raw, first-hand look at the ever-present crisis of poaching and corruption, which threatens extinction to the entire Rhino species: the threat is imminent. The film touches on many of the atrocities committed by man to the African wildlife, but in the end, the first of Africa’s famous “Big Five” that faces extinction is the African Rhino. Something that Matters is a celebration of their journey and fight to save a species. It is a story of hope.
In 2013, Steven Lyon founded a non-profit organization called Lyonheartlove for the purpose of educating people on the horrors of poaching, and the joys of wildlife conservation. Something that Matters is the first project under the new organization.
Now living in New York, his focus is on his Lyonheart organization, filmmaking and his love for photography.
You’ve also worked as an actor, how was it?
I loved it and that’s why I started modelling. It was to pay for my acting classes. I worked hard and eventually was cast in a very successful play and a few movies in Hollywood, it appeared I was on my way when a writer’s strike hit the film industry (the French know about strikes!), so there was no production, I went back to Paris and my modelling career took off in Europe once again. I didn’t plan on it, but I stayed for the next ten years.
I recently did a small part in a Luc Besson film “The Family” with Robert de Niro that was really a great experience and reopened a door I plan on visiting again. I’m much older now, in a different place in my life and I know I would enjoy being an actor in films once again. When I was younger I had to look good, now I don’t give a shit, it is what it is.
How has your experience as a model influenced your work as a photographer?
It made me one of them again. I was there. I know what it’s like on all levels. So I know how to communicate with them. No one disrespects my models! Nobody!
I will not be happy if anyone on set insults or talk down to the models. They are the most important part of any shoot. It’s important to make them special. Men or women it’s the same to me. For that one day they are the most beautiful creature I know. I fall in love with my models for one day. Last frame .. it’s over.
Maybe that’s what I kept from my modelling career.
What made you, one day, pass on the other side of the camera?
When I was modelling I thought about it, but immediately also though: “When I'm out of fashion I'm out! It wasn't for some years after I retired modelling I decided to pick up a camera. I’m so glad I did, but I really put some thought into it before I did. I had a few dreams in my life, something happened where I really had to think about my future and not my dreams. I knew I could be a good photographer, so I started shooting models, whereas before I was shooting mostly Playmates in the desert for fun. I also didn't realize photography was to be my dream… it still is.
Now I'm heading towards film directing as well, another dream.