There is a reason why you think of Slim Aarons when you view the Mediterranean through Stuart Cantor’s photographs. Timeless glamour in stunning locations you wish you were right now.
Think Positano, Portofino, Capri, Venice, Ibiza, Marrakech and Cote D’Azur. Think every pastel colour you can imagine. And think luxury hotels that house the rich and famous.
It is a formula that evokes nostalgia and a formula that has built the Melbourne-based photographer a cult following since he turned his side hustle into a full-time gig two and a half years ago.
Cantor grew up with a camera in his hands and travelled extensively in his 20s, but it wasn’t until he decided to take some photos at a friend’s wedding in Positano seven years ago that he realised he saw thing others missed.
At the time, Cantor was working in construction management and high-end residential development in London and Melbourne. He spent a lot of time working with interior designers, architects and photographers and was always interested in the way things looked. Photography was just a hobby, until it wasn’t.
“Looking back, I’ve always had a camera in my hand – nothing serious, but I guess you’re forming a creative style in your subconscious of what you like and what you don’t like,” Cantor told Man of Style.
“How it started though was I had a good friend’s wedding in Positano. It was a big event. Loads of friends who were living in London, the Middle East and Australia attended this three-day extravaganza. I took loads of photos, blew some up and had them framed. I didn’t think much of it, but people loved them and it went from there.
“I try and capture a moment that you might remember from a holiday at one of these locations. It is that emotional connection to remembering having an amazing time in these locations that resonates with my clients and often leads to them buying my work.”
For anyone who has gone down a rabbit hole on Cantor’s Instagram page, travelling from the toes up the left side of the boot before ending up on Sky Scanner, then you know he has an affinity with Italy.
While Cantor has also spent long periods photographing Spain, France, Morocco and Australia, there is a reason why the Amalfi Forever series is still his bestselling collection.
“Italians have just got a certain style, haven’t they? The Amalfi coast is a photographer’s heaven. You can jump off a Vespa or wherever you are and get some amazing shots,” Cantor said.
“We’ve got beautiful beaches in Australia but there’s not that many points of difference. For me, in Italy you have hotels and beach clubs built all the way down to the water. I’m naturally drawn to the old-world architecture and its interaction with water. These locations are spectacular and then the people just activate the space and make it even better.
“I insist on going when the Italians are on Summer holidays, which is in the month of August. It means that instead of having the locals on the beach on a Saturday and a Sunday, they are at the beach every day of the week. It means there are more opportunities to shoot and I think that’s really special, just seeing the Italians be Italian. It is awesome.”
Cantor spends six weeks shooting in Europe each summer, with a camera in his hand almost every single day. He shoots from beaches, cliffs and uses hotel balconies and rooftops that are closed to guests to clinch the perfect shot.
“I try and blend in and look like a local because then I’m getting shots that are more natural and unique. None of my work is styled up. I don’t use models or actors or anything like that,” he said.
“As my photographs have a nostalgic feel to them, I try to avoid having mobile phones in the shots. If your first impression of one of my photographs is to question when it was taken, then I am happy. And if it helps you remember good times… then even better.”
While Cantor is best known for the photography that hangs on walls from Sweden to Kuwait and many countries in between, it is now attached to one of the best-known resort brands, Orlebar Brown – most notably seen on Daniel Craig in James Bond, Leonardo DiCaprio, David Gandy, Roger Federer and Tom Brady – which was acquired by Chanel in 2018.
Cantor emerged on Orlebar Brown’s radar when he was shooting at the Marbella Club in the south of Spain last July and spoke to the founder, Adam Brown, not long after that when he was on location in Portofino.
Two different pairs have just dropped with two more are locked in for next year. Not bad for someone who was doing this as a side hustle only a few years ago.
If Slim Aarons lived in the Instagram age, you get the feeling his account would look similar to Stuart Cantor’s feed. Albeit with more socialites and fewer umbrellas.