Met Gala photographer reveals what really happens during prestigious event

Last year, Stephen Lovekin took what he decided was his best picture of the night at the Met Gala: the notoriously introverted Kristen Stewart beaming with her arms outstretched on the red-carpeted steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“She was standing on the first platform and as she was going up the steps, she turned around and gave this great smile,” Lovekin told The Independent. “It was genuine and real, which was exciting because it’s particularly hard to get her to smile on the red carpet sometimes.”

The Met Gala is probably the biggest annual grouping of the world’s most famous faces from fashion, music and the arts. Lovekin, a photographer for Shutterstock, covered the event last year and is going along again this year with a team of veteran editorial photographers.

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Lovekin’s favourite picture he took from the 2016 Met Gala (Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock)

“The Met Gala is probably the most important event of the year. It takes a large number of people and a ton of planning to get everything together. We began discussing the gala several months ago, making sure that we had our best plan in action,” he says.

The coveted event is strictly invitation only and the guestlist is approved by the US Vogue Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour, who has chaired the event since 1995. Some years, certain celebrities are also co-hosts, for example Taylor Swift was at last year’s Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology themed event (that’s another thing: the event is themed each year).

This year, Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams are co-hosting the event on 1 May (it always falls on the first Monday of May) and the theme pays homage to legendary fashion designer Rei Kawakubo – the founder of Commes des Garcons. 

Lovekin believes the huge amount of interest the event generates owes partly to the combination of different people in the public eye it brings together.

“Where else could you catch a fashion designer cracking a joke with a Hollywood actress while a philanthropist stands nearby?… We are driven not only to the gowns, but also curiosity to see what celebrities are like when paired up with people from other industries.”

Lovekin says photographers are normally positioned on the red carpet for a few hours and the arrival of celebrities builds up so the biggest names arrive last; in 2016 it was Rihanna and Beyonce who were last to pose for cameras. 

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Beyonce at the 2016 Met Gala (Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock)

The event normally attracts hundreds of photographers and Shutterstock alone is sending a 40-strong team. In amongst a crowd of ambitious creatives all fighting for a brilliant shot, it can be a struggle to get noticed and photographers normally have a small window of five to 10 seconds to capture the perfect image. Lovekin uses a flashing light his son bought him which he attaches to his gear. At one event, Daniel…

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