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Portrait of Sam Shahid by Matthew Kraus

Sam Shahid is a creative powerhouse who has worked in fashion advertising since the 80s and went on to found his own creative agency, now called Shahid / Kraus & Company. The stylish media company focuses on branding, advertising and design, and has helped to start new brands as well as reinvigorate established ones, like Abercrombie & Fitch. Fashion is only the tip of the iceberg as far as Shahid’s work is concerned; he also oversees magazines, books, and more recently, film. As Shahid / Kraus & Company is focused on storytelling, it was a natural transition for Shahid to take on the direction of a documentary film, HIDDEN MASTER: THE LEGACY OF GEORGE PLATT LYNES. Shahid was able to apply his narrative talents and fashion background to make a fantastic documentary, which highlights a master whose masterpieces have been lost to the ages. Bringing beauty into the world is at the center of what Shahid does— we are lucky to have HIDDEN MASTER, which is currently showing at OUTFEST. Surely it will be viewable on a streamer soon, and it sounds like Shahid is only beginning his film career. Read on to learn about Shahid’s path to movie magic, and what’s on the horizon.


Before starting your branding, advertising, and design agency, what were you doing?

I began my advertising career selling newspaper ads for a local suburban newspaper after I graduated from college majoring in advertisement. After a year I left for Atlanta to be a production manager for a local advertising agency. Two years later I went to New York (always my dream) to do production, traffic and even the mail room for several agencies. Then in 1983 I was hired to do production at Calvin Klein’s in-house agency (CRK). Several months in Calvin made me  the creative director of his agency. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I left Calvin after 10 years to become the creative director for Banana Republic’s in-house agency in New York. A year and a half later I decided to open my own advertising agency and design Shahid & Company in 1993 on the advice of the associate publisher of Vogue. He said now or never.

The 90s were such an epic time for mixed media art/fashion/commerce. How thrilling was it to be part of the culture during that era? Any wild stories?

The 80s and 90s were incredible years for creativity.  We had the freedom to create. Extremely competitive. Each campaign was, how can we top what we just did for the client. It has been said many times it will never be the same again.

How did Kraus enter the picture?

Matt has been with me since 2000 as an art director. He is talented and we complement one another. In 2021 I asked Matt to be a partner, and we became Shahid / Kraus & Company.

If you had to sum up your aesthetic in four words (or images) what would they be?

Enjoy, believe, truth and taste.

Tell me about some of the brands you helped to reinvigorate?

Calvin Klein, Versace, Banana Republic and Abercrombie & Fitch… 

Can you tell me a little about Antinous Press? Is it part of your company or a different entity? 

It is a different entity. The motto is: following the dream of youth, beauty and love through the visions of international artists, photographers and writers.

As a creative director you oversee many kinds of media: fashion advertising, books, magazines, and most recently film! How do you define yourself as a creative? Is there an art form you are most passionate about?

To me, as a creative person, it is pure entertainment.

Did you always have an interest in film?

Yes, since I was a kid. I love the story it can tell.

Was it challenging to go from still photography to moving pictures?

No, there was no challenge for me to go from still to moving pictures as both should have a story. I have edited and designed over 100 books, many are visual books and you have to tell the story in order for it to make sense. 


I was asked by Rizzoli, the publisher, if I would like to design a book titled “The Male Nudes” by George Platt Lynes. I, of course, said yes yes. I was aware of some of his work from books but when they came to me with hundreds of his images from the Kinsey Institute I was so surprised I had never seen many of his images. The range and volume was unbelievable. By seeing these images you knew he was an artist. Then to discover what he wanted his legacy to be, well that became my mission.

How did your process as a creative director translate into being a producer/director of a documentary?

It was easy. I have done many commercials and therefore I wasn’t afraid to challenge myself.  

What did George’s legacy teach you?

To believe in what you love and preserve it for all to see one day.

Why is it important to bring lost histories back into our culture?

Great artists should not be forgotten, they should be celebrated. We can learn so much from the past. It will inspire us to elevate creation.

How is the experience of seeing your films screen at major festivals?

The experience has been incredible. We hear from so many in the audience, “Why have we never heard of GPL. It should be told especially in the times we live in now. Thank you for sharing his life and his work."

Are you planning to make other films?

Yes. A feature film. 

Are there other creative projects on the horizon you’d like to share?

Yes, before I leave this earth, an autobiography.


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