Stephen Galloway can’t help but view the world around him as immersive theatre scenes. Looking out onto New York’s Columbus Circle, he admires a well-dressed woman whose dark hair is blowing in the wind. “She’s standing in the most beautiful light and she doesn’t even know it,” he observes. “Peter Lindbergh light.” He jokingly calls it a curse, and chalks it up to his stature—“I’m 6’4, so I see everything,” he explains—but his keen awareness of light, movement, and clothing is the basis of his creative genius.
Photographs courtesy of Stephen Galloway
Born in Tennessee, Galloway started his illustrious career as a dancer, joining the Frankfurt Ballet under the innovative choreographer William Forsyth at age 17, and holding the position of principal dancer for nearly two decades. But it is hardly his only skill. The grandson of a seamstress, he also worked as a costume designer for the Frankfurt Ballet, the art director at Issey Miyake, as well as a creative consultant for The Rolling Stones, a gig he has held for the past two decades, developing many of Mick’s famous moves. In 2009, when the photography duo Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Van Lamsweerde enlisted Galloway’s help for a Calvin Klein campaign, he added yet another title to his repertoire: Creative movement director, a then unheard-of job that has—thanks to Galloway—become increasingly more common.
“It was simple,” he recalls of Van Lamsweerde and Matadin’s requirements. “They were looking for a physical vocabulary that was fresh and different.” And he delivered. Those Calvin Klein images, which starred Jessica Miller, her body arched and curled into curious stances, became instantly iconic, and remain just as relevant a decade later.
Since then, Galloway has worked his kinetic powers on commercials, films, public appearances, music videos, and fashion presentations for everyone from Angela Merkel to Troye Sivan to Tom Ford. Depending on the job, he has overseen not just the choreography, but also the lighting, clothing, casting, and film direction. But one thing is a constant: When Galloway is involved, the energy is palpable. Pictures pop off the page and fashion shows bring down the house. His trick? Making the subject feel safe. "That's when the natural concept of beauty comes through," he says. "Everyone's perception of beauty is so radically different, but true beauty shines when you're at your most comfortable."