In a world where every detail of our lives seems to be shared within seconds, sometimes it’s refreshing to go back to basics.
Harper’s Bazaar covergirl Hailey Baldwin has built a career out of successfully using social media to cultivate a personal brand, and step out as an individual from her famous family’s shadows. No one can deny that she has wholeheartedly embraced the power of a high-profile active social presence, and turned it entirely to her advantage; for proof you need look no further than the fact she’s now graced the cover of this very magazine worldwide, from Spain to Australia.
The art of oversharing is an incredible tool when used correctly, but although it may sometimes seem to be the only way forward in today’s plugged-in world, there is still plenty of proof to the contrary. In fact, one person with a distinctly opposite approach when it comes to his work is the man behind the makeup for this very shoot, Eric Polito.
With over twenty years’ experience in the industry, it’s not hard to imagine that Eric’s understated integrity and professionalism has been a key player in his continued success. Working for international titles from Tatler to Vogue, and recently contributing to a Net-A-Porter shoot with the notoriously private Olsen twins, he has earned his reputation the old-fashioned way.
Starting out as a hairdresser and later moving into makeup, his self-taught style has developed over time, becoming progressively more minimalistic. “It is a bit stronger of a look for me,” he says of the icy metallics used for Hailey’s shoot, but this does not necessarily equate to it being outside either of their comfort zones. Eric’s primary concern, alongside creating the best result for the client, is ensuring that the person he’s working on feels their best (“you basically get a feel for what they’re comfortable with”), and that invariably comes across in his finished photographs.
“I really enjoy working with actors,” he states simply, when asked what aspect of his job interests him the most, and (alongside film being the medium that inspired him to explore the industry in the first place) I imagine that has something to do with the fact that his style of makeup artistry lends itself incredibly to being paired with a strong personality.
From his work with formidable female forces like Natalie Dormer and Agyness Deyn (the I.D cover he shot with Agyness is, he tells me, the work he’s most proud of to date), to grooming timeless talent like Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, he has a way of allowing a minimalistic style to enhance the sense of a subject’s personality, rather than dull it down. His natural approach allows the individual to shine through in an almost effortless way, and the finished result has a way of feeling oddly personal and familiar.
I suspect this depth that tends to accompany Eric’s work may also be due in part to his understanding and love of another medium – photography. It is what first springs to mind when I ask what inspires him, and again surfaces – alongside music – as one of his greatest passions. It’s one thing to be able to create a beautiful look, but another entirely to truly understand the process it’s being created to play a part in, and that understanding is one that it’s clear he has had decades to perfect.
That being said, the time during which Eric has developed his career has also been one of enormous change for the industry as a whole. With the introduction of predominantly digital photography, and the meteoric rise of social media and constant, instant sharing, it hasn’t been an easy landscape to navigate. In the face of challenge, however, he has adapted and learnt to work more quickly to keep up with the changing pace.
Whilst he embraces the changing face of the industry, he hasn’t let it overpower him or alter the way he conducts himself professionally. Though he does use social media, as almost anyone does these days, you won’t find him bragging about celebrity friends or presenting a falsely glossy veneer. His presence online is very raw and honest, showing glimpses of life as he sees it, not purely as he thinks people will want it to be shown.
When asked for the most personally fulfilling moment of his career he can’t pick just one, as “there have been so many, for many different reasons,” but his favourite day-to-day aspect of the job is far more forthcoming. Whether it’s a surreal experience, like working with Courtney Love, or catching up with one of the high-profile faces who have now become familiar friends, he answers with certainty, “the people I get to work with, for sure.” And from where I stand, it’s not hard to imagine they feel the same way about him.
Photo credit: Hailey Baldwin for Harper’s Bazaar Turkey, shot by Daniel Mattalana | Agyness Deyn for ID, shot by Matt Jones | Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen for Net-A-Porter, shot by Michael Schwartz | Ewan McGregor for Details, shot by Robbie Fimmano.