Photographer Max Vadukul hasn’t had everything handed to him in life and has worked hard to become one of the most renowned and unique photographers of the modern age. Famous for his work with photographer Yohji Yamamoto in the 80’s, as well as his photographs of Angelina Jolie and many other celebrities, he is a photographer that has captured the heart of the world.


Born 2nd February 1961, Max Vadukul never knew he wanted to become a photographer until the age of twelve, but it was always in his blood. Growing up in the city of Nairobi, Kenya, he was born to Indian parents and spent the first nine years of his life in an environment that was heavily shaped by his father’s passion for photography.

Vadukul’s father sold photographic equipment throughout the eastern coast of Africa in Tanzania, Zanzibar, Uganda, and Kenya. He often took Max with him on many of his business trips, and the famous photographer believes that’s where it all began for him.

“Looking back, this might have been the inspiration for my love of photography…I remember seeing beautiful landscapes that hadn’t been homogenized, wandering Maasai and camels, and on one occasion driving through a sandstorm.”

Max and his family up and moved to England where his passion for photography really bloomed. In his teenage years, he left school early to work as an apprentice for six months doing everything from answering phones and bookkeeping, carpentry, lighting and film processing.

He now lives in New York with his wife and their two children.


Max Vadukul left home at the age of 16 to pursue his dreams of becoming a photographer. He had searched everywhere in London to work, but due to his age he found no success. It wasn’t until Jay Myrdal, a photographer in London, took an interest in educating him. It wasn’t exactly what Max was expecting, as the photographer handed him a furry seated bike. If he could come back to him in two days and ride it, he had the job. Max Vadukul recalls thinking it would be easy but found that he had his work cut out for him. Eventually, he rode the bike and landed the job. Vadukul recalls what he thought about the experience:

“You got it. You’re in!  Your salary is 30 pounds a month.” 30 pounds a month meant I was spending everything on just the train ticket. But it didn’t matter. I was excited.”


After parting ways with Myrdal, Max Vadukul’s career took off when Yohji Yamamoto gave him his first big break. The young photographer had the opportunity to go to Paris and present his works to Yamamoto, which consisted of no more than 16 black and white images. Yohji Yamamoto took one look at them and told Max Vadukul that he would should his next campaign, and to do whatever he liked. As a result, this created some of the most famous photographs of Vandukuls career.

When Max Vadukul returned to England at the age of 21, he decided to contact David Puttnam, a famous photographer. Vadukul sent 20 photos from his collection and Puttnam loved them so much that he gave him a job.

Vadukul would later go on to become the second staff photographer of The New Yorker and was shooting 52 shoots a year. Today, his career has created long-standing relationships with French Vogue, Italian Vogue, W Magazine, Interview, Rolling Stone, Town & Country, Egoïste, and The New York Times Style Magazine.

Vadukul is very open about his journey to becoming a photographer and states in many of his interviews that he still can’t believe that he has had the pleasure of working with some of the top magazines in the world.


Max Vadukul has been heavily criticized in the past at a number of magazines for his love and use of black-and-white photography, as well as his aggressive punch to his technique. He prefers to refer it to ‘strong emotion’ and that when everything is virtually disposable he feels these pictures really stand out.

Vadukul’s work has been highly acclaimed for being dynamic and movement-filled. He states:

“If it’s static, it’s boring, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be moving. Even in silence, there is movement and emotion. What I don’t do is anything vulgar.”

Vadukul has produced some incredible images and collections, but one of his most acclaimed pieces is one of Vadukul’s biggest challenges. He was photographing Mother Teresa for an assignment from The New Yorker while working as a staff photographer there. She had agreed to do a photograph but when the time came she kept stalling. It was through his technique that he managed to capture one of the most famous portraits of Mother Teresa today. Another timely portrait was of Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in 1997.

Today Vadukul is striving to get back to the basics and simplify. “I just want to go back to the way I started and not deal with all the clutter. Everything is getting very expensive with overrated budgets and too many people involved trying to control everything. Photography is a psychological state of mind, not how many pixels there are or how sharp the lens is. You need to have a secret and you have to be able to photograph your secret. That’s how your reputation will be made.”


1. Like everyone, Max Vadukul has a pet hate “Photographers have been robbed of their secrets. When you shoot on film you walk out with a secret; when you shoot on digital, 20 people can see it immediately. You would not have had Helmut Newton or Richard Avedon if everyone had been there gawking.”

2.Growing up in Nairobi, Max Vadukul experience much violence in the country. At the age of nine, his father pulled him out of the shower and told him they were leaving, to pack anything he can because they won’t be coming back.

3. Moving from place to place, Vadukul attended a number of schools, four  in six months, and was frequently bullied by children for being “different.” His older sister felt sorry for him and, knowing his love for photography, she bought him his first Olympus camera and a darkroom, as well as karate lessons.

4. Vadukul has worked with many actors over the course of his career but mentions the three actors he most enjoyed working with – Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. He describes that as confident and relaxed.