“I never hid in the bushes – I created an energy and gained respect.” These words were spoken by legendary photographer George Pimentel during his conversation with Suzanne Boyd at the unveiling of his exhibit, “30 Years of Red Carpet Style”. They reflect his gracious way of earning the trust of celebrities. The event marked a remarkable milestone in his career as he shared insights and anecdotes with the audience, drawing them into his world of iconic photography.
As the guests took in the images of the world’s biggest celebrities, it became evident that George Pimentel’s approach to photography has always been distinct. He and Suzanne spoke about how he elevated his shots to portraiture, capturing moments that transcend time and fashion trends. “Make them look classic and timeless,” he emphasized, and it’s precisely this ethos that has made his photographs endure.
George’s journey has been one of trust and connection, and this trust has allowed him to reintroduce the style of classic photography to the ever-evolving world of celebrity culture. Over his 30-year career he always championed the up-and-coming, redefining who could be a celebrity. He explained that with the rise of Paris Hilton, he saw how society was becoming the new celebrity and how trendsetters like fashion editor Jeanne Beker were transforming fashion into a global spectator sport.
In a heartwarming moment, George brought his 89-year-old father onstage, thanking him for all he had taught him. George comes from a long line of photographers – his dad ran a portrait studio in Toronto’s Little Portugal neighbourhood, and his grandfather was a photographer capturing life in their ancestral Azorean village. George’s studio is still on Dundas Street West.
One of the defining moments in his career was the photograph he took of royals Kate and William kissing in 2011, a photo that circled the globe. “I had to make a living!” he laughed, reminiscing about how that shot gave him a fortunate position in the world of photography, even putting his kids through college. John-Paul Ricchio, Toronto Scoop’s Beauty and Fashion Editor and a longtime collaborator with George in Toronto’s entertainment scene, offers insights into George’s relationships with the biggest stars in the world: “Joining George for his 30-year celebration is incredible. We first met at MuchMusic, and his dedication to capturing the perfect shot left a lasting impression on me. I learned from him the importance of branding and the ins and outs of photo agencies. Watching him build trust with stars like Gwen Stefani, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Rihanna reflects his commitment and the lasting friendships he’s forged.“
What truly touched the audience was his resilience during the challenging times of COVID-19. “You are a photojournalist,” Suzanne Boyd remarked, acknowledging his dedication to documenting real-life moments. COVID-19 had disrupted his career, but it also provided an unexpected opportunity to return to his roots, capturing the world as it was. He turned his lens to real photos and real problems, becoming a chronicler of history during a tumultuous period. George initiated the Canada COVID Portrait, a mission to visually document the pandemic’s impact on Canadians, creating a historic visual archive.
Now, Yorkdale Shopping Centre pays tribute to George Pimentel’s three decades of excellence with a month-long installation, “30 Years of Red Carpet Style.” This exhibition, located in the beautiful Atrium and East Court near Canada Goose, offers a rare opportunity to explore some of George’s most iconic images. For me, this exhibit was a reminder of just how many times we have experienced the magic of our favourite artists through his lens. Until September 30th at Yorkdale, 3401 Dufferin Street, Toronto.