Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
Culture

The Most Incredible Celebrity Party Photos of the Past Five Years

What do Kate, Madonna, Gisele, Carine, and Miley have in common? They've all been captured at the height of a party by photographers from New York photo agency BFA. Now in its fifth year, with full studio, video, wedding, and drone programs, it's a de-facto documenter for the world's most glamorous and interesting party-goers. To celebrate, they sent us what they consider to be the most epic moments on the way to the top. Here's a cut.

  1. Safety Mask
    1

    Safety Mask

    Stylists Zanna Roberts Rassi (left) and Jeanann Williams at the "Misfits Ball" at the Kenmare and Don Hill's nightclubs, Halloween night, 2010. 

    “I tend to be attracted to people who are interesting—it’s not even something I’m aware of,” says agency namesake Billy Farrell. “There are people who try to get attention, who go out and try to get shot. That doesn’t bother me at all. It’s more about can I shoot them and then go about my business. I want to get in and get and get out and move on to other opportunities.”

    Photographer: David X. Prutting/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  2. Regal in Red
    2

    Regal in Red

    Waris Ahluwalia, the actor and designer, at a BLK DNM Late Night Party in Paris at the Shelborne Hotel, Nov. 30, 2011.

    “We use flashcards to test our staff so they can identify people on the scene,” Farrell says. “Like Waris, for example. If you can’t remember who Waris is after a few times of meeting him, then obviously you’ve got a problem.”

    Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  3. Refined for Once
    3

    Refined for Once

    Miley Cyrus at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, Feb. 26, 2012.

    "We are trying to document moments in time—things that are trending," says BFA Chief Executive Dan Otero. "We don't want to add editorial voice, but we do want to highlight the moment."

    Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  4. Fashion Mega Stars
    4

    Fashion Mega Stars

    Gisele Bundchen, Mario Testino, Naomi Campbell, and Karolina Kurkova at the Fleur de Lys with equipment and Dom Pérignon, Feb. 23, 2013.

    Part of photographing a party is knowing the guest list. Memorizing it is an even better idea: “You’ve got to really understand the room and really understand who is there,” says Otero. "It’s a mental checklist."

    Photographer: David X. Prutting/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  5. Power Women
    5

    Power Women

    Kate Moss and Carine Roitfeld at the CR Fashion Book After Party, March 5, 2013.

    “This was one of the coolest parties of all time,” Farrell says. “Carine is a great hostess, first of all. She makes everyone feel happy and fabulous. It’s not about Carine, she’s great like that, so when Kate arrived, it’s all about Kate. Everyone knows Kate will be photographed—it’s my job to throw Carine into that as well.”

    Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  6. Golden Girls
    6

    Golden Girls

    Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit Celebrating PUNK: Chaos to Couture, May 6, 2013.

    “Party photography is a business issue rather than a creative issue—we never look at a client and say, ‘Will this be a good party?’” Farrell says. 

    Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  7. Playing Around
    7

    Playing Around

    Raf Simons and Jennifer Lawrence play at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit Celebrating PUNK: Chaos to Couture, May 6, 2013. 

    "It’s not just celebrities who we want to cover—those are the easy answers,” Otero says. “We want to focus on who are their associates? Who are the potential investors? We want to cover those people.” 

    Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  8. After Hours
    8

    After Hours

    André Balazs, Katy Perry, Madonna, Riccardo Tisci, and Frank Ocean at the Met Ball After After Party Hosted by Lauren Santo Domingo and Riccardo Tisci, May 6, 2013.

    “Persistence and viability are what it takes to get ‘on the scene,’” Farrell says. “Why are you there at the party? Are you there for sycophantic reasons or are you there because you’re maybe starting a business or maybe you work for a fashion line and your boss told you to go out and be social so you can network. Those are viable reasons.”

    Photographer: Neil Rasmus/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  9. Sweet Serenade, Literally
    9

    Sweet Serenade, Literally

    Concert goers receive the famous Steve Aoki Cake Face tribute during Lollapalooza 2013, Aug. 2, 2013. 

    "Being a photographer, especially at events, is a physically exhausting job," Farrell says. "It's a rich white guy problem, but it's true."

    Photographer: David X. Prutting/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  10. Power Women, Part Two
    10

    Power Women, Part Two

    Hillary Rodham Clinton and Anna Wintour sit at the Golden Heart Awards celebration, Oct. 16, 2013.

    “I always want to know what people are chatting about when they’re one-on-one,” Farrell says. “Sometimes a picture can’t tell you everything, but it can give you a hint.”

    Photographer: David X. Prutting/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  11. Close Encounters
    11

    Close Encounters

    Anna Wintour and Rihanna at the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awards, June 2, 2014.

    "Making compelling photographs from any event is about protecting the quality and integrity of a shot," Otero says. "It's the craft of photography." 

     

    Photographer: David X. Prutting/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  12. Break Time
    12

    Break Time

    Peter Marino lies down at Dior during the party to celebrate the opening of the Soho boutique, Nov. 4, 2014.

    "You need lots of angles, lots of details to capture the feel of a party, not just straight-on shots of the highest-profile people there," Farrell says. 

    Photographer: David X. Prutting/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  13. Details Matter
    13

    Details Matter

    A close shot at Houghton Fall-Winter '15 presented by MADE, Feb. 16, 2015. 

    “Our work is all about client services and getting the job done fully for the client,” Farrell says. “So if you missed the lipstick and the client is Maybelline, and you’re only going after full head shots of Cindy Crawford, then you’re missing the point.”

    Photographer: Carly Erickson/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  14. BFFs
    14

    BFFs

    Models Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid backstage at the Michael Kors Fall 2015 show at Spring Studios, Feb. 18, 2015. 

    “During Fashion Week, people are out and ready to party,” Farrell says. “They’ve saved up all their emotional energy, and they let it out for the cameras. In, like, May, it’s ‘Oh, maybe we’ll get a little tipsy, but not crazy.’ But during Fashion Week, people are coming into town from Europe or L.A. They’re ready to party. It makes the photographer’s job a little easier.”

    Photographer: David X. Prutting/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  15. Inside Joke
    15

    Inside Joke

    Jay-Z and Beyoncé Knowles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit celebrating China: Through the Looking Glass, May 4, 2015.
    "Sometimes I'll go up to ask what they're talking about, but most of the time I'm just looking to get the photograph," Farrell says. 

    Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  16. Scene Setting
    16

    Scene Setting

    At the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit Celebrating the Opening of China: Through the Looking Glass, May 4, 2015.

    “It’s not just about celebrities for us, not just about high-profile names,” Farrell says. “If you are documenting the full scope of a party, you’re getting food, you’re getting the waiters, you’re getting small details and the big personalities there being fabulous."

    Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  17. Lady in Red
    17

    Lady in Red

    Amal and George Clooney at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit Celebrating the Opening of China: Through the Looking Glass, May 4, 2015.

    “Classically aligned photos of celebrities with full-length shots of them looking straight at the camera are the ones that sell to tabloids these days,” Farrell says. “That’s not what we’re after.”

    Photographer: Billy Farrell/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  18. Sneak Peak
    18

    Sneak Peak

    Richard Buckley, Rita Ora, Miley Cyrus, and Tom Ford at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit Celebrating the Opening of China: Through the Looking Glass, May 4, 2015.

    "We are not some prurient photographer trying to get any shot at any cost," Farrell says. "We are shooting party photographs, not a war. We want people to look their best."

    Photographer: David X. Prutting/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  19. Hair Game
    19

    Hair Game

    Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Alexander Wang at the Met Gala After Party, May 4, 2015. 

    “At a party, a lot of people will see me standing around looking like I’m doing nothing," Farrell says. "What I’m actually doing is scanning the room, watching timing, watching movement, waiting for an opportunity—a break in a conversation, or a meet-up.”

    Photographer: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA
  20. Hold Up
    20

    Hold Up

    The Weeknd at his official album release party at 1OAK L.A., Sept. 28, 2015. 

    “A good party can never be predetermined,” Farrell says. “It can also never be manifested perfect. Mostly it comes down to guest lists and the people attending. It can also really come down to things you can't control, like the weather.”

    Photographer: Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com/Courtesy of BFA