Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte, the legendary, critically-acclaimed portrait photographer, is tough, in the best possible sense of that word. Knowing precisely what he wants from an assignment is one of several traits I share with the Manhattan-based artist (along with a Cuban heritage), and the end result of his work is always—always—flawless.
I first met Rodríguez-Duarte when I commissioned him to shoot the newly elected Mayor of Miami, Xavier Suárez (another Cuban) for the cover of a magazine I served as Editor in Chief for nearly three decades ago. That day—and that shoot—was epic, unforgettable for many reasons, not the least of which was the resulting arresting images he captured of the Harvard-educated politico. I, clearly, had hired the right guy.
So who exactly is Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte? When the Vanderbilt family held their family reunion at The Breakers, their legendary Newport mansion, Rodríguez-Duarte was chosen to document the occasion. When acclaimed artist Rachel Feinstein needed to create fantastical images of goddesses wearing the latest couture for Harper’s Bazaar, she commissioned the star lensman. Rodríguez-Duarte’s work is, incredibly, in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery and has been shown at the Annenberg Space for Photography, the Museum of American History in Washington, DC, Museum of the City of New York, LACMA and the Victoria & Albert Museum, among others. Currently, his work is in an exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York City. Collaborating with his massively talented husband, Tico Torres, Rodríguez-Duarte has had his work displayed in numerous public and private collections and has been featured in the likes of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Vogue (France), Vogue (UK), Town & Country, Esquire and on and on.
Rodríguez-Duarte remembers his shoot with Marylou Whitney, Saratoga Springs’ brightest light, as nothing short of a lovefest. “We were in Newport at the Vanderbilt mansion, The Breakers, and Mrs. Whitney was standing outside the entrance mesmerized by all of the elegant horse-drawn carriages that were pulling up to the fabled structure for the Vanderbilts’ glamorous soirée. She was radiant, impossibly chic—I just knew we’d have a beautiful portrait as a result. And we did,” he says.
It’s deeply satisfying to know that it was the iconic Marylou Whitney who had a hand in reconnecting me with this masterful artist, my friend. All of us in Saratoga can now reap the benefits of this happy reunion by merely glancing at saratoga living’s indelible, timeless cover.
We did it again, Alexis.