Vogue – It’s fitting that Firooz Zahedi loved cinema as a child, because his own story smacks of Hollywood magic. Before emerging as a major photographer in the 1980s and 90s—when he shot the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie, Samuel L. Jackson, Cate Blanchett, Meg Ryan, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Barbra Streisand—he suffered a stuffy childhood in mid-century Iran, boarding school in England, and a job at the Iranian embassy in Washington, D.C. (his cousin, Ardeshir Zahedi, was ambassador to the United States) before enrolling in art school.

Then, two extraordinary encounters changed the course of his life: A friend introduced him to Andy Warhol, who ran Zahedi’s photographs in Interview; and in 1976, Zahedi met Elizabeth Taylor (she and his cousin were having an affair), and he worked for a time as her personal photographer. Over the ensuing decades, between assignments for Vanity FairVogue, GQ, and other glossies, Zahedi established a reputation for his glamorous portraits and amiable bedside manner. (As it turned out, his stint as a diplomat came very much in handy.)…

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