GREAT PORTRAIT photography is a partnership between photographer and subject. In 2021, some of the year’s most intriguing cultural figures partnered, however briefly, with L.A. Times photographers to make a series of compelling portraits. This collection of some of our favorites captures moments of glamour, whimsy, contemplation and playfulness by the icons, breakout stars and artists who helped make this a year to remember.
MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS, photographed by Jesse Dittmar
I subscribe to the narrative that ‘Hurt people hurt people.’ I try my best to look at the ‘Whys’ and not take things personal.
Actor Michael K. Williams
Williams, beloved for his roles in “The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Lovecraft Country,” spoke with Michael Ordoña for the Aug. 26 Envelope. The stories photos were taken Aug. 16, just three weeks before the actor’s death on Sept. 6.
KATE WINSLET, photographed by Greg Williams
Actors talking about their process can be so f— tedious. You go, ‘Shut up. You’re just a f— actor.’
Winslet spoke about the all-encompassing nature of her Emmy-winning “Mare of Easttown” role with Glenn Whipp for The Envelope, Aug. 12, and with Meredith Blake about her accent on the series for the May 3 issue of Calendar.
OLIVIA RODRIGO, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
I was literally just crying, seeing people share their own experiences of things that were so devastating, and how this song gave them hope — I just didn’t expect anything like that to come out of my album.
Rodrigo, who is up for seven Grammys in 2022, talked with Mikael Wood about the song “Hope Ur OK” and her debut album, “Sour,” for the Dec. 9 issue of The Envelope. Her hit song “Drivers License” was Spotify’s most streamed song of 2021 and “Sour”was its most streamed album.
CLINT EASTWOOD, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
I don’t look like I did at 20, so what? That just means there are more interesting guys you can play.
For the Sept. 12 issue of Sunday Calendar, the five-time Oscar winner spoke with former Times film critic Kenneth Turan about directing and starring in this year’s “Cry Macho” and riding a horse on camera at age 91.
KID CUDI, photographed by Myung J. Chun
I was part of this new era of hip-hop along with artists like Kid Sister and the Cool Kids. We were just doing our own thing. I remember, I couldn’t sleep before my debut album came out. I thought I had made a mistake. I was like, ‘I’m too weird for them. People are not going to f-- with this.’ And then [the album] hit and, you know, it happened how it happened.
Rapper Kid Cudi talked with Keith Murphy about his music, working with Kanye West and his role in the Adam McKay-directed film “Don’t Look Up” for the Nov. 7 issue of Sunday Calendar.
CHLOÉ ZHAO, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
I had this idea that we were able to capture the most grand, epic, cosmic moments — but also the tiniest, intimate moments on Earth. ... That juxtaposition allows audiences to explore our relationship with the cosmos and our planet.
Director Chloé Zhao
Not only did Zhao helm the big-budget Marvel movie “Eternals,” which brought in more than $401 million at the worldwide box office, she started the year with a string of awards, culminating in the Oscar for her much more intimate film “Nomadland.” She talked with Mark Olsen as part of the director’s roundtable for the Jan. 28 edition of The Envelope, with Glenn Whipp for the April 8 issue of The Envelope and to Christi Carras for a Nov. 4 Calendar story.
JON BATISTE, photographed by Devin Oktar Yalkin
There’s been a void in our culture for a while. We look at music as an opportunity for upside. But beyond any financial gain or level of scaling, music is sacred stuff, man. And I feel almost called to bring it to people in these hard times. If I don’t, who will?
After Batiste learned he had been nominated for 11 Grammys he sat down with Rob Tannenbaum to talk about his “We Are” album, his contributions to the soundtrack for “Soul” and his day job as bandleader for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” for the Dec. 9 issue of The Envelope,
JARED LETO, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
I’d be quite happy just to show up and have zero hair and makeup, to be honest. ... They’re just tools...I enjoy the transformative process. I think it just really depends on the role at hand. And ... the vision that you have.
For the second year in a row Leto is in the awards conversation for another transformative role, that of the overlooked paunchy, balding Paolo Gucci in “The House of Gucci.” Earlier in the year he was nominated for a supporting actor Screen Actors Guild Award for his weight-gaining role as a disturbed murder suspect in “The Little Things,” He talked with Michael Ordoña for The Envelope’s actors roundtable, Dec. 30.
DUA LIPA, photographed by Christina House
I’ve always been persistent, and I’ve always fought for the things that I’ve wanted. So as much as this was my passion, it was also my destiny.”
Before winning the Grammy for pop vocal album, Dua Lipa talked with music critic Mikael Wood about her album “Future Nostalgia” for the March 7 issue of Sunday Calendar.
ISSA RAE, photographed by Myung J. Chun
There’s so much credibility and authenticity about shooting where you actually are. There’s nothing that makes me feel happier than when I see people who are from L.A. identify the streets and the locations.
Issa Rae spoke with Danielle Broadway for the Dec. 12 issue of Sunday Calendar about shooting her just-concluded series “Insecure” in South L.A.
SARAH PAULSON, photographed by Mariah Tauger
I think Linda was certainly a victim of being caught up in a machine. Don’t get me wrong — she put the gas in the car, she put the keys in the ignition, and then she started driving, put her foot on the pedal. But then it’s like a runaway train — I know I just mixed my vehicle metaphors. I will never think that what she did was right. Far from it. But I do have a greater understanding as to the why.
Paulson talked with Yvonne Villarreal about playing Linda Tripp in the FX series “Impeachment: American Crime Story” for the Aug. 29 issue of Sunday Calendar
ANNABELLE GURWITCH, photographed by Mel Melcon
I need kittens. And a good glass of Pinot Noir.
Gurwitch spoke with Margaret Wappler about divorce, Stage 4 cancer, humor and her memoir “You’re Leaving When? Adventures in Downward Mobility” for the Feb. 28 issue of Sunday Calendar.
CHRIS ROCK, photographed by Jesse Dittmar
You’ve got to make adjustments as you get older. I think it would be silly to be in my 50s and have on Air Force Ones and a football jersey chasing bad guys. So I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to pivot. I’ve got to branch into more drama.’ Even when I do comedy it needs to have dramatic undertones so I won’t even read silly things anymore.
Rock spoke with Sonaiya Kelley about producing and starring in the horror film “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” for Sunday Calendar, May 16.
ANDY SAMBERG AND CRISTIN MILIOTI, photographed by Brian van der Brug
You can tell a lot about a person’s personality based on the rom-coms they connect with. For me, it’s the ones that are a little messier.
It’s always been about the desperation of wanting to escape yourself; the time loop is almost superfluous.
“Palm Springs” stars Samberg and Milioti spoke with Michael Ordoña for the Jan. 7 issue of The Envelope.
ADDISON RAE, photographed by Jason Armond
I’m a very positive person. Some say too positive. Most say too positive.
Rae talked with Amy Kaufman for the Aug. 30 issue of Calendar about transitioning to an acting career after achieving fame on TikTok.
PIPILOTTI RIST, photographed by Madeleine Hordinski
Color, like music, you cannot hold back from an emotion. Whereas black and white is linked with writing and the letter and with reason, color is not rational. Color is dangerous. You fall into it. You can’t control it.
Artist Pipilotti Rist
Times art critic Christopher Knight called the COVID-delayed opening of Rist’s first West Coast survey show, “Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor” — at MOCA in Los Angeles through June 6 — “enchanting” and “worth the wait.” The Swiss artist Rist spoke with Carolina A. Miranda for Sunday Calendar, Sept. 12.
RUTH NEGGA, photographed by Jason Armond
I’ve never fit in anywhere. ... At the same time, being hard to categorize has not always been a bad thing. I think sometimes there is a pleasure I get in being different. I felt safe being the other in many ways because that’s where I could be my whole, true self.
Negga talked about her role in Rebecca Hall’s “Passing” with Sonaiya Kelley for the Nov. 16 issue of Calendar.
QUESTLOVE, photographed by Kent Nishimura
I call it pain porn. It’s exhausting. We have other stories and other experiences too. One [missing] element is Black joy. At what times were we shown in a non-minstrel light, where it’s actual joy?
Ahmir Khalib Thompson, best known as Questlove, spoke about the prevalence of stories about Black suffering and slavery and why he felt compelled to make the music documentary “Summer of Soul.” He talked with Rob Tannenbaum for the July 4 edition of Sunday Calendar.
DAVID CROSBY, photographed by Robert Gauthier
Music and friendship can help you transcend even deep sadness and loss. That album was a lifesaver, and I love it. I love it that Rolling Stone said it was a piece of crap.
Joe Hagan spoke with Crosby for the March 7 issue of Sunday Calendar about the making of his first solo album, 1971’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name.” He recorded it not long after his girlfriend Christine Hinton was killed in a car accident and friends like Jerry Garcia showed up to support him.
JASON SUDEIKIS, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
Ensemble art is all I’ve ever really gravitated toward, because you’re competing against yourself and you’re competing with things that are in you — ego, apathy and cynicism. Know that you as an individual can beat those three away and then with like-minded people filled with an intentional desire, you can destroy them, you can obliterate them.
Sudeikis talked about “Ted Lasso” and more with Glenn Whipp for The Envelope, Aug. 19.
SYMONE AND GOTTMIK, photographed by Christina House
Having the privilege of being on people’s TVs and being someone people look up to also means I have a responsibility to say something and not to just be pretty.
I got to walk down that runway naked, as a trans man, showing off my scars and still having my silhouette.
It was clear early in Season 13 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” that the eventual winner, Symone, and Gottmik, who tied on the show for third, were breakout stars. The two Los Angeles drag queens talked with contributor Isabelle Kliger for the April 18 issue of Sunday Calendar.
SACHA BARON COHEN, photographed by Russell James
Outwardly, he was a buffoon, but underneath it all was a deeply committed activist who was ready to risk his life to challenge injustice. He showed the power of humor to expose the ills of society.
Sacha Baron Cohen
Two movies,”Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” earned Cohen double Oscar nominations in 2021. He talked with Glenn Whipp about playing Abbie Hoffman in “Chicago 7” for The Envelope, Jan. 14.
THUNDERCAT AND FLYING LOTUS, photographed by Genaro Molina
People didn’t get to turn away from those images. Even before George Floyd, I felt like I heard about another [police murder] every month. I don’t have any new ways of saying, ‘Stop killing us.’
This year had been like ‘The Walking Dead,’ where you really see people’s true natures and who is actually still there for you.
Grammy winner Thundercat (Stephen Bruner)
and self-described “escapist creative” Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) spoke with August Brown about their collaborations for the March 7 issue of Sunday Calendar.
AWKWAFINA AND KUMAIL NANJIANI, photographed by Mariah Tauger
I really like to make the cameramen laugh. When you’ve done a joke so many times, the cameraman is going to stop laughing. And that hurts my feelings!
When there hasn’t been a lot of representation, getting to be the first group of people who get to represent can come with a lot of pressure. You have to think of yourself as an individual while still understanding that it’s a massive responsibility.
Awkwafina and Kumail Nanjiani spoke about their respective roles in the Marvel movies “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals” with Jen Yamato for the Aug. 29 issue of Sunday Calendar.
ANDRA DAY, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
I remember at first being really sort of confused by her voice, a little bit like: What is this, and why would you have me study it? To me, it was like, ‘She doesn’t sound like Whitney Houston. She doesn’t sound like Aretha Franklin.’ But I found myself really enamored.
Day spoke with Briana Younger for the April 25 issue of The Envelope about playing Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”
STEVEN YEUN, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin and Christina Hous
We’re still navigating a business and a career and an art form that doesn’t really have a lot of Asian Americans in it. That’s changing. But it also leaves us with no real road map. So then every step feels new. Every step feels like frontier. I found pride for that lately. I realized this gamble, even though my parents never wanted me to take it, was an extension of their gamble. In that way, I was like, ‘Oh. I am my father.’
Yeun, the first Korean to be nominated for a lead actor Oscar, spoke about his role in “Minari” with Glenn Whipp for the Feb. 18 issue of The Envelope.
DANNY TREJO, photographed by Mel Melcon
I didn’t know I was being stereotyped I just knew I was working. And I think the fact that I was stereotyped for so long got a lot of people jobs, so we just opened the door.
I’d acted to survive my childhood. I’d acted like I wasn’t scared when I was terrified. In Folsom, I acted to keep my sanity. I had to move; I had to speak out loud; I had to hear my own voice.
Trejo spoke about his memoir “Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood” with Daniel Hernandez for the July 4 issue of Sunday Calendar.
ANYA TAYLOR-JOY, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
My friends are always like, ‘What are you doing?!? Take ... a ... break. ’ But the roles are too good. I wouldn’t be able to deal with it if I didn’t say yes. I wouldn’t cope. I’d rather just go for it and do my best.
Taylor-Joy, one of Hollywood’s busiest actors, took time out to speak with Glenn Whipp for The Envelope, Aug. 26.
ZIWE, photographed by Michael Nagle
My show is super-hyper-feminine and very pink. That was a conscious decision, knowing how late night is traditionally masculine, how it’s mostly guys named Jimmy or John wearing a suit. ... My goal is world domination.
Even before Ziwe’s much-discussed guest appearance on “Succession” — in which Jeremy Strong’s Kendall Roy appears on a show similar to her own late-night Showtime series — she was talking about world domination with Meredith Blake for the May 9 edition of Sunday Calendar.
T.C. BOYLE, photographed by Myung J. Chun
Our species — a very young species to begin with — doesn’t seem to have much of a future, sad as it is to say that. But as a satirist, I have to make comedy out of this.
Author T.C. Boyle
Boyle discussed his 2021 novel “Talk to Me,” about an interspecies love triangle and of good intentions pitted against human folly, with contributor Mark Athitakis for the Sept. 12 Sunday Calendar.
SUZANNA SON, photographed by Celeste Sloman
Seven in the morning — ‘Let’s do a sex scene. Great way to break the ice.
Suzanna Son on her first day shooting “Red Rocket”
Son talked with Josh Rottenberg about her breakout role in Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket” for the Dec. 15 issue of Calendar.
JENNIFER HUDSON, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
‘Respect’ is the song and the hit we all love ... But when you add her life narrative around it ... her relationship with Dr. King and Angela Davis. It’s like, wow, you see all sides of the human and the way she used her art to reflect herself and support others and be an advocate. So now it’s more than just the song. It’s more than just the artist.
Hudson, an Oscar contender who participated in The Envelope actress roundtable released Dec. 16, spoke with Lorraine Ali about portraying Aretha Franklin in the film “Respect” for the Aug. 8 issue of Sunday Calendar.
NATANAEL CANO, photographed by Christina House
I was like, ‘Ah, in Korea, this is going to be a hit,’ Did I know it was going to be an international tsunami? No.
Two days after I sent the audition tape, they said the director wanted to see me in person in Korea. I was like, ‘Wow, another adventure!’
It’s popular internationally because these characters are within a competitive structure, and everybody recognizes that structure. But, personally, I would love for a time to come where people don’t relate to this oppressive, competitive structure. That’s my personal wish.
‘Squid Game” stars Lee, Park and Jung talked with Robert Abele for the Dec. 16 issue of The Envelope.
I keep it simple. When Jimmy signed me, I asked him for $30,000 and a trip to L.A. I said I’d make it up to him... and I did more than that.
Cano spoke with Suzy Exposito for a profile on Rancho Humilde Records CEO Jimmy Humilde for the May 23 issue of Sunday Calendar. Cano is the label’s most popular act but in November he said that he may start his own label.
GEORGE CLOONEY, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
I grew up cutting tobacco in Kentucky for $3 an hour, and I knew I didn’t want to do that for a living. I sold insurance door to door. Knew I didn’t want to do that. Most people don’t get to do what they love for a living.... If we ever get to the position where we think it’s owed to us, then we should get out of the business.
Clooney spoke with Jen Yamato for the actors roundtable in the Jan. 21 issue of The Envelope.
KATHRYN HAHN, photographed by Genaro Molina
I’m in my mid-40s. What they don’t tell you about this chapter of your life when you’re a kid is that you’ve got some anger. And that we sometimes are unable to express that feeling or have been told that we can’t. After a chapter of being complicated, vulnerable birds that I love so madly, there was something very fun about being able to tap into that part of myself.
Hahn spoke about her “WandaVision” role with Margy Rochlin for The Envelope, May 20.
EIZA GONZÁLEZ, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
I always say to my agent, ‘We don’t audition for stuff. We fight for stuff. ... It’s fighting a lot of concepts versus going into the room knowing you are going to be seen for you.
Former Mexican teen star González talked with Carlos Aguilar for the April 4 issue of Sunday Calendar.
JUSTINE BATEMAN, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
If there’s something about me that I can’t change — my gender, my face, my height, my body type — it’s better if I get my head straight about it, because then I’ll be bulletproof. ... I look awesome. If I’m the only person that thinks that, I don’t give a f—.
Bateman spoke with Amy Kaufman about her COVID-delayed feature directorial debut, “Violet,” her path from actor to filmmaker, and Hollywood’s view of women for the March 19 edition of Calendar.
COI LERAY, photographed by Mariah Tauger
I swear, people keep notifications on me just so they can hate on my performance, my body, my braces. But it all works perfectly with my promo plan. Run the views up!
Leray spoke with Suzy Exposito for the Aug. 29 issue of Sunday Calendar.
KRISTEN STEWART, photographeed by Jay L. Clendenin
She harbored an immense rage. You can feel it. There are times where she’s really backed into a corner. ... This is a poetic imagining of what it might have felt like for a woman on a precipice and in a certain state of helplessness. We have no idea what happened. But I don’t think she was ever able to come to terms with the rejection. She just couldn’t stomach the lie anymore. ... That would make me angry. I think it would make anyone angry.
Stewart spoke about playing Princess Diana in the Pablo Larraín film “Spencer” with Glenn Whipp for the Sept. 8 issue of Calendar.
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER, photographed by Myung J. Chun
I just told the dude to call me an entertainer. He introduced me as Cedric the Entertainer, and that was it.
Cedric the Entertainer
Cedric talked with Chris Vognar for the Aug. 26 issue of The Envelope about his career, his CBS sitcom “The Neighborhood” and hosting the Emmys.
LADY GAGA, photographed by Jay L. Clendenin
I’m always thinking when the movie’s over and I’m a bag of bones going home, that there has to be this other way for me to tell stories without abandoning myself. I still feel like I have a lot to learn in that way.
Gaga spoke with Amy Kaufman about her “House of Gucci” role for The Envelope’s actress roundtable published on Dec. 16.