George Pimentel always knew he’d be a photographer, just like his dad and most of his extended family.
But Pimente, now 42 years old, assumed he’d take wedding and passport photos at the family business in downtown Toronto for most of his career.
Then in 1993, while still a Ryerson photography student, he heard that Robert De Niro was attending a premiere nearby. Pimentel was a huge fan, so he grabbed a camera and headed for the red carpet.
He got a great black and white photo by chance — the professional photographers were inside at the premiere when De Niro came outside to sign autographs.
“I never did it for the money,” says Pimentel. “I had no clue what I was getting myself into.”
He kept taking photos, mainly for himself and to show his family. He sent some to magazines as well, but was always rejected.
Finally, in 1996, Flare magazine bought six of his pictures from the Toronto International Film Festival. More paying gigs and media credentials followed.
He started travelling to film festivals and award shows, selling more and more photos — particularly when he started shooting in colour. (He’d use two cameras: one with colour film for work, another loaded with black and white for himself.)
Pimentel always carried around a box of his own photos, and gave them out to celebrities, but also press people, limo drivers and fans. He became known as a nice guy who takes great shots.
In 2001, the digital photo service WireImage launched in New York, and hired Pimentel as their Toronto photographer.
With interest in celebrities booming, Pimentel’s digital images were published around the world and he started making money from his passion.
When his mother died in 2001, he father sold him the studio. As he got busier with celebrity photography, Pimentel relied more and more on staff to run it. Today, he uses the space as a base for his business, but never does weddings or passport photos himself.
Instead, he works long hours behind his camera. As well as shooting for WireImage, he works for Holt Renfrew, Hello! Canada and others. His long days are so varied, he usually keeps at least three outfits and five pairs of shoes in his car so he can quickly dress down for press conferences and up for galas.
When he’s not shooting celebs, he’s editing shots on his computer. It’s important to get pictures out fast:
Competition is stiff. During festivals and awards nights, he’ll bring a photo editor out with him and she’ll work on the photos from a hotel lobby and send them out minutes later for the world to see.