N.Y. photography studio finds Hollywood backdrop

One of New York’s best-known photo studios said Friday it will open a large branch in Hollywood to take advantage of America’s changing tastes in magazine covers and advertising campaigns.

Professional models based in New York were the first choice of magazine editors and big advertisers for decades, said Mazdack Razzi, creative director of Milk Studios.

Now they demand celebrities.

“Celebrities are the new models,” said fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski, who is himself based in New York. “It’s a funny phenomenon.”


Lubomirski says he’s photographed celebrities everywhere. L.A. is where they usually work, however, so he often has to meet them here. “They may manage to get only one day off” to pose, Lubomirski said. “You have to fit around their schedule.”

Among his cover models have been such recognizable faces as Renee Zellweger, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lopez and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

“We used to shoot covers for Marie Claire, Glamour, and it would be a model,” Razzi said. But over the last several years, many magazines switched to posing actors on the cover. “Then they started creeping into ad campaigns,” he said.

New York -- still the nation’s hub for magazine publishing and advertising -- will remain the center for the business of fashion photography, said Jack Maiden, chief operating officer of the L.A. Models agency.


Still, he said, more of the business is moving to Southern California.

“The award shows are all done here,” Maiden said. “You’re seeing a lot of cross-promotion and fashion designers integrated with celebs.”

To accommodate shooters and their red-carpet clientele, Milk Studios plans to build an elaborate facility near Paramount Studios capable of catering to the needs and whims that emerge when celebrity and high fashion meet.

The company has signed a 30-year lease for an industrial building at Cahuenga Boulevard and Willoughby Avenue and will make $6 million worth of improvements, Razzi said. The building has an assessed value of $3.8 million, according to public records.


The history of the 46,000-square-foot building reflects the rise, fall and rise again of the Hollywood neighborhood.

Completed in 1947, the property has been occupied through the years by show-biz companies, including Technicolor and Television Center Studios.

But Hollywood grew seedy, and by the 1980s many entertainment businesses had left for other districts such as the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. An ad in The Times in 1985 said the property on Cahuenga was a “prime entertainment building” but “easily adapted to light manufacturing.”

And so it was.


A sign out front identifies a previous tenant, Anderson Printing. But public and private redevelopment efforts in Hollywood began to pay off in the early 2000s, bringing new residents and businesses, including entertainment firms.

“There is nothing like old Hollywood,” Razz said.

He and his partners picked the name “Milk” for their studio, Razzi said, because “it is one of the most beautiful-looking words.”

Milk Studios spent almost a year searching for a location suitable for its self-image, said real estate broker Neil Resnick of Grubb & Ellis, who represented them.


Finally, Cahuenga Boulevard, one of Hollywood’s popular north-south arteries, was determined to have sufficient street cred for the newcomers from New York.

“Part of our challenge was to find an address,” Resnick said.

Razzi compared Hollywood favorably with New York’s meatpacking district 10 years ago, when Milk Studios arrived to find “transvestites and taggers.” Now that district is hip and has been gentrifying.

The Hollywood branch will open in June, Razzi said. Spaces for photographers to work will rent for $3,000 to $10,000 a day. The property will also hold other Milk company businesses such as casting, production and a photo gallery.