Get to Know Ethan James Green, the Photographer Proving “Diversity” Isn’t Just a Buzzword

Ethan James Green

Ethan James Green prefers to let his photographs—raw, honest portraiture that’s serene even against the backdrop of busy cityscapes—speak for themselves. A 26-year-old model who’s posed for the likes of Calvin Klein and Steven Meisel, Green has moved behind the camera with uncommon skill, a trajectory that hit a high point this month with a fashion story with Edward Enninful in W‘s April issue. As a photographer, Green has an uncanny ability to produce images of great honesty and intimacy, whether it’s in his small-scale projects, like his ongoing “Young New Yorkers” series, or a big class portrait like for W‘s “Supreme Court” editorial. As for what he looks for in his subjects? “To illustrate what I see out in the world,” Green added—that is to say, models who may not even consider themselves models, and who most definitely aren’t limited to being white, sample-sized, and cisgender. From a baby-faced Vejas Kruszewski to the unsigned Marc Jacobs model Dara, meet some of Green’s New York crew and hear more about his David Armstrong-inspired style, here.


“Matthew, ” 2015.

“I first met David when he photographed me for his book 615 Jefferson Ave,” Green said of the late photographer David Armstrong, whose influence is evident in Green’s own portraiture. “For the first time I had found someone I wanted to be like,” Green recalled of visits with Armstrong that weren’t just for photo shoots, but “just to see each other and talk.”


“Brandon,” 2015.

It’s not hard to see why Armstrong and Green hit it off: Armstrong was, after all, the New York Timesanointed “photographer of subcultures,” and shared Green’s penchant for capturing the models, artists, and LGBT people that made up his downtown crew (which in Armstrong’s case included Steven Meisel, Patti Astor, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Philip-Lorca diCorcia and, of course, Nan Goldin.) “I truly cannot imagine where I would be without him,” Green said, adding that his biggest lesson from Armstrong was the importance of integrity.


“Rivkah and Amanda,” 2016.

Armstrong passed away in 2014, but at that point Green had already been shooting for years, having moved to New York for modeling—including gigs like a much buzzed about Calvin Klein campaign, and shoots for one of Armstrong’s buddies, Steven Meisel. Increasingly, though, Green was finding himself more comfortable behind the camera instead.


“Vejas,” 2015.

Logically, Green started with those around him, which meant everyone from fellow dancers at Up & Down to a still very much emerging (and teenaged) Vejas Kruszewski to a pre-Transparent and Alessandro Michele-era Hari Nef.


“Dara,” 2016.

Nef was hardly the only emerging talent Green seems to have discovered: last year, he also photographed the single-named model Dara, who may be unsigned but made her runway debut at Marc Jacobs’s equally inclusive Fall 2017 show just this past Fashion Week.


“Ser,” 2015.

Still, it’s clear fame is hardly what drives Green in scouting those he eventually casts, whom he chooses in an attempt to “to illustrate what I see out in the world,” rather than those typically showcased in editorials and on the runways.


“Torraine,” 2015

“Casting is a huge part of my work,” Green said, and something he’s involved with even now that he’s booking much larger-scale gigs, from cover shoots of Kate Moss to ad campaigns for brands as varied as Vaquera and Diesel.


“Ty,” 2016

For “Supreme Court,” then, his new editorial in W‘s April issue, James was just involved in the casting as ever—even though the shoot included no less than 18 models. “I was in heaven,” Green said of working with Edward Enninful, Jimmy Paul, Dick Page, and Piergiorgio Del Moro, who’ve not only inspired him through “countless images,” but also ended up sharing his vision.


Together, then, the crew came up with a cast involving everyone from the trans role model Casil McArthur to the twins Hector and Juan Carlos Diaz to signed Yeezy and Balenciaga models like Ralph Souffrant and Radhika Nair to Torraine Futurum, Green’s close friend.


“Sam,” 2016

As for what’s next for Green? “I’m currently working on three different projects,” the photographer said. There’s finishing up his “Young New Yorkers” series, a section of which we’re showcasing here; continuing shooting “of the minute” portraits at anti-Trump protests in New York; and heading to LGBTQI senior centers to document their dances—in case you had any doubt Green was limited when it came to sticking with youth.